"People of the Books" Blog

Special post-conference Amherst Tour

Join AJL for a special post-conference field trip to Amherst. Tours will include a choice of the Michelson Gallery or Schoen books on Wednesday, then the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and the Yiddish Book Center on Thursday.

AJL Trip Itinerary to Amherst, MA—June 20-21, 2018

Wednesday, June 20


2:30 pm

Bus leaves Temple Israel, Brookline

4:15 pm

4:15 – 4:45







Bus arrives at historic inn and tavern, Hotel Northampton,

Check in to hotel http://www.hotelnorthampton.com/

4:45 – 6:45 pm










Walk to Michelson Galleries, Northampton, MA

http://www.rmichelson.com  Private tour of gallery by Rich!.

Wine and hors d’oeuvres. Possible artist/author appearance

Michelson galleries










Visit to https://schoenbooks.com

Transportation from hotel and kosher dinner provided by Ken Schoen!

6:45 pm



Dinner on your own in quaint and historic Northampton

(Kosher meals can be ordered in advance--there is no kosher restaurant within walking distance)

Thursday, June 21


7:00 – 9:00 am

9:30 am

10:00 – 11:30 am


11:30 – 1:00 pm









Free continental breakfast available in hotel

Board bus to travel to Amherst, 20 minutes

Arrive at Eric Carle Museum, private tour


Eric Carle Museum

1:00 pm








Walk to nearby Yiddish Book Center, private tour



Yiddish book center

 3:00-3:30 pm



Board bus, sack lunches provided for bus ride back to Boston

Arrive back to Holiday Inn, Brookline or other pre-arranged location in Boston, to be decided according to request



Single or Double Room

2 day bus transportation

Thursday lunch

Two entrance fees

Pre-Pay TOTAL:

$155 plus tax, paid to hotel, call them to request AJL rate




$186, paid by check to Lisa Silverman, by April 15 to reserve spot

Contact trip planner


Lisa Silverman [email protected]

Download itinerary


2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces 2018 Winners of Jewish Fiction Award

Rachel Kadish is the inaugural winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel The Weight of Ink, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize as well as support to attend the 53rd Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Boston, MA, June 18-20, 2018. Two honor books were also recognized: Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan, published by Tin House Books, and A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert, published by Pantheon Books, part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. The Committee received over 50 works of fiction with significant Jewish thematic content, written in English and available in the United States in 2017, and thanks all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published this year is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

“Rachel Kadish has crafted an extraordinary cast of characters who speak to each other within and across the divides of centuries as well as those of age, religion, and class and come vividly to life under her empathic touch,” notes Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Chairperson of the Award Committee. “This is a book that honors learning, libraries, archivists and librarians, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award Committee is delighted to present Kadish with the 2018 AJL Jewish Fiction Award.”

Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan gives serious depth to the little-known story of Jewish life in Ireland. Weaving a complex story, Ruth Gilligan uses the specifics of Irish lore and history woven with the Jewish experience to illuminate the stories of a young girl and her family who emigrate from eastern Europe, a suddenly mute boy incarcerated in a home for the mentally disabled, and a woman who considers the implications of converting to Judaism. According to Taub, “Gilligan's expert twists of plot, exploration of historical themes, and her gift of word play and dark humor” impressed the Committee.

Rachel Seiffert's A Boy in Winter works on a small canvas and creates a searing emotional impact. As the Nazis invade a small Ukrainian town, a variety of characters are forced to face the invasion's terrible consequences and quickly make life-altering decisions. Taub comments: “Seiffert writes with spareness, a plain-hewn power that draws the reader on a journey of suspense in a time and place of limited possibility.”

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2019 AJL Fiction Award are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

Member Spotlight with Žilvinas Beliauskas


Žilvinas Beliauskas heads the Vilnius Jewish Public Library


Visit the Vilnius Jewish Public Library Website here!


Donate here!


Žilvinas graduated from Kaunas J. Jablonskis secondary school, a school that specialized English language and literature. Žilvinas then entered the Psychology Department at Vilnius University and graduated in 1982.


Žilvinas was working as a psychology lecturer when be grew an interest in the Vilnius Jewish Public Library project. The idea came from an American from San Diego, who already had his collection of books shipped to Lithuania and was looking for ways to realize his dream. For several years he had been trying to establish a library in Vilnius, but none of his attempts with the local Jewish community and state-operated museums were successful. Žilvinas found the idea attractive, though he was neither a librarian nor a Jew. Nevertheless Žilvinas started coordinating the project, contacting the government, Ministry of Culture, libraries, and other institutions. Žilvinas described the process as an adventure. He realized how important the project was for his generation, which grew up in complete ignorance of Jewish history. His goal would be to show Jewish heritage to the whole of Lithuanian society.


Being a psychologist, Žilvinas saw great value in presenting a heritage that was exterminated and lost due to the Holocaust. Žilvinas notes, “culturally, now we have an opportunity to get in touch with the bottomless heritage of wisdom, art, literature, science and other spheres of life within the Judaic dimension.”


There were many interesting and lucky coincidences during the process of the coordination and attempts to establish the library. Žilvinas even says that it would not have been possible without “guidance from the Heavens.” Žilvinas and his colleagues received permission from the Lithuanian government to build in a good location but in a run-down building. They would need funds for renovation and equipment. In the same year, prosecutors enforced a ban on financial interactions related to the Royal Palce (Palace of Rulers) reconstruction due to suspicion around the transparency of some construction contracts. In this way, the millions which had already been allocated to the Culture Ministry for this particularly expensive project became hanged in the air. The funds were available for other purposes and the Minister quickly had to find other important cultural projects as inventment opportunities. The shabby library premises were among his priorities and that is how a rather normal financing project for library remodeling was assigned among other museums, theaters, and estates. Zilvinas calls it "a work of angels by the hands of prosecutors for the sake of the Vilnius Jewish Public Library."

