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.

Jew­ish Book Month Poster, 1951

Jew­ish Book Month Poster, 1985

Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion Com­mit­tee of New York

Board of Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion, Mia­mi Beach, FL

Free Library of Philadel­phia, PA