1925 - 1994
The Jewish Book Council’s origins date back to 1925, which makes it one of the oldest organizations providing continual service to the American Jewish community. It all began when Fanny Goldstein, a librarian at the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library, set up an exhibit of Judaic books and used it as a focus of what she called Jewish Book Week. In 1927, Jewish communities around the country adopted the event. The primary interests at the time were books in Yiddish and Hebrew, reflecting the dominant languages of the American Jewish readership. Jewish books in English were few in number.
For its first fifteen years, the celebration of Jewish Book Week coincided with the holiday of Shavuot, traditionally regarded as a scholars’ festival. In 1940, the event was moved to the pre-Hanukkah period to promote books of Jewish content as Hanukkah gifts. This tradition has remained in place to this day. The year 1940 also saw the founding of the National Committee for Jewish Book Week, with Fanny Goldstein as its chairperson.
Jewish Book Week activities proliferated and were extended to a one-month period in 1943. At the same time, the National Committee for Jewish Book Week became the Jewish Book Council, reflecting its broader scope. The following year, the National Jewish Welfare Board—which would ultimately become the Jewish Community Centers Association—entered into an agreement with JBC to become its official sponsor and coordinating organization, providing financial support and organizational assistance. This arrangement reflected the realization that local JCCs were the primary site of community book fairs, which are a major event on the American Jewish calendar. While under the auspices of JCC Association, the Jewish Book Council maintained an executive board, composed of representatives from major American Jewish organizations and leading figures in the literary world.
JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL
1994 - Present
On January 1, 1994, convinced that the Jewish Book Council remained essential to the "people of the book," the Council’s Executive Board voted to create an independent entity. This new organization is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation chartered in the State of New York. It is supported, in large part, by dedicated and interested individuals and foundations in the Jewish community. The Jewish Book Council is the only organization in the organized American Jewish community whose sole purpose is the promotion of Jewish books.
The mission of the Jewish Book Council is:
- To promote the reading, writing, publishing and distribution of quality Jewish content books in English.
- To serve as the national resource center for information about the American Jewish literary scene.
- To serve as the coordinating body of Jewish literary activity in North America in both general and Jewish venues.
- To serve as the North American representative of Jewish literature on the international scene.
The new Jewish Book Council continued long standing programs and publications in existence for over 50 years:Jewish Book World
Jewish Book Month
National Jewish Book Awards
In addition, many new programs have been added over the years:
- JBC Network membership program of more than 100 organizations
- JBC Network three-day conference and Meet the Author events
- Administrator and coordinator of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute
- Literary program at the annual Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly
- Literary program and Jewish book sale at major Jewish organizational conferences
- Sponsor of dinner for National Jewish Book Awards winners
- New categories in the National Jewish Book Awards
- Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award
- Resource on Jewish books in English for the international Jewish community
- Central address for publishers for information about the world of Jewish books
- JBC Blog
- Twitter Book Club
- Sponsor of Jewish Book Authors Conference for the Adult Reader
- Sponsor of Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference
- Address for assistance for new authors
For a complete list of programs, visit here.