Monday, November 19, 2007

One More from Cantor Shore

CBI's Cantor Shore sings "Gobble Up the Mitzvot" in honor of Thanksgiving and in honor of the Library Blogathon. Thanks again to Cantor for supporting the library, and to all of YOU for reading this blog!

Jewish Quotes about Books, Reading & Libraries

Cover your bookcases with rugs and linens of fine quality; preserve them from dampness and mice and injury; for it is your books that are your true treasure.

~ Ibn Tibbon 1120-1190? Spanish Jewish Scholar

Never refuse to lend books to anyone who cannot afford to purchase them, but lend books only to those who can be trusted to return them.

~ Ibn Tibbon 1120-1190? Spanish Jewish Scholar

If you have one child who does not like to lend books, and another child who does, leave your library to the second, even if that child is younger.

~ Judah of Regensburg, Sefer Hasidim13th century, work on ethics

Books should be placed in stately array near the dead, so that the souls of the righteous may in death study as they did on earth.

~ Judah of Regensburg, Sefer Hasidim13th century, work on ethics

If you drop gold and books, pick up the books first, then the gold.

~ Anonymous

My pen is my harp and my lyre; my library is my garden and my orchard.

~ Judah Ha-LeviSpanish Poet, Physician

Make books your companions; let your bookshelves be your gardens: bask in their beauty, gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their spices and myrrh. And when your soul be weary, change from garden to garden, and from prospect to prospect.

~ Ibn Tibbon, c. 1120-1190 ? Spanish Jewish scholar

Three possessions should you prize: a field, a friend, and a book.

~ Hai Gaon, Head of Bet Din in 998; Wrote commentaries on Torah and Talmud until his death at age 99.

None is poor save him that lacks knowledge.

~ The Talmud

Books lead us into the society of those great men with whom we could not otherwise come into personal contact. They bring us near to the geniuses of the remotest lands and times. A good library is a place, a palace, where the lofty spirits of all nations and generations meet.

~ Samuel Niger, Gathered Works 1928

My mother and my father were illiterate immigrants from Russia. When I was a child they were constantly amazed that I could go to a building and take a book on any subject. They couldn't believe this access to knowledge we have here in America. They couldn't believe that it was free.

~ Actor Kirk Douglas (did you know he's Jewish?)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Peel the Banana

"Peel the Banana" is a fun stretch that we do in Preschool Story Time at the Feldman Children's Library. I learned it many years ago from a fellow children's librarian when I worked for the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, PA. Here's how it goes:

  1. Peel the Banana (move your arms from above your head down to your sides)

  2. Twist the Pretzel (cross your arms in front of you, one arm on top, then the other arm on top)

  3. Roll the Jelly Roll (roll your hands)

  4. And Pop the Corn! (jump up and clap your hands)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Jewish Books! More!

The Internet offers many great web resources related to Jewish reading. Check it out!

Jbooks: The Online Jewish Book Community

Nextbook: A New Read on Jewish Culture

MyJewishLearning: The Personal Gateway to Jewish Exploration
Check out the article Contemporary Jewish Youth Literature by CBI's Heidi Estrin!

The Sydney Taylor Book Award's LibraryThing Catalog of Jewish kids' books

The Jewish ValuesFinder: A Guide to Values in Jewish Children's Books

The National Yiddish Book Center

Also, this month's edition of ReaderGirlz, an online book community for teen girls and women, features a Jewish book! A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award, is the story of a Jewish girl adopted by an agnostic Gentile family, and what happens when she finally meets her birth mother.

Singin' with Susan!

Aren't You Glad You're Not a Turkey?

CBI Music Director Susan Shane-Linder gives us a special Thanksgiving performance!

Musical Greetings

Todd Herzog is a Jewish singer/songwriter from Phoenix, Arizona. He's a featured guest on The Book of Life podcast's Thanksgiving Special this month!

Listen to Todd's message especially for CBI members:

The Book of Life podcast is a monthly Internet radio show hosted by CBI librarian Heidi Estrin. You can hear interviews with Jewish authors, illustrators, musicians, filmmakers, webmasters, and more... and then you can borrow their books, CD's, and videos from the Feldman Children's Library!

