Post­ed by Nat Bernstein

It’s Banned Books Week, the lit­er­ary world’s defi­ant cel­e­bra­tion of books that have lam­en­ta­bly been cen­sored in schools, book­stores, and libraries. Cen­sor­ship and the destruc­tion of books both sacred and pro­fane have made no small stain on Jew­ish his­to­ry through­out the world, even today.

At the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we thought we’d focus this week on efforts to encour­age read­ing and free­dom of expres­sion. Did you know that while Nazi Ger­many dec­i­mat­ed over 100 mil­lion vol­umes dur­ing World War II, the Unit­ed States Army and Navy dis­trib­uted over 140 mil­lion books to its ser­vice­men fight­ing abroad?

Almost every Amer­i­can pub­lish­er joined the Coun­cil on Books in Wartime, which print­ed and dis­trib­uted 1,200 titles in trav­el-sized paper­backs designed to fit in the pock­ets of stan­dard issue mil­i­tary uni­forms. The Vic­to­ry Book Cam­paign col­lect­ed over 18 mil­lion donat­ed books from Amer­i­can civil­ians. Nov­els con­sid­ered clas­sics today were pro­pelled out of obscu­ri­ty by their pop­u­lar­i­ty among the sol­diers who car­ried them through bat­tles and marches.

Now get out and cel­e­brate the First Amendment!

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Nat Bern­stein is the for­mer Man­ag­er of Dig­i­tal Con­tent & Media, JBC Net­work Coor­di­na­tor, and Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor at the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and a grad­u­ate of Hamp­shire College.