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Judaic Audio Lectures, Panel Discussions, Author Talks, Workshops & More

The AJL Podcast brings you the best talks on Jewish literature and the Jewish library world, with respected experts and popular authors. Please check back periodically, as new lectures will be added to the series.


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This panel presentation on the history, current trends, and hope for the future of Jewish children’s literature was the opening session at the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s 40th anniversary celebration, held at the Association of Jewish Libraries convention on June 25, 2008. Panelists included Evelyn Freeman, Rita Soltan, and Joni Sussman, and the session was chaired by Rachel Kamin and moderated by Heidi Estrin.

Dr. Evelyn B. Freeman is the Dean and Director of the Ohio State University at Mansfield and a Professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology. She is also President of the Children’s Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Rita Soltan has been a public librarian in New York and Michigan for over 30 years. She regularly reviews children’s books for major publications including School Library Journal, Horn Book, and Kirkus. She is the author of several books from Libraries Unlimited on reading clubs and summer reading.

Joni Sussman is Publisher at Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.

1 hr 4 min 39 sec

L-R: Deborah da Costa, Jane Breskin Zalben, Sarah Marwil Lamstein

Picture book authors Deborah da Costa, Sarah Marwil Lamstein and Jane Breskin Zalben provide insight into their creative processes. Learn about their most recent books and their upcoming projects.  This panel was part of the Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature held in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Taylor Book Award on June 25, 2008.

Among their other books, our speakers highlighted recently recognized titles. Deborah da Costa is the author of Hanukkah Moon, a 2008 AJL Notable Children’s Book. Sarah Marwil Lamstein is the author of Letter on the Wind, a 2008 Sydney Taylor Honor Book. Jane Breskin Zalben is the author of Light, a 2008 Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

54 min 52 sec

If you belong to an AJL Chapter or would like to start one in your area, this is the lecture for you. Chapter officers speak about their experiences with organization issues, leadership and succession, communication, programming and more in this lively panel discussion with Marcie Eskin, Jean Loeb Lettofsky, Yelena Luckert and Rosalind Reisner.

Marcie Eskin is the librarian at the Marshall Jewish Learning Center of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, as well as librarian at Beth Hillel Congregation’s B’nai Emunah Library in Wilmete, IL. She is past president of AJL’s Chicago Chapter.

Jean Loeb Lettofsky is director of the library at Siegal College and a past president of AJL’s Greater Cleveland Chapter. She is co-editor of Guide to Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust and Jewish Union List: Periodical Holdings in Greater Cleveland Jewish Libraries.

Yelena Luckert is a librarian for History, Jewish, Slavic & Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, and the author of Soviet Jewish History, 1917-1991: An Annotated Bibliography. She is chair of AJL’s Doris Orenstein Memorial Fund.

Rosalind Reisner is the author of Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests, winner of the 2004 AJL Judaica Reference & Bibliography Award. She is librarian at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, NJ, and is co-chair of AJL’s Chapter Relations Committee with Irene Seff.

Please note that Irene Seff was also scheduled to present in this session but was unavailable to participate.

49 min 36 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Rita Berman Frischer

It is hard to imagine the world of children’s books without Jewish women writers. In this session, Rita Berman Frischer supports what she wrote in an article published in Jewish Women in America: A Historical Encyclopedia, presenting a lively overview of Jewish women writers past and present, while noting trends and examining the contributions of specific women writers in more detail.

Rita Berman Frischer, former Director of Sinai Temple Library in West LA and Chair of the first AJL Sydney Taylor Award Committee, is a writer and reviewer of juvenile and YA literature. She has presented lectures and workshops for HUC-JIR, AJL, CAJE, and others in the US and abroad, and served as judge for numerous book awards.

