The ProsenPeople

Celeb Central

Friday, August 19, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

It’s celeb central over here at the little JBC office! Last week we had a visit from “Fran Drescher” . . . today “Lisa Loeb” popped in (yep, she’s Jewish):

Bring Lisa Loeb into your home on October 4th.

And, in the meantime:

Irena Sendler Reading List

Thursday, August 18, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Irena Sendler is one of the “Other Schindlers.”  During World War II she helped create over 3,000 false documents to help Jewish families and joined the  Żegota resistance (Council to Aid Jews) as head of their children’s section.  In this capacity, she smuggled children and babies out of ghettos and buried lists of the hidden children in jars in order to keep track of them. Sendler is recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, has received numerous awards for her courageous efforts (including Poland’s highest civilian decoration), and there have been efforts to nominate her for the Nobel Prize.

Want to learn more about Sendler? Check out these great resources:

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project, Jack Mayer (March 2011)

Irena Sendler: Mother of the Children of the Holocaust, Anna Mieszkowska (November 2010)

Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto, Susan Goldman Rubin (April 2011)

The Other Schindler… Irena Sendler: Savior of the Holocaust Children, Abhijit Thite and Priya Gokhale (March 2010)

JBC Bookshelf: Fall Fiction

Thursday, August 18, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

While you can probably only snag a few of these before Labor Day (Sweet Like SugarThe Book of LifeThe Emperor of Lies), the rest should keep you busy through the fall (non-fiction version to follow next week).  For you fast readers, we’ll post more fiction lists throughout the season. Are you a book programmer interested in bringing in any of these  authors to your community? If so, all of the below authors, except Amos Oz and Ned  Beauman, are touring through the Jewish Book Network. For more details, email:

The Emperor of Lies, Steve Sem-Sandberg; Sarah Death, trans. (September 2011, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Fiction surrounding the life of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the Judenrat leader of the Łódź ghetto.

The Book of Life, Stuart Nadler (September 2011, Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books)
Debut story collection alert!

Sweet Like Sugar, Wayne Hoffman (September 2011, Kensington)
Check back the week of August 29th for Hoffman’s posts on the JBC/MJL Author Blog series.

Boxer, Beetle, Ned Beauman (September 2011, Bloomsbury USA)
Check back the week of October 3rd for Beauman’s posts on the JBC/MJL Author Blog series.

The List, Martin Fletcher (October 2011, Thomas Dunne Books)
Fletcher won the 2010 National Jewish Book Award in Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice for Walking Israel: A Personal Search for the Soul of a Nation.

Scenes from Village Life, Amos Oz; Nicholas de Lange, trans. (October 2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Did you know that Amos Oz’s children’s book, Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest, was also published this year?

JLit Links

Thursday, August 18, 2011 | Permalink
Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Researching Jewish Sports

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | Permalink

On Monday, Douglas Stark wrote about the best Jewish basketball team everHis new book, The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team, is now available.

Writing a book about a Jewish basketball team that had not played a meaningful game in nearly seventy years posed some challenges. The Philadelphia SPHAS were a great basketball team, but by the end of World War II, their best days were behind them. They were no longer significant players in the basketball world. So, I asked myself some questions. How do you find information about a team that no longer exists? Are any of the players still alive? Does anyone still remember them?

As I began working on this book, I realized that I needed to assemble a research plan. I figured newspapers would be a good start. Philadelphia had several papers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Record and I felt both would be helpful. But I wanted to see what was written in the cities of their opponents. How was the team covered on the road? What was press coverage like in opposing cities? I then began tracking down newspapers in Boston, New York, New Jersey, Wilmington, Baltimore, Washington and many cities in the Midwest where they traveled. In addition to the mainstream press, I also targeted the Jewish press to see if the team was covered.

Over the course of several years, I spent many long and lonely hours in front of microfilm machines finding articles and scores. Unfortunately, none of the newspapers I needed were digitized, so I was manually cranking the microfilm reader.

Throughout the course of using the newspapers I learned a few things. The SPHAS and professional basketball were covered by the mainstream press. Some cities did it better than others, but basketball was covered. At that time, basketball was not the most predominant sport but it did receive coverage.

Philadelphia newspapers covered the SPHAS extremely well. That was partially due to team manager Eddie Gottlieb and his relationship with the newspapers and local reporters. When the SPHAS played at home, the Philadelphia newspapers gave ample coverage, often with a good-size article and the box score. When the SPHAS played on the road, the wire service would provide a brief write-up, maybe a few paragraphs. A box score was usually included.

Unlike today, however, the articles had no quotes. They were simply write-ups of the games. They were extremely descriptive, and in some cases would go play-by-play or point-by-point. The writing style was different and reporters embellished the action and gave you a sense of what was happening. The lack of quotes did not give any first-hand accounts of the games and drama unfolding.

I also learned that the Jewish press did not cover basketball too much. Baseball with Hank Greenbergboxing with Barney Ross, and basketball with Nat Holman received the only sports press. Surprisingly,the SPHAS were not covered by Jewish newspapers.

Despite some of the challenges and omissions, the newspapers proved to be a great source of information about the SPHAS and professional basketball during the 1920s to 1940s.

