"People of the Books" Blog

AJL's 2020 Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces the 2020 Winners of the Jewish Fiction Award

Goldie Goldbloom is the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for her novel On Division, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and support to attend the 56th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries in Evanston, IL, June 29-July 1, 2020. One honor book was also recognized: The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer, published by Knopf. The Committee reviewed over 75 works of fiction originally written in English with significant Jewish thematic content published in the United States in 2019. Thanks to all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published in 2019 is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

Cover of On DivisionCover of Flight Portfolio“In On Division, Goldbloom writes about Surie, a newly-pregnant fifty-seven year old mother, grandmother, and almost great-grandmother living in the Chasidic community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Haunted by the death of her son Lipa, Surie finds herself keeping this pregnancy a secret from everyone, including her beloved husband. The author, a member of the Chasidic community, writes with accuracy, authenticity, and respect – celebrating the positive aspects of the community with beauty, warmth, and love while also exposing negative, harmful, and shameful practices. The result is a multi-layered story of how secrets can shake even the most secure and close-knit families that is accessible to readers both familiar and unfamiliar with the insular world of ultra-Orthodox Jews,” noted Rachel Kamin, member of the Award Committee.

“In The Flight Portfolio author Julie Orringer imagines the daring and conflicted existence of the little-known real-life hero Varian Fry as he sets up a rescue operation in Vichy France, helping artists, writers and intellectuals, mainly Jewish, escape from their increasingly precarious existence to safety in America. As the Nazis increase their presence and control, he and his assistants evade German and Vichy authorities, search for new escape routes, work around American governmental indifference, and wrangle eccentric personalities. The author’s gorgeous writing and well-researched historical background plunge the reader into the dangers of life in southern France in 1940 with a love story, a suspenseful escape story, and the ethical question of whom do you save when all are worth saving,” commented Merrily Hart, member of the Award Committee.

The AJL Jewish Fiction Award Committee members are Merrily Hart, Rachel Kamin, Rosalind Reisner, Laura Schutzman, and Sheryl Stahl.

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2021 AJL Fiction Award (titles published in 2020) are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is an all-volunteer professional organization that promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

Statement from the Association of Jewish Libraries Regarding Recent Antisemitic Acts

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) is horrified by the recent spate of antisemitic attacks, especially those that took place during the holiday of Hanukkah. The shooting at a kosher market in New Jersey and the stabbing at a Hanukkah party in New York made national news; at the same time, there has been a tidal wave of verbal abuse, physical violence, and widespread vandalism of Jewish spaces. We mourn the tragic loss of life, offer prayers of recovery for victims, and urge all to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in the face of intimidation.

As an international organization of librarians, archivists, researchers, writers, teachers, and lovers of literature, AJL seeks to educate the public and provide resources to fight this scourge of ignorance and hate. After the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, AJL published the Love Your Neighbor series of youth booklists. These recommended titles demystify the Jewish experience for readers, with the aim of helping them grow in understanding and empathy. We will continue to update and add to this series in the new year. We call upon educators and librarians of all backgrounds to share this resource with their communities, and to reach out to AJL for more ways to learn about and support Jewish neighbors. Please contact [email protected] to see how you can help.

We will not allow our communities to accept antisemitic terrorism or any other form of hate crime as "the new normal." We will spread knowledge to fight hate. Please join us.

The Association of Jewish Libraries - The Leading Authority on Judaic Librarianship

AJL 2020 Call for Proposals

 AJL Conference 2020 logo

Deadline November 15, 2019.

Call for Proposals


The Association of Jewish Libraries is now soliciting proposals for our upcoming conference at the Hilton Orrington Hotel in Evanston, Illinois, June 29-July 1, 2020. 

Librarians, scholars, educators, and authors are invited to submit proposals for papers and presentations on all aspects of librarianship and on topics related to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel. Presentations should be relevant to library professionals working in academic and research institutions, archives, synagogues, day schools, and Jewish community centers as well as public schools and libraries serving Jewish communities.  Past topics have included collection development and management, programming, reader advisory services, special and rare collections, cataloging and classification, Jewish literature and literacy, digital and electronic resources and emerging technologies.    

