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Judaic Audio Lectures, Panel Discussions, Author Talks, Workshops & More

The AJL Podcast brings you the best talks on Jewish literature and the Jewish library world, with respected experts and popular authors. Please check back periodically, as new lectures will be added to the series.


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Use the links on the left to select a category of interest or to use our index.

Studying Jewish life inevitably brings one into contact with a variety of different languages and dialects. For specialized scholars of Jewish linguistics, as well as for researchers who in general are fascinated by Jewish languages, online access to the existing and growing network of basic resources that are maximally representative of a particular language or language body is crucial to their work. These resources can range from unanalyzed sound recordings to fully transcribed and annotated text corpora; from dictionaries to the various manifestations of web-based “social media.” Even though many of these tools and projects are not yet fully accessible on the web or remain in various stages of development because of staffing, funding and technological issues, listeners’ awareness will be raised about their existence and benefits through this presentation.

Heidi Lerner of Stanford University gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on July 6, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois.

21 min 40 sec

Posted in: RAS

How do librarians enhance the level of collaboration with classroom teachers? Deborah Lazar and Pam Strom believe the core of collaboration is the development of relationships. They will talk about the theory and practice of collaboration and offer suggesions on how to develop relationships with the teachers in your building. They will also share examples of successful collaborative projects in which they and other New Trier High School librarians have partnered (including the incorporation of Web 2.0 tools across the curriculum).

Deborah Lazar and Pam Strom are librarians at New Trier High School in Northfield, IL. They gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention in Chicago, IL on July 6, 2009.

45 min 24 sec

Posted in: SSC

4-authorsHow does a children’s book writer come to write a Jewish children’s book? Chicago children’s book writers Esme Codell, Ilene Cooper, Brenda Ferber, and Esther Hershenhorn answer that very question, sharing how their mindsets, heart-sets, experiences and backgrounds helped them crate their respective award-winning books (Esme: Sydney Taylor Honor Book Vive La Paris; Ilene: National Jewish Book Award winner Jewish Holidays All Year Round; Brenda: Sydney Taylor Book Award winner Julia’s Kitchen; Esther: Sydney Taylor Book Award winner Chicken Soup by Heart).

Click for links to:

These authors gave this panel presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on July 6, 2009 in Chicago, IL.

1 hr 5 min 39 sec

In the last several years, the world of Jewish literature has flourished with the publication of many novels, short stories, and highly readable non-fiction. In this session we survey the field, looking at books by both established authors and interesting new writers. From the off-beat to the mainstream, learn where to best use your budget dollars to ensure happy reading for your library patrons.

Nancy Rivin is the library director at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX. She gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on July 6, 2009 in Chicago, IL.


39 min 50 sec

Posted in: SSC

This session offers hands-on Active Learning library instruction lessons that can be adapted to any grade level, in any time frame, and for any learning style. Librarians are always looking for effective ways to reach students, incorporate technology, increase student learning, and find new strategies to captivate students during library instruction classes, especially when we may only have them together in a class once a week, or in some cases, only a few times each year. The lecture format alone doesn’t work, but Active Learning does!

Presented by Maureen Reister of the Ann & Nate Levine Academy in Dallas, TX.

1 hr 7 min 37 sec

Posted in: SSC

“Stolen Books: The Third Reich’s Exchange Center and the Prussian State Library in the Years 1933-1945. Aspects of the supply with literature under the control of National Socialism” was the title of this Special Plenary Session, presented at the 44th annual AJL Convention in Chicago, IL, July 6, 2009. The honored presenter was Barbara Schneider-Kempf, the Director General of the Berlin State Library in Germany.