Check back all week to read more posts by Douglas Stark for the Jewish Book Council and  MyJewishLearning.

n+1+Yitzhak Laor

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

n+1 readers, you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t already perused the latest issue (out this week), be sure to flip to page 129, where you’ll find six poems by  Israeli poet and activist Yitzhak Laor. For those who can’t read the poems in Hebrew, there is a handy English translation for each by Joshua Cohen (who, I should note, is mentioned in the editorial of our upcoming issue of Jewish Book World–due out in September).

Here’s a brief introduction to Yitzhak Laor from n+1:

Yitzhak Laor was born the same year as Israel, 1948. He has written stories, novels, plays, essays, and journalism, while his poetry has been recognized as among the best if most controversial of his generation. In 1972, Laor became one of the first Israeli Defense Forces soldiers to refuse to complete his compulsory military service in the territories captured during the Six-Day War, a decision that earned him a brief prison sentence. Today Laor lives in Tel Aviv, where he edits the magazine Mitaam. Like most poets in Hebrew, Laor frequently resorts to the language of Scripture, although he uses it to address a political situation—Jews as conquerors—that hasn’t existed since Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel wrote their last lines.

Find the opening to “Take Care, Soldier”, the first of six poems, here, subscribe to the magazine here, and find out about the Issue 12 Launch Party here.

JBC’s Annual “Raid the Shelves” Night

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 | Permalink

When was the last time you got something for FREE in this economy (not counting the meal your mom paid for when she last came over to visit)?? Well, the Jewish Book Council, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting books of Jewish interest, wants to give you free books. A lot of free books, actually– as in, bring an extra bag!

On Thursday, September 15th, the JBC will open its doors to any and all young Jews in their 20s and 30s, and offer all of its leftover books to those quick enough to grab them. Sift through hundreds of great Jewish books, and help yourself to an armload (or two) of the best Jewish literature in town!

Go Green - Please bring your own bags.

There is a five-book limit until 8 pm, and a ten-book limit from 8-8:30 pm.

Thursday, September 15, 2011, 6 PM through 8:30 PM

Jewish Book Council
520 Eighth Ave. (between 36th & 37th), 4th Fl.
New York, NY

This event is free, but, due to space limitations and security procedures, all attendees must register in advance. 

**Registration has now closed.

Book Cover of the Week: Elmo’s Little Dreidel

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Heart! Available this September

The Greatest Jewish Basketball Team

Monday, August 15, 2011 | Permalink

Douglas Stark’s The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team is now available. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

When I told friends and colleagues that I was researching and writing a book about a Jewish basketball team, I was often met with a hesitation or a stunned look. Why are you writing a book? Well, many people write books, I would often answer, and I wanted to take a crack at it myself.

No, the most common questions were the following: Did Jews play basketball? Was it a professional team? Was the team good? The answer is yes, yes, and most definitely yes.

Most sports fans today, whether they are serious or casual, hardly see any Jews participating at the highest level. But, Jews were an important part of the early history of sports in America, particularly basketball. Invented in 1891, basketball spread quickly and was soon played in YMCAs and gyms throughout the country.  One place where basketball caught on immediately was urban areas.

At the turn of the twentieth century, cities in the Northeast were dominated by immigrants, particularly Jews. Jews left a difficult life in Eastern Europe and immigrated to the United States where they settled in cities. Their lives were often difficult in this new country and many parents worked all the time to provide for their children. Conversely, these children were interested in becoming American and one way to do so was through sports.

Living in urban areas and tenements did not leave many options for sports. Neighborhoods and apartments were crowded. There were no ball fields to play baseball. But there was this new game of basketball. It did not require much, a ball and a peach basket. It was easy to improvise. One could roll up rags or newspapers to substitute for a ball. A post with a basket or the fire escape ladder could serve as a basket.

With that, basketball began in urban areas. Before long, Jews were participating and basketball was quickly becoming a Jewish game. Soon the game spread to Philadelphia, and in 1918, a group of high school friends wanted to keep playing after graduation. So they formed a team, which was named the SPHAS, the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, after the association gave them uniforms in exchange for publicity. Little did they know, but their team would still be playing four decades later before ceasing operations in 1959.

Of all the Jewish basketball players and teams, none could match the SPHAS. They were simply the best Jewish basketball team. The team’s heyday was from 1933-1946 which coincided with a Depression, rise of anti-Semitism, and a World War. They played at the same time that Hank Greenberg was one of baseball’s best players, and Barney Ross was boxing’s top draw.

The SPHAS won 7 titles in thirteen years in the American Basketball League (1933-1946), which was the top professional basketball league in the country. They traveled across the East, South and Midwest, and the players challenged racial stereotypes of weakness and inferiority as they boosted the game’s popularity. In the 1950s, the team traveled with the famed Harlem Globetrotters. Their legacy was tremendous as they helped grow the game to what we know today.

When I reflect on those questions I received from friends five years ago, I could not have imagined the journey it took to write the book. And I can say with confidence, that Jews played basketball and the SPHAS were the greatest Jewish basketball team ever.

Check back all week to read more posts by Douglas Stark.

JLit Links

Monday, August 15, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

  • The August Jewish Book Carnival is here! The posts are hosted over at Needle in the Bookstacks and include a review of The Elected Member(Bernice Rubens), an interview with Joan Leegant, and literary tips on handling Shabbat services with a toddler. Read them all here.
  • NETWORK author Wayne Hoffman joins Vox Tablet to talk about his book, Sweet Like SugarHe talks about ”how his two careers—novelist and editor—influence one another, and his own experience finding acceptance as a gay Jew.”