25 min 20 sec

Although several comic book stories have tried to describe life in Israel (Joe Sacco’s Palestine; Peter Kuper’s Promised Land; Uri Fink’s Fink!), very few of them have been written by women and none of them have tried to show what life is like for those who work behind the scenes in the Israeli army, working desk jobs and performing menial tasks (the so-called “jobnikim”). Miriam Libicki, who spent two years as a volunteer in the Israeli army, is currently completing work on her self-published comic book series jobnik!, while also writing illustrated essays such as “Towards a Hot Jew: The Israeli Soldier as Fetish Object,” “ceasefire,” and “Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy!” Miriam discusses her influences, what led her to choose comics as a format, why she started the jobnik! series, her self-publishing experience, and how her work has been received thus far in Israel and elsewhere.

Miriam Libicki was born in 1981 in Columbus, Ohio. After living in Jerusalem and Seattle, Washington, she is now based in Vancouver, BC. She completed her BFA from Emily Carr Institute in 2006. She is the creator of the comic series jobnik! and the drawn essays “Towards a Hot Jew,” “ceasefire,” and “Jewish Memoir Goes Pow! Zap! Oy!” (in The Jewish Graphic Novel, forthcoming from Rutgers University Press). See her blog at

23 min 45 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

One of the most active and dynamic groups of Sephardim today are the Syrian Jews living in Brooklyn, New York. An extremely tight-knit community, they began moving from Syria at the beginning of the 20th centuray. Subjected to terrible persecution, a major wave of them came to New York in the 1920′s, and another group came when they were released by the government in the 1990′s. In New York they became a highly insular group, with a major edict that prevented almost any conversion into their community. This was intended to prevent dilution of the traditional community and has resulted in a highly homogeneous, close-knit group of jews whose numbers now exceed 75,000. Two scholars, Dr. Walter Zenner and Joseph A.D. Sutton, have carried out extensive studies of this gropu, with articles, oral histories, and other documentary evidence. The papers of both of these scholars are held in the archives of the American Sephardi Federation. In this presentation, we examine those papers and attempt to learn a little more about this fascinating group of Sephardim.

Randall Belinfante is the Librarian/Archivist of the American Sephardi Federation. Over the past seven years, he has expanded this Library/Archives from a small collection of 200 odd books and 20 boxes of papers to a collection that now exceeds 6,000 catalogued items and some 300 linear feet of archives. Randy is fascinated by all aspects of the Sephardim, with papers and articles dealing with communities from Brooklyn to Burma.

23 min 24 sec

Posted in: RAS, SSC

Even Batgirl had help, but the superhero librarian survives with a small space and a staff of one. The solo librarian is alone in the trenches, balancing many responsibilities. During this session, we discuss the tricks of the trade for surviving in the library alone. We discuss how to schedule your day, week, and year, so that you do not feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities. We will also share techniques that you can take back to your library so that it can be run in a more efficient manner. The second half of the presentation will look into collection development tips such as weeding, purchasing, and electronic alternatives that enable a library with minimal space to meet the needs of its patrons.

Michal Davis has an MLS from Queens College and a Masteres in Education and Curriculum from Capella University. She is a permanently certified New York State K-6  teacher as well as a K-12 School Library Media Specialist. Michal spent two years teaching at Yeshivat Ohr Haiim before she began working for the Nassau BOCES School Library System, Library Automation and Resource Sharing division as a Program Specialist. Since leaving BOCES, she has worked at the Yeshiva University High School for Girls Library as a solo librarian for four years, and also spent a year as librarian at Shelter Rock Jewish Center. She is now librarian at Temple B’nai Sholom of Rockville Center.

1 hr 7 min 43 sec

Posted in: SSC

The Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award grows and expands as it plans for its 14th award in 2009. This award has been endowed by Sonia Levitin, renowned author of children’s and young adult literature, and her family, and is administered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance Library and Archives. We larn from and are inspired by AJL’s Sydney Taylor Book Award. In this talk, Adaire Klein discusses the history and future plans of the award, and how others can share in bringing quality children’s literature to young readers, “building tolerance through literature.”