38 min 46 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Dr. Peter Hayes is a Professor at Northwestern University and the Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Chair in Holocaust Studies. He was named a Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence for the period 2007-2010. He has published some 60 articles in American and European journals and books; edited volumes I and III of the renowned Lessons and Legacies series that he helped found, and co-edited works on Imperial Germany, the so-called Aryanization of Jewish property during the Third Reich and The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz. His most recent book is From Cooperation to Complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich, which appeared in both English and German in 2004, and he is at work on two further studies: Profits and Persecution: German Big Business and the Holocaust and The Failure of a Generation: German Elites and National Socialism.

Dr. Hayes gave this keynote presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries 44th annual convention on July 5, 2009 in Chicago, IL.

43 min 23 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Rachel Leket-Mor

The current demand for appropriate entertaining titles in the Haredi community in Israel is reflected, among other things, in the growing movie industry led by Haredi producers and directors. This interesting sub-genre of popular Israeli cinema, consisting of male-only actors, is intended for the whole family. Therefore, not only these movies are approved as “G-rated” by rabbis, they are also sold in a CD-Rom format, since in many Haredi households computers are welcome as a work tool, while DVD players are not allowed for religious reasons. Main themes of this genre include, quite surprisingly, quite a lot of military stories (some of them describing adventures of Israeli Mossad agents), comedies, contemporary dramas with Haredi happy endings, Hassidic tales, historical documentaries, as well as “women movies” with moving stories and heartbreaking endings. This presentation discusses the significance of such movies in academic collections as authentic portrayals of Haredi culture in Israel

Rachel Leket-Mor has worked as a Hebrew editor with Israel publishers. She is Bibliographer of Religion, Philosophy, and Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. She gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

24 min 32 sec

Posted in: RAS

The Jewish community of northeastern Ohio, or more simply, “Jewish Cleveland,” has played an important role in the region’s development since the first group of Jews to settle in the area arrived in 1839. This presentation will offer an overview of the growth and development of the region’s Jewish community after World War II, drawing attention to the community’s response to the arrival of Holocaust survivors, the move to the eastern suburbs, the role of Jewish leaders in the civil rights movement, and the local campaign on behalf of Soviet Jewry. The aim is to present a series of questions within a presentation on the community’s development, questions which the presentation can only begin to address: How has the community’s relationship to Jews outside the US affected local leaders and organizations? Why and how did Jews move to the eastern suburbs and how has the suburbanization of the community affected their concerns? How has the Jewish community forged alliances with non-Jews, and how have conflicts with other communities been handled? How has the community remained so vibrant, in spite of increasing urban sprawl and persistent demographic challenges? Posing the questions may lead to a new awareness of this more recent period of history. Special attention will also be given to the types of resources available in the Cleveland Jewish Archives to answer these questions.

Sean Martin is Associate Curator for Jewish History in the Cleveland Jewish Archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio. Martin’s academic interests focus on modern Jewish and Polish history. He has written articles and book reviews for several journals in these fields, conducted extensive research in Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, and given talks on the Holocaust and Jewish history in the US and Poland. He is the author of Jewish Life in Cracow 1918-1939 (Vallentine Mitchell 2004).

26 min 33 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Author Sonia Levitin won the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Older Readers category for Strange Relations. She had the opportunity to present her book and its backstory to an appreciative audience at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 24, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

45 min 59 sec

Author Sarah Gershman and illustrator Kristina Swarner won the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Younger Readers category for The Bedtime Sh’ma: A Good Night Book.  They had the opportunity to present their book to an appreciative audience at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 24, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

20 min 01 sec

At each year’s AJL convention, members of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee participate in a panel presentation to discuss the best and worst of recent Jewish literature for children and teens. In this podcast, you can hear members Susan Berson, Kathy Bloomfield, Rachel Kamin, Kathe Pinchuck, and Nancy Rivin (referred to as Nancy Austein in the recording) sharing their delight and dismay over juvenile Judaica published during 2007. Books are discussed in rounds:

  • New Editions
  • Unexplored Terrain
  • But Is It Jewish Enough?
  • Contemporary
  • New Perspectives on the Holocaust
  • Hot/Not
  • Sneak Peaks

Click here for the Powerpoint slideshow/handout that accompanied the session

This presentation was given at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 24, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

1 hr 30 min 13 sec

Information about information books: do “they” pick out the pictures and write the narrative? Or do “they” write the text and find pictures to match? Find out as three recognized authors, Deborah Heiligman, Christos Nicola, and Bill Rubin, talk about the cahllenges of this genre.

