1925 – 1940
The Jewish Book Council’s origins date back to 1925, making 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.
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, in 1943, the event was extended to a one-month period. Following this decision, the National Committee for Jewish Book Week became the Jewish Book Council in 1944, 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 Jewish Book Council 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 the 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.
1944 – 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, and Jewish Book Council became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. Since then, many programs have been added, including the JBC Network in 1999, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature in 2006, and Paper Brigade literary journal in 2015.
Click here to learn about all current Jewish Book Council programming.