Adaire Klein is the founding Director of Library and Archival Services for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance. She designed the Once Upon a World Children’s Book Award and has administered it since its inception. She gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

14 min 07 sec

The Klezmer Company Orchestra with author Heidi Smith Hyde

Author Heidi Smith Hyde’s picture book, Mendel’s Accordion, was named a 2008 Notable Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries. It tells a story of klezmer music, immigration, and the passing on of tradition from one generation to the next. Ms. Hyde did a live reading of Mendel’s Accordion accompanied by members of the Klezmer Company Orchestra at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida on February 25, 2009. For full information about the event and links to resources on the story, visit

31 min 30 sec

Lisa Silverman and Talma Shultz participated in a panel discussion moderated by Adaire Klein on teaching with Holocaust books. Lisa spoke about teaching the Holocaust using picture books, and Talma spoke about the middle and high school perspective.

Adaire Klein is the founding Director of Library and Archival Services at the Simon Wiesenthal CenterMuseum of Tolerance. She holds a B.A. in Hebrew Literature and a M.A. in Near Eastern and Judaic studies from Brandeis University.

Talma Shultz is an instructor and lecturer with Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit organization that offers teacher training programs for Middle School and High School Holocaust Education.

Lisa Silverman is the director of the Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library at Sinai Temple. She leads classes and book groups, along with organizing community programs on literature. She is the children’s editor of Jewish Book World magazine and also a reviewer of children’s literature for various other publications. She has often been a featured speaker at library conventions or literary conferences. She serves as a judge for the children’s division of the National Jewish Book Award and also for the “Once Upon a World” Book Award.

They gave this presentation at the 7th annual Association of Jewish Libraries Western Regional Conference on Jewish Literature for Children on February 1, 2009 at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

47 min 17 sec

Tags: Holocaust

Hamida Basmajian & Eric Sundquist


  • Early responses, before “the Holocaust.” Hersey, Uris, and others.
  • Priority of testimony and its relation to fiction. Elie Wiesel and others.
  • The problem of authenticity and hoaxes. Kosinski, Wilkomirski and others.
  • The Americanization of the Holocaust. Anne Frank’s Diary and others.
  • Second-generation approaches. Philip Roth, Thane Rosenbaum, and others.
  • Eric Sundquist discusses the evolution of Holocaust literature, particularly from the American perspective, from the immediate aftermath of the war through late-twentieth-century responses by those of the second generation, including children of survivors. Issues to consider include the priority of testimony and its relation to fiction; the problem of authenticity and hoaxes; the “Americanization” of the Holocaust; and the self-reflexive and sometimes postmodern strategies of some second-generation writers.


  • Perception of “Children’s Literature” as an academic field of study.
  • Authorial motivation to write Holocaust narratives as children’s literature.
  • Contexts and readers of Holocaust narratives for North American children and youths. The aim of testimony in the context of children’s literature.
  • Structures, Conventions, Genres—
    § The survivor journal, memoir, or autobiography as privileged form –ethos of the survivor as hero, the testimony of the survivor as victim.
    § Fictionalized autobiographies based on authorial childhood memory.
    § Fictional Holocaust narratives and acquired memory—possibilities and limitations.
  • Hamida Basmajian refers to the following narratives as examples during this session: The Diary of Anne Frank, Ruth Minsky Sender’s The Cage and The Holocaust Lady, Carol Matas’ Daniel’s Story, Gudrun Pausewang’s The Final Journey, John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Doris Orgel’s The Devil in Vienna, Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic and Briar Rose.

    Eric J. Sundquist is the UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. Professor Sundquist received his B.A. from the University of Kansas and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He has also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and Vanderbilt University and is the author or editor of twelve books, the most recent of which are King’s Dream (2009); Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America (2005), which received the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute Book Award.

    Hamida Bosmajian, Professor Emerita of the English Department at Seattle University, is the author of Sparing the Child: Grief and the Unspeakable in Youth Literature about Nazism and the Holocaust (Routledge, 2002) and Metaphors of Evil. Contemporary German Literature and the Shadow of Nazism (U. of Iowa Press, 1979). The Children’s Literature Association honored Sparing the Child with the ChLA Book Award in 2004.

