Page 75 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

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SOLTES ---- LITERARY CONTRIBUTIONS OF CENTERS
69
lican Form of Government.” This lecture attracted wide attention
and was published in book form the following year.
The first two national organizations made serious efforts to
establish lecture bureaus. In 1882, the American Hebrew Associ-
ation organized a national literary bureau to help affiliated groups
arrange courses and to furnish speakers at low cost. When the
United Young Men’s Hebrew Association of America was estab-
lished in 1890, its constitution included, as one of six objectives:
“To form a lecture bureau from which to supply the various local
associations with lecturers.” In 1921, when the National Jewish
Welfare Board merged with the Council of Young Men’s Hebrew
and Kindred Associations which had come into being in 1912, it
established a lecture bureau in its capacity as parent organization
of the Y.M.H.A.’s, Y.W.H.A.’s and Jewish Community Centers.
Today this Jewish Center Lecture Bureau sponsors forums, sym-
posia, debates, institutes, courses, recitals and concerts. Above
all, it furnishes platforms for authors who constitute the majority
of the lecturers, and focuses the attention of audiences upon the
books which they have written.
When the Department of Jewish Extension Education was
established by the National Jewish Welfare Board in 1924, Jew-
ish Community Centers applied for lists of books of Jewish inter-
est for their libraries. The compilations prepared ranged in cost
from $50 to $3,000. It was the Jewish People’s Institute, now the
Jewish Community Centers, of Chicago which utilized the $3,000
list to acquire a wide range of Jewish books for its library. Con-
tinuing stress on the importance of adequate collections of Jewish
books for Center libraries has brought significant results. In re-
cent years, many Centers have received library citations presented
by the Jewish Book Council of America for meeting established
criteria for a Jewish library.
To stimulate literary creativity, essay contests were conducted
regularly by “Y ’s” and Centers. In the early days, Emma Lazarus
and Solomon Solis-Cohen were among the prize-winners. In con-
formity with a resolution adopted at the first Biennial Convention
of the National Jewish Welfare Board, recommending the conduct
of competitions of a Jewish literary character, a play contest was
launched in 1924. Seventy-one plays in one and two acts on Jewish
themes and suitable for production by senior casts were submitted.
The judges of the contest were David Pinski, Dr. Elias Lieberman
and Gustav Blum. The first three prize-winning plays were pre-
sented successfully at the 49th Street Theatre and the Board made
printed copies available to its constituent societies. The Board also
published the first play by Herman Wouk, author of
The Caine