Very few synagogues have a full-service library dedicated to students; we are very lucky here at CBI! Here are some things that make our library special:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stories for Miss Linda

Linda Harris is the Early Childhood Director at the Nadel Center for Early Childhood Education. "Miss Linda" loves books, and once in a while she even asks librarian Heidi Estrin to read her a story when she needs to de-stress!

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

My favorite book that I read when I was a child was called "Best Friends". I read the book in fourth grade three times. I remember that I borrowed it from the school library and I kept on renewing the book. One time someone else was waiting for the book so I had to wait until she finished reading it to borrow it again. I tried to purchase the book several years ago but I couldn't find a copy in a used book store.

What is your favorite Jewish book?

Every Friday morning in preschool children's services, Rabbi says that his favorite book is the Torah. I have to say that I agree with him. The obvious reason that I love this book is because of what it teaches people but there is more. the Torah is a book that can be read by and to all ages and the depth of understanding changes with your age and ability to understand. A person can read the Torah over and over again and get new meaning each time it is read.

What are you reading now, or what books are on your nightstand right now waiting to be read?

I am about to begin "Beach Road". I have two books on deck to read. The first book is "The Queen's Fool" and the second one is "Sarah." I like historical fiction, Judaic related books, books on education, and fiction.

How do you feel when you are reading a really good book?

For me, reading is definitely a stress reducer. I can be totally absorbed in a book and actually feel like I am in a different world.

What do you like best about our library here at CBI?

I feel that we are very lucky to have such a large versatile library at CBI. One of my favorite parts of the library is the bibliotherapy section. I feel that the parents in the school really can use that section if they need to explain to their children why something difficult in life is taking place.

Now, let's enjoy a classic Sesame Street sketch about the library!

No Cookies in the Library

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Greetings from Author Paula Marantz Cohen

Paula Marantz Cohen (BA Yale; Ph.D. Columbia) is Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she teaches courses in literature, film, and creative writing. She writes nonfiction and novels; her very first novel was Jane Austen in Boca. Paula agreed to answer a few questions for our very own Boca Blogathon!

How did you get the idea for the story, Jane Austen in Boca?

I was visiting my in-laws in Boca (they live in Boca Lago) and thought there were many parallels between their life and that of characters in a Jane Austen novel.

What specific parallels do you see between Pride and Prejudice, and modern life in Boca?

Boca residents, like those of the English country gentry whom Austen wrote about, constitute a fairly homogeneous community. People tend to know each other (or know each other once removed); there's the sense of ritualized activity (playing golf, having lunch and dinner, visiting, gossiping, etc). There's the focus on family. And then, of course, there's the fact that many people are widows and widowers and therefore open to new friendships and romantic attachments.

Are there any special nods to Boca Raton readers in the book, things that only we might recognize?

There are references to certain shops and shopping areas (Mizner, the Boca Loehman's, the upscale movie theater with plush seats and popcorn). Also, I make reference to some of the popular clubs and residences (some are fictionalized, some real), and to habits that I've gleened from my in-laws (the influx of grandkids during school holidays, for example).

What do you think Jane Austen would think of your book?

I think she'd see that it was written in the same spirit of affectionate satire in which she wrote her books.

Is there any special greeting you'd like to send to the book-loving members of Congregation B'nai Israel in Boca Raton?

My favorite appearances have been in Boca--I love the Boca residents, whom I find to be full of life, zest, curiosity, and intelligence. I also have them to thank for launching my career as a novelist!

Thanks, Paula! Hey everyone, be sure to visit Paula's web site at!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

CBI's Adult Library

In addition to the Feldman Children's Library, CBI also has a library for adults! It was established in just the last few years, and can be found on the 3rd floor in the board room. Please watch the informative video below, narrated by Adult Library Committee Co-Chair Annette Rindner, to learn more about how you can benefit from this wonderful collection!

"Miss Sheree," Loyal Library Volunteer

An Interview with Sheree Pollock

Sheree Pollock (aka "Miss Sheree") has been volunteering at CBI library ever since it was created. In fact, the Pollock family, along with the Feldman family, helped to establish the library in the first place! Miss Sheree can be found at the library most days of the week. She helps with administrative tasks, but her favorite thing is visiting the preschool classrooms to read to the children!

