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September 22, 2011 - Image 64

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-09-22

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Rosh Hashanah

May the New Year
bring to all our friends
and family
health, joy, prosperity and
everything good in life.

2011
5772

A New Chapter For JPS

can ensure these works a wider audi-
ence.
The JPS board voted Sept. 13 to
approve the sale and partnership.
he Jewish Publication Society
When the society was founded in
has distributed thousands of
1888, Jewish books were not published
volumes since its 19th cen-
in America, so JPS filled a consider-
tury beginnings, but these days JPS is
writing a new chapter in its history — able void.
The company created a highly
and hoping it's not the final one.
respected
literary and scholarly legacy.
JPS is about to turn over a major
Its
writers
included some of the finest
aspect of its publishing process to the
in
the
world:
Nachum Sarna, Joseph
University of Nebraska Press, which
B.
Soloveitchik,
Henry Roth and
as of Jan. 1 will assume the produc-
Mordecai Kaplan.
tion, distribution and marketing of
Behind the scenes, doing the choos-
manuscripts, according to Rabbi Barry
ing and editing, were giants such as
Schwartz, CEO of JPS.
Henrietta Szold, who went on to found
Economics was the motivating fac-
Hadassah, and Chaim Potok, who
tor, Schwartz said,
especially in the face oversaw the Torah translation even as
he managed to write a few best-selling
of radical changes
novels, which were published by a New
rocking the publish-
York house.
ing world.
For the bulk of its history, until the
As part of the
mid-'90s, JPS was as much a book
arrangement,
club as a publisher. Thousands, if not
Nebraska has pur-
hundreds
of thousands, of bar and bat
chased
the
book
Donna Shear
mitzvah children and confirmands
inventory at JPS
received gift certificates to redeem for
— some 250 titles,
titles. The book club eventually was
including the pub-
discontinued, seen as too expensive
lisher's renowned
and not in line with the reading habits
Torah translation.
of the young.
With these devel-
Yet according to one brief history of
opments, the vener-
JPS, the organization had distributed
able institution is
set to embark on the nearly 9 million books to Jews all over
newest phase — and the world by the time it reached the
Rabbi Barry
last decade of the 20th century. Book
in some sense the
Schwartz
club members included such illustri-
most radical — in
ous types as Leo Rosten and Theodore
its long history of
Bikel.
issuing high-end scholarship and
But over the course of the 20th
esteemed biblical commentaries, as
century, Jewish books began to appear
well as contemporary novels and
from commercial houses and univer-
poetry.
sity presses, flooding the market with
The cost to Nebraska will be
titles, leading to criticism — especial-
$610,000, said Donna Shear, the direc-
ly as the 21st century dawned — that
tor of NU Press who was the head of
JPS had become a dinosaur, obsolete
production and marketing at JPS in
and teetering on economic ruin.
the mid-1990s.
Schwartz dismissed such criticism.
"Because we'll be selling all their
"This arrangement will give us an
books, including the new ones they'll
expanded reach:' he said, "especially in
develop, we had to own the list in its
academia, but also in the Jewish and
entirety:' said Shear. "We'll own the
inventory and sell it, and have a profit- general arenas as well."
He said that JPS chose an academic
sharing arrangement with JPS.
publisher because of its own emphasis
"We felt this was a good fit for us.
on scholarship.
We do many Judaica titles, and the
"But the books of JPS will bear the
history of the Holocaust is big for us.
We respect their level of excellence and JPS imprint solely:' Schwartz said, "and
our core mission will continue unin-
want to protect their brand integrity"
terrupted:'
The agreement between the two
Schwartz said he understood why
well-established publishing units, said
some might say JPS is obsolete, but he
Schwartz, marks the end of a long
begged to differ.
search for an academic partner that
"With all the competition in Bible
will allow the Philadelphia institution
scholarship today, I can say without
to concentrate on finding and shep-
hesitation that nobody comes close to
herding good books into print. With
Nebraska by its side, the CEO said, JPS New Chapter on page 66

Robert Leiter
Philadelphia Jewish Exponent

T

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health and happiness for all our family and friends.
liShanah Tovah!

64

September 22 2011

iN

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