    They gave this presentation at the 7th annual Association of Jewish Libraries Western Regional Conference on Jewish Literature for Children on February 1, 2009 at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

    1 hr 18 min 57 sec

    Tags: Holocaust

    Dina Rosenfeld, Hara Person & Claudia Valas

    Representatives from URJ Press, Hachai Publishing, and EKS Publishing discuss each publisher’s unique approach to Jewish children’s literature. Topics include a brief history of each house, some classics, and current trends. They gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature, in honor of the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s 40th Anniversary, held on June 25, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    Rabbi Hara E. Person was the Editor-in-Chief of URJ Press at the time of this panel, but is now the Publisher and Director of Press at CCAR

    Dina Rosenfeld is the Editor-in-Chief at Hachai Publishing and has written 18 children’s books of her own.

    Claudia Valas is the President of EKS Publishing, a company created for the development of Hebrew educational matierals.

    76 min 0 sec

    Nancy, Maureen and Etta

    Book clubs… Reading Clubs… Literature Circles… in essence, they’re all the same thing. A reader, be it child, teen or adult, has much to gain by reading the same book as others in a group and then sharing their experience with the other members. This workshop will focus on the issues:

    • Why to have a book club
    • How to start a book club
    • Selecting books
    • Running and marketing a book club

    and book club best practices, based on theory, research, and experience from three librarians who run three different types of successful book clubs: Nancy Austein, Etta Gold, and Maureen Reister.

    Nancy Austein is the Library Director at Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, TX.

    Etta Gold is the Library Director of Temple Beth Am in Miami, FL.

    Maureen Reister is Dirctor of Libraries at Ann & Nate Levine Academy, a Solomon Schechter School in Dallas, TX.

    They gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    78 min 48 sec

    Successful books for teen readers combine authentic voice and personal conflict, as well as relevant issues. These three prolific YA authors continue to deliver! In a dynamic panel presentation, Margo, Carol, and Sonia explain their personal histories and react to each other’s stories in ways that are both fascinating and touching. They gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Celebration of Jewish Children’s Literature, in honor of the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s 40th Anniversary, held on June 25, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    Sonia Levitin is the author of Strange Relations, the 2008 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Teen Readers.

    Carol Matas is the author of The Whirlwind, a 2008 AJL Notable Children’s Book of Jewish Content.

    Margo Rabb is the author of Cures for Heartbreak, a 2008 AJL Notable Teen Book of Jewish Content.

    72 min 31 sec

    Swarner, Gershman, Levitin & Fleischman

    Swarner, Gershman, Levitin & Fleischman

    The Sydney Taylor Awards are sponsored by Jo Taylor Marshall, daughter of Sydney Taylor, and are administered by the Synagogue, School, and Centers Division of the Association of Jewish Libraries. The 2008 awards were presented at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 24, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    The winners of the Sydney Taylor Book Award were:

    For Younger Readers: The Bedtime Sh’ma: A Good Night Book by Sarah Gershman, illustrated by Kristina Swarner, EKS Publishing, 2007

    For Older Readers: The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman, Greenwillow Books, 2007

    For Teen Readers: Strange Relations by Sonia Levitin, Knopf, 2007

    The winner of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award was:

    Stealing the Show by Margaret Chaikin

    40 min 25 sec

    Though the American comic book format has only been around for 75 years, every decade since 1933 has seen examples of stories taking place in Israel or using Israeli characters. There have been over a dozen examples since 2000 (and the decade’s not over yet!). This presentation showcases the variety and types of such representation. These include superhero stories, humor cartoons, first-person travelogues, “comics journalism,” biographies, wordless collages, graphic histories and graphic fiction. Though comics are still often seen as irrelevant and catering to a niche market, this presentation should demonstrate that there are notable exceptions, which make it worthwhile to be aware of what is being published and what those publications are trying to say.

    An online handout which includes the visual elements of this presentation may be found at

    Steve Bergson is research administrator for the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, and he blogs about Jewish comics at He gave this presentation at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 23, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    32 min 44 sec

    Dr. Ellen Frankel

    Dr. Ellen Frankel is the Editor in Chief and CEO of the Jewish Publication Society. This podcast records the keynote address she gave at the Association of Jewish Libraries annual convention on June 22, 2008 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    44 min 38 sec

    Posted in: RAS, SSC

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