What was CBI library like when you started volunteering here?

It was totally different than it is now. It was much less organized and there weren't as many good books. Also, I didn't feel as if I had as many responsibilities as I do now. Our old librarian, Maria Walansky, was nice and had many talents, but I feel more relaxed working with Heidi, more at ease and comfortable. I think the kids like Heidi better too. I think it's really funny when kids mistake me for Heidi and sometimes call me "Miss Heidi." I think it's because we both read them stories and we both have dark hair!

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Good Night Moon! I think my parents read it to me at bedtime a lot when I was very very young, the age of the kids I now work with. When my brother came along, I started reading to him. (He's 4 years younger than me.)

How do you feel when you are reading to the children?

I feel honored and I feel loved. The whole job is a joy and does not feel like work at all. Some of my favorite things to read to the children are books by Eric Hill (the Spot lift-the-flap books), Dr. Seuss (my tongue gets tied, and the kids think it's funny), and Jamie Lee Curtis. The kids will tell you what kind of books they want - they don't hold back!

What else do you do in library?

One of my jobs is to help Heidi check in books that have been returned to the library. I find it interesting to put the blue check-out cards back into the books because I get to read all the titles as I go, and it's nice to see the variety of books we have. It gives me ideas about what I'd like to read to the children next!

What do you like best about our library here at CBI?

To be totally honest, my favorite thing about the library is MISS HEIDI!

Movie Time!

My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors by Moxy Fruvous
Here's a very catchy music video for all you book lovers out there!

Librarian from Haunted Love
Here's a library music video -- kind of creepy but also very intriguing!

A Happy Jewish Thanksgiving to You

Happy Thanksgiving!

JEWISH LIFE: Buy turkey. Stuff with Challah. Give Thanksgiving a Jewish Flavor.
This article from the United Jewish Communities web page includes an interview with Faye Levy, author of 1000 Jewish Recipes, and also gives the recipes for:

  • Thanksgiving Tzimmes

  • Spiced Roasted Turkey

  • Hot Cumin-Tomato Sauce

  • Challah Stuffing

  • Pecan Streusal Pears

Are you getting hungry?

This article from the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix suggests ways to make Thanksgiving mean more than just gobbling turkeys. Ideas include:

  • Do good deeds together as a family.

  • Say blessings.

  • Say grace after meals.

  • Create a Thanksgiving seder.

  • Invite someone far from home to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Rivka's First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael, illustrated by Maryann Kovalski

This picture book tells the story of a little girl from a Jewish immigrant family on the Lower East Side, who must take a stand to prove to her family and her rabbi that Jews in America should celebrate Thanksgiving!

You can hear an interview with illustrator Maryann Kovalski here.

and you can check out some of her illustrations and the real locations that inspired them here.

You can also find a reading guide for Rivka's First Thanksgiving, with interesting points for discussion from the PJ Library (PDF).

Ms. Herman & Ms. Beame: What We Read

Dorothy Herman
Director, Barry Ira Graff School for Living Judaism

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Little Women

What is your favorite Jewish book?

The Chosen

What are you reading now, or what books are on your nightstand right now waiting to be read?

Last Days in Babylon

How do you feel when you are reading a really good book?

I love a really good book. I sometimes let everything else in the house go and curl up with the book. I love interesting characters and places.

What do you like best about our library here at CBI?

It encourages reading Jewish books.

Kim Beame
Assistant Director, Barry Ira Graff School for Living Judaism

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

The Giving Tree

What is your favorite Jewish book?

The Giving Tree - When my first daughter was born, I bought it for her in Hebrew and in English!

What are you reading now, or what books are on your nightstand right now waiting to be read?

I am reading the Talmud (for a class I am taking). I am also rereading Dorothy's book, "Planning for Success."

How do you feel when you are reading a really good book?

I get lost in the imagination of the book. I love to be "swept away."

What do you like best about our library here at CBI?

I love that there is a little bit of everything in our library. I like that my children can go in and pick out a book to help with school or just to read for pleasure. I like the resources that we offer and I love the librarian at our library and how helpful she always is!!!!