Deborah Heiligman is the author of 25 books for children, including the AJL Notable books Celebrate Hanukkah, Celebrate Passover, and Celebrate Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur.

Christos Nicola has devoted over 30 years to the study and exploration of caves in the former Soviet Union, as well as the Caribbean, Europe, and the Americas. He is the founder of the nonprofit Ukranian American Youth Caver Exchange Foundation. His book, The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story, received a 2008 Sydney Taylor Honor Award for Older Readers.

William J. Rubin is the Executive Director/COO of the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago and the driving force behind the graphic novel HOMELAND: An Illustrated History of the State of Israel.

They presented this session at the Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature that was held in honor of the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s 40th anniversary, as part of the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention, on June 25, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

1 hr 10 min 52 sec

In 1927, the Rare Book Room (now the Special Collections Library) of the University of Michigan Library received a gift of several 17th century Hebrew books published in Italy. Although spotted by a cataloger in the early 1970′s, somehow these rare materials remained uncatalogued and unprocessed for another thirty years before they were rediscovered by a staff member of the Special Collections Library who sent them to one of the catalogers of the Judaica-Hebraica Unit. Finally, some seventy years after the gift was made, these rare works were formally added to the University Library’s Special Collections. How this markedly lengthy interval between receipt and processing could occur is the mystery that this presentation attempts to uncover.

Elliot Gertel is the Irving M. Hermelin Curator of Judaica at the University of Michigan and is president of AJL’s RAS Division.

Posted in: RAS

This panel presentation on the history, current trends, and hope for the future of Jewish children’s literature was the opening session at the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s 40th anniversary celebration, held at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on June 25, 2008. Panelists included Evelyn Freeman, Rita Soltan, and Joni Sussman, and the session was chaired by Rachel Kamin and moderated by Heidi Estrin.

Dr. Evelyn B. Freeman is the Dean and Director of the Ohio State University at Mansfield and a Professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology. She is also President of the Children’s Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Rita Soltan has been a public librarian in New York and Michigan for over 30 years. She regularly reviews children’s books for major publications including School Library Journal, Horn Book, and Kirkus. She is the author of several books from Libraries Unlimited on reading clubs and summer reading.

Joni Sussman is Publisher at Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

1 hr 4 min 39 sec

L-R: Deborah da Costa, Jane Breskin Zalben, Sarah Marwil Lamstein

Picture book authors Deborah da Costa, Sarah Marwil Lamstein and Jane Breskin Zalben provide insight into their creative processes. Learn about their most recent books and their upcoming projects.  This panel was part of the Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature held in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Taylor Book Award on June 25, 2008.

Among their other books, our speakers highlighted recently recognized titles. Deborah da Costa is the author of Hanukkah Moon, a 2008 AJL Notable Children’s Book. Sarah Marwil Lamstein is the author of Letter on the Wind, a 2008 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Jane Breskin Zalben is the author of Light, a 2008 Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

54 min 52 sec

If you belong to an AJL Chapter or would like to start one in your area, this is the lecture for you. Chapter officers speak about their experiences with organization issues, leadership and succession, communication, programming and more in this lively panel discussion with Marcie Eskin, Jean Loeb Lettofsky, Yelena Luckert and Rosalind Reisner.

Marcie Eskin is the librarian at the Marshall Jewish Learning Center of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, as well as librarian at Beth Hillel Congregation’s B’nai Emunah Library in Wilmete, IL. She is past president of AJL’s Chicago Chapter.