Click here to submit your proposal. All submissions must be received by November 15, 2019. If you are unable to access the Google form, contact [email protected]. Proposals will be reviewed by the Programming Committee and all applicants will be notified in January, 2020. 


Thank you, 

Marcie Eskin & Rachel Kamin 
2020 Association of Jewish Libraries Conference 

Announcement: Openings on Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee

The Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee has multiple positions available for the upcoming year. 

Applicants should be members of AJL, familiar with the scope of Judaic children’s literature, experienced in writing critical reviews, willing and able to read and review over 100 books during the course of a year, and able to meet deadlines.

Committee members are expected to attend the annual conference and committee meetings, and to participate in committee-sponsored events, including speaking at the Committee’s annual presentation.  The term of membership on the Committee is two years.   

Membership on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee is both fun and intellectually challenging. It also requires a substantial commitment in terms of time and energy. 

Members must be able to submit reviews electronically and correspond with the committee members through regular e-mail.  Familiarity with Google Docs is helpful but not required. 

To apply, send a letter indicating the reasons for your interest, a resume, and several examples of your recent reviews of Jewish children’s books to Rebecca Levitan, Committee Chair, at [email protected]  

Applications will be accepted through November 15, 2019.

Rebecca Levitan, Chair
Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee
The Association of Jewish Libraries​

Selected Holocaust Literature for Youth

Recommended by the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries
Compiled by Heidi Rabinowitz & Chava Pinchuck, 2019

In July 2019, The Palm Beach Post ran a story about the principal of a Boca Raton, Florida high school who refused to call the Holocaust a historical fact. The story was met with public fury that led to his removal (though at the time of writing, he has not been fired). In the wake of this event, it seems appropriate to highlight Holocaust resources that can help educators and families raise children who understand this crucial period of history, and ensure their ability to apply the lessons of the Holocaust to our own times. 

Here, then, are a few selections from the 200+ Holocaust titles that have been recognized by the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award committee over the years. There are fiction and nonfiction titles for children and teen readers. Each title’s recognition status and age range is provided at the end of the annotation. For your convenience, this selected list is available in PDF format here.


Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. New York: Scholastic Press, 2005. ISBN: 0439353793 This well-researched, large format book describes the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, and World War II and its aftermath, through the eyes of twelve ordinary young people in Germany including those who participated in the Hitler Youth movement and those who resisted. In The Boy Who Dared, a 2009 Notable Book for Older Readers, Bartoletti takes one episode from Hitler Youth and turns it into a thought-provoking novel. (Nonfiction, 2006 Notable Book for Older Readers) 

Bascomb, Neal. The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013. ISBN: 9780545430999 A stunning account of the mission to capture Adolf Eichmann by an elite team of Israeli spies is dramatically brought to life by Neal Bascomb. (Nonfiction, 2014 Award Winner for Teen Readers)

Bitton-Jackson, Livia. I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up in the Holocaust. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997. ISBN: 0689823959 pbk The author describes her experiences during World War II when she and her family were sent to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Bitton-Jackson continues her story in My Bridges of Hope: Searching for Life and Love After Auschwitz, a 1999 Notable Book for Older Readers, and Hello, America: A Refugee's Journey from Auschwitz to the New World. (Nonfiction, 1997 Honor Book for Older Readers) 

Dauvillier, Loïc. Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust. Illustrated by Marc Lizano. Color by Greg Salsedo. Translated by Alexis Siege. New York: First Second, 2014. ISBN: 9781596438736 In graphic novel format, a grandmother recounts to her granddaughter her experiences as a hidden Jewish child in Nazi-occupied France during the Holocaust. The grey and brown-tinted illustrations portray a dark and scary time. However, the text and images provide a gentle introduction to the Holocaust for elementary grade and middle grade readers. (Fiction, 2015 Award Winner for Older Readers)

Frank, Anne. Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation. Adapted by Ari Folman. Illustrated by David Polonsky. New York: Pantheon Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2018. ISBN: 9781101871799 This graphic adaptation brings Anne Frank and the other residents of the Secret Annex to life. Though it makes the fear inherent in their situation clear, it also conveys plenty of ordinary, even humorous moments, reminding readers just how real the people were. (Nonfiction, 2019 Notable Book for Older Readers)