Zilvinas stands with graduates from the library's Yiddish Language instruction program

Today Žilvinas and his colleagues run not only the Vilnius Jewish Public Library but also its Charity and Support Foundation and its inspired organization Vilnius Jewish Theater. The latter is currently underway in the very interesting process of producing a musical play based on the motifs of the stories in Avrom Karpinovich’s The Vilne Tango.


Žilvinas’s library aspires to grow locally and to network internationally. Žilvinas has received support and book donations from Lynn Waghalter and Olga Potap. Books started coming, and Galina Teverovsky managed to set up a very useful book exchange program.


Žilvinas writes:

“I really appreciate all of that, and the library became possible due to the existence of the AJL and its values. We look forward to cooperating with AJL in future as long as possible. There was an exchange of ideas and–for me personally–a lot of knowledge and experience in the field since, as noticed above, library science is not my profession.”


Going forward, Žilvinas will continue to maintain a relationship with AJL and to keep his finger on the pulse of Judaica librarianship.  Žilvinas aims to the collection of the library, to maintain it as a vibrant cultural center, and to promote the library locally and internationally in order to make its potential influence. Žilvinas has also expressed an interest in having an international event for Judaica librarianship in Vilnius.

2018 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour Schedule

The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be showcasing its 2018 gold and silver medalists with a Blog Tour, February 4-8, 2018! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. Interviews will appear on the dates below, and will remain available to read at your own convenience.

Below is the schedule for the 2018 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!



Tammar Stein, author of The Six-Day Hero
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category
At Walk the Ridgepole

Kathy Kacer, author of To Look a Nazi in the Eye
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category
At Bildungsroman


Richard Michelson and Karla Gudeon, author and illustrator of The Language of Angels
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Jewish Books for Kids

Alan Gratz, author of Refugee
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner in the Older Readers Category
At Out of the Box at The Horn Book


Fawzia Gilani-Williams and Chiara Fedele, author and illustrator of Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom, Salaam
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
At Ima On (and Off) the Bima

Susan Krawitz, author of Viva, Rose!
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category
At The Prosen People at The Jewish Book Council

Antonio Iturbe, author of The Librarian of Auschwitz
Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner in the Teen Readers Category
At The Book of Life

Katherine Locke, author of The Girl with the Red Balloon
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Teen Readers Category
At Book Q&A's with Deborah Kalb


Jacqueline Jules and Yevgenia Nayberg, author and illustrator of Drop by Drop
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Younger Readers Category
At Adventures in MamaLand

Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang, co-authors of This Is Just A Test
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Older Readers Category
At The Scroll at Tablet Magazine


Blog Tour Wrap-Up at The Whole Megillah


2018 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award Chosen

For More Information Contact:

Aileen Grossberg, Coordinator
Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award Committee
Association of Jewish Libraries

[email protected]


January 10, 2018



2018 Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award Winner Chosen


The Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award Competition committee is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2018 award. Judith Pransky, author of The Seventh Handmaiden, will receive the award at the annual conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries to be held in Boston, MA, from June 18-20, 2018. The Award is offered annually to an unpublished manuscript that has broad appeal to readers aged 8-13 and presents Jewish life in a positive light.


Set in the time of King Xerxes of Persia, the novel begins with the kidnapping of a young girl and then flashes forward several years to focus on Darya, a young slave who is uncertain of her origins. The story follows Darya and her free friend Parvaneh from service in the household of a Persian army captain to positions in Xerxes’s palace as handmaidens to Queen Esther. Swirling around the girls’ everyday activities is palace intrigue orchestrated by Haman’s henchmen including Behrooz, who has a mysterious and frightening connection to Parveneh’s mother.


Filled with historical details, intrigue, mystery, politics and a host of issues that contemporary readers can identify with, the story has a satisfying ending for both Darya and her mistress Esther and fleshes out the story found in the Megillah. The judges were impressed by the unique approach to the story of Esther, the strongly nuanced characters, the touch of mystery and the relevance of the issues to today’s world.


According to Ms Pransky, The Seventh Handmaiden was written with her sixth grade ancient history students in mind, and tries “to bring the history and lifestyle of Persia to life, as well as the characters that populate the Megillah and the Jewish story that permeates it.” Ms Pransky, a middle school language arts/history teacher, has contributed to Philadelphia area magazines and edited the Marmac Guide to Philadelphia. She has also taught writing to adults and worked as an editor for a textbook publishing company before returning to teaching. The Seventh Handmaiden is her first novel for young readers.


In an unusually strong year, the Committee is pleased to name three honorable mention manuscripts: Go To Yourself by Stuart Melnick is the story of an Orthodox boy preparing for his bar mitzvah. Through sports he experiences the outside world for the first time and learns about friendship, decisions and their consequences. Diverse characters and a warm family setting are hallmarks of this story. Raising Canaans by Catherine Orkin Oskowuses humor to tell the story of a dog-crazy preteen who obsesses over the Canaan dogs that her aunt raises and finally comes to accept that she cannot have a dog. Reeni’s Turn by Carol Coven Grannickuses verse to follow ballet dancer Reeni from doubt about herself to self-acceptance. The contemporary story focuses on issues common in today’s families.