Page 122 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 7 (1948-1949)

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The Council conducted a Book Recommendation Contest for the purpose of
encouraging the publication of books of Jewish content currently unavailable in
the English language. The judges for the contest were Dr. Joshua Bloch, chief of
the Jewish Division of the New York Public Library; Dr. Jacob R. Marcus, profes-
sor of history at Hebrew Union College; and Dr. Solomon Grayzel, president of
the Jewish Book Council of America. The number of entries in the contest was
gratifying. The list of books recommended is available upon request.
Max Berenblut, Newburgh, New York, and Arthur Gilbert, Philadelphia, were
the winners in the contest. The recommendation by Max Berenblut for the publi-
cation of a History of the Synagogue received a $200 cash award. In recommend-
ing this publication, Berenblut wrote: “The Synagogue is tending to become the
only symbol of religious Judaism. It has a history of its own: a nebulous beginning
and a varied development, which should be brought to light.”
For the recommendation of the publication of a popular discussion of the various
problems of Jewish life for the high school and college student, Arthur Gilbert
won a $100 cash award. Gilbert wrote that such a work is necessary “since our
cynicism has already been stimulated by courses in school and there are so few
ready to meet our questions."
The prizes for the contest were donated by Leo Gitelson in memory of his father
Nehemia Gitelson.
In 1947, Jewish Book Month was observed from November 7th to December 7th,
with the last week, December 1st to 7th, as Jewish Book Week, and the last day,
December 7th, as Jewish Book Festival. To enable organizations to have sufficient
time to plan appropriate programs for Jewish Book Month, our publications and
other materials were prepared well in advance and distribution was started as
early as July, 1947. Thousands of communications were sent to specialized mailing
lists to encourage and stimulate active participation. One of the significant trends
that was noted during Jewish Book Month was the inauguration and development
of Jewish libraries in synagogues, centers, and other institutions. Funds were made
available for this purpose either through budgetary appropriations or by individual
donors. In many instances, aroused interest in Jewish books had made evident
the necessity for providing Jewish libraries.
A statistical study of Jewish Book Month activity in 1947 was made by Samuel
Asofsky, JWB statistician, which was quite revealing. The story of the activities
in connection with the 1947 Jewish Book Month is not told entirely by the statis-
tics, since reporting of activities was far from complete. But from the figures that
were reported we know that the influence of Jewish Book Month has become more
widespread in 1947 and a decided upward trend was revealed in the participation
in this project of organizations in communities throughout the U. S. and Canada
and in other parts of the world. In 1946 approximately 1300 individual organiza-
tions were involved in Jewish Book Month; in 1947 the figure rose to more than
1750, an increase of 35%. The figure of 426 participating communities in the
United States was not much larger than in 1946, but this year every state in the
Union with the exception of Wyoming was heard from. In 1946 three states were
not represented. In 1947, too, a larger number of organizations reported details
o f their program. More forums and lectures were reported: 1,061 against 965 the
year before. Attendance at forums and lectures, sermons, and school assemblies
was also larger; the 135,000 figure representing a jump of more than 18%. The
number of exhibits also increased, from 341 to 514.
Synagogues accounted for nearly 50% o f the total attendance o f 135,000 reported.
Synagogues led also in the number of exhibits, more than 50% of the 514 reported;
but the duration of synagogue exhibits was much shorter as a rule than that in the
Centers or libraries.