A Cheer for the L-I-B-R-A-R-Y!

During the 2007 High Holidays, the kids who came to the Feldman Children's Library during Junior Congregation helped to create a video promoting the library! Since we didn't have parents' permission to film the kids, we made sure that we didn't show faces... but I bet the kids who were in the video will be able to recognize themselves! Thanks to everyone who helped make the video!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Library Music

Here are some fun library-related songs for your enjoyment!

Readin' Rabbis

Did you know that the word "rabbi" means teacher? Rabbis generally love to read, and ours are no exception! Let's learn a little about the reading habits of some of our own rabbinical staff.

Rabbi Richard Agler

What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Can’t remember just one in particular, but I loved biographies, histories, sports books and adventure fiction (e.g. Jack London, Jules Verne.)

What is your favorite Jewish book?

The Torah of course. It has everything and it is boundless!

What are you reading now, or what books are on your nightstand right now waiting to be read?

About to read “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” by Walt and Mearsheimer.

How do you feel when you are reading a really good book?

Like I don’t want to put it down.

What do you like best about our library here at CBI?

So many things! But mostly when I see the students—and their parents—learning in it.

Rabbi Robert Silvers

What was your favorite book when you were a child?
I loved Sherlock Holmes stories, Jules Verne stories and I had a book about Houdini (I can't remember the title)

What is your favorite Jewish book?

I love Harold Kushner's "To Life" and also Naomi Levy's "To Begin Again."

What are you reading now, or what books are on your nightstand right now waiting to be read?

Harold Kushner's "How Good Do We Have to Be" also "The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov," and a new collection of Jewish Stories Volume I (can't remember the exact name) I also just finished reading the last book of Harry Potter.

How do you feel when you are reading a really good book?

Relaxed, stress free. I'm able to concentrate and focus on something enjoyable and not think about work or other worries.

What do you like best about our library here at CBI?

I always find something new in our CBI library which can be helpful to me. Just before the High Holidays I found the "Speakers Sourcebook" which provided me with some new stories and anecdotes that I used to prepare for the HHD services. I was so impressed with the book I have even ordered one for my personal library.

Greetings from Author Eric Kimmel

Hi, Everybody at B'nai Israel! Eric Kimmel here. My friend Heidi Estrin is giving me a chance to talk about Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. I'm always amazed at how a quirky idea that I couldn't give away at first has become a Hanukkah classic. That's the exciting part about writing. When you start a story, you never know where it will end up. It may lead to something great. It may go nowhere. There's no map to the journey. It's all a process of discovery. That's the best part.

Okay, I'd better get busy and answer these questions Heidi sent me. (By the way, the photo of me and Heidi was taken at an Association of Jewish Libraries conference, when I was honored to receive the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award for contributions to the genre of Jewish children's literature.)

What was your inspiration for writing Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins?

There's no one inspiration to Hershel. All of your experiences play a part in the encounter with that blank page. Most people are surprised when I tell them that the two main literary influences aren't Jewish at all. The first is Charles Dickens's memorable story, "A Christmas Carol." "Marley was dead…" Oh, I've loved that tale for years! I fell in love with the old Alistair Sim film version years before I could read it on my own. Dickens's achievement is amazing. He gives us a Christmas story with no religious content at all. There's not a church or a Nativity scene in sight. Not a single aspect of the Christmas story appears. No Baby Jesus, Mary or Joseph, Magi, animals, angels, shepherds. Nothing! Just "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men. God bless us, every one!" In this one story Dickens created the modern secular celebration of Christmas. In addition, he made it spooky. Like my favorite holiday, Halloween. Think of those three ghosts who visit Mr. Scrooge on Christmas Eve. My favorite was the most terrifying, Christmas Future, who shows up at the end. Aha!

So when I was writing Hershel, I had Dickens in mind. I wanted to write a secular Hanukkah story that wouldn't mention the Maccabees or the Miracle of the Oil at all. My aim was to tell a story, not to teach about Hanukkah. There were plenty of other books to do that. I needed a hero. Who better than Hershele Ostropolyer, the Jewish Tyll Eulenspiegel. I grew up with Hershele stories. My nana used to tell them. She was a terrific storyteller. She