Iturbe, Antonio. The Librarian of Auschwitz.Translated by Lilit Thwaites. New York: Godwin Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, 2017. ISBN: 9781627796187 This powerful story is based on the life of Dita Kraus and her protection of a handful of books in the Auschwitz concentration camp. It shows the importance of hope in the darkest of times. (Fiction, 2018 Award Winner for Teen Readers)

Kacer, Kathy with Jordana Lebowitz. To Look a Nazi in the Eye: A Teen's Account of a War Criminal Trial. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2017. ISBN: 9781772600407 Lebowitz attended the first week of the trial of Oskar Groening, known as "the bookkeeper of Auschwitz." She blogged about her experience, and as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, went through a myriad of emotions. Kacer chronicles both her account and the trial testimony. (Nonfiction, 2018 Honor Book for Teen Readers)

Leyson, Leon with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...on Schindler's List. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2013. ISBN: 9781442497818 The late Leon Leyson has created an inspiring memoir about his experiences during the Holocaust. He was one of the youngest children on Oskar Schindler’s list. (Nonfiction, 2014 Honor Book for Older Readers)

Mazzeo, Tilar J. Irena’s Children: Young Readers Edition: A True Story of Courage. Adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2016. ISBN: 9781481449915 Irena Sendler was a brave Christian Polish woman who rescued thousands of Jewish children during World War II.  Her story is also portrayed in two excellent picture books, Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, a 2012 Notable Book for Older Readers by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth, and Irena's Jars of Secrets, a 2012 Honor Book for Older Readers by  Marcia Vaughan, illustrated by Ron Mazellan. (Nonfiction, 2017 Notable Book for Older Readers)

Nielsen, Jennifer. Resistance. New York: Scholastic, 2018. ISBN: 9781338148473 When her family is upended in Nazi-occupied Poland, teenager Chaya Linder is determined to make a difference. Circumstances send her from being a courier, to raiding Nazi supplies, to finally the biggest mission of all, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. (Fiction, 2019 Notable Book for Teen Readers)

Rappaport, Doreen. Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2012. ISBN: 9780763629762 The authors presents a sampling of actions, efforts, and heroism with the hope that they can play a role in helping to correct the damaging and persistent belief that Jews ‘went like sheep to the slaughter.’ Five years of research results in an important informational book, with back matter that includes a pronunciation guide, chronology, source notes, detailed bibliography, and an index. (Nonfiction, 2013 Honor Book for Teen Readers)

Roy, Jennifer. Yellow Star. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish, 2006. ISBN 076145277X Told in verse, this is the story of Syvia Perlmutter, one of twelve surviving children, who hid in the Lodz Ghetto with her family. (Fiction, 2007 Honor Book for Older Readers)

Sharenow, Robert. The Berlin Boxing Club. New York: Harper Teen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011. ISBN: 9780061579684 Karl Stern, an assimilated fourteen-year-old Jew living in 1930s Berlin, becomes the unlikely student of boxing champion and source of German pride, Max Schmeling. A coming of age novel that entwines Karl’s personal struggles with the historical ones of the period including “degenerate” art and the Nazi menace, well-developed characters and a tense plot propel this page turner. (Fiction, Award Winner for Teen Readers) 

Stamper, Vesper. What the Night Sings. Illustrated by the author. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, 2018. ISBN: 9781524700386 This beautifully illustrated novel tells the story of teen Holocaust survivor Gerta as she struggles to reconcile her identity and desires in the wake of tragedy. (Fiction, 2019 Award Winner for Teen Readers)

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ISBN: 0375831002 Death narrates the story of Leisl Meminger, a Lutheran girl in Nazi Germany who sustains herself and those close to her, including the Jewish man hidden in her basement, with her love of books and reading. An engaging story that resonates with the full spectrum of human emotions and experiences. (Fiction, 2007 Award Winner for Teen Readers)

Book cover of Ann Frank Book cover of Hitler youth Book cover of Irena's Children Book cover of Berlin Boxing Club