Jean Loeb Lettofsky is director of the library at Siegal College and a past president of AJL’s Greater Cleveland Chapter. She is co-editor of Guide to Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust and Jewish Union List: Periodical Holdings in Greater Cleveland Jewish Libraries.

Yelena Luckert is a librarian for History, Jewish, Slavic & Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, and the author of Soviet Jewish History, 1917-1991: An Annotated Bibliography. She is chair of AJL’s Doris Orenstein Memorial Fund.

Rosalind Reisner is the author of Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests, winner of the 2004 AJL Judaica Reference & Bibliography Award. She is librarian at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ, and is co-chair of AJL’s Chapter Relations Committee with Irene Seff.

Please note that Irene Seff was also scheduled to present in this session but was unavailable to participate.

49 min 36 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Rita Berman Frischer

It is hard to imagine the world of children’s books without Jewish women writers. In this session, Rita Berman Frischer supports what she wrote in an article published in Jewish Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia, presenting a lively overview of Jewish women writers past and present, while noting trends and examining the contributions of specific women writers in more detail.

Rita Berman Frischer, former Director of Sinai Temple Library in West LA and Chair of the first AJL Sydney Taylor Award Committee, is a writer and reviewer of juvenile and YA literature. She has presented lectures and workshops for HUC-JIR, AJL, CAJE, and others in the US and abroad, and served as judge for numerous book awards.

25 min 20 sec

Although several comic book stories have tried to describe life in Israel (Joe Sacco’s Palestine; Peter Kuper’s Promised Land; Uri Fink’s Fink!), very few of them have been written by women and none of them have tried to show what life is like for those who work behind the scenes in the Israeli army, working desk jobs and performing menial tasks (the so-called “jobnikim”). Miriam Libicki, who spent two years as a volunteer in the Israeli army, is currently completing work on her self-published comic book series jobnik!, while also writing illustrated essays such as “Towards a Hot Jew: The Israeli Soldier as Fetish Object,” “ceasefire,” and “Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy!” Miriam discusses her influences, what led her to choose comics as a format, why she started the jobnik! series, her self-publishing experience, and how her work has been received thus far in Israel and elsewhere.

Miriam Libicki was born in 1981 in Columbus, Ohio. After living in Jerusalem and Seattle, Washington, she is now based in Vancouver, BC. She completed her BFA from Emily Carr Institute in 2006. She is the creator of the comic series jobnik! and the drawn essays “Towards a Hot Jew,” “ceasefire,” and “Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy!” (in The Jewish Graphic Novel, forthcoming from Rutgers University Press). See her blog at www.realgonegirl.com

23 min 45 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

One of the most active and dynamic groups of Sephardim today are the Syrian Jews living in Brooklyn, New York. An extremely tight-knit community, they began moving from Syria at the beginning of the 20th centuray. Subjected to terrible persecution, a major wave of them came to New York in the 1920′s, and another group came when they were released by the government in the 1990′s. In New York they became a highly insular group, with a major edict that prevented almost any conversion into their community. This was intended to prevent dilution of the traditional community and has resulted in a highly homogeneous, close-knit group of jews whose numbers now exceed 75,000. Two scholars, Dr. Walter Zenner and Joseph A.D. Sutton, have carried out extensive studies of this gropu, with articles, oral histories, and other documentary evidence. The papers of both of these scholars are held in the archives of the American Sephardi Federation. In this presentation, we examine those papers and attempt to learn a little more about this fascinating group of Sephardim.

Randall Belinfante is the Librarian/Archivist of the American Sephardi Federation. Over the past seven years, he has expanded this Library/Archives from a small collection of 200 odd books and 20 boxes of papers to a collection that now exceeds 6,000 catalogued items and some 300 linear feet of archives. Randy is fascinated by all aspects of the Sephardim, with papers and articles dealing with communities from Brooklyn to Burma.

23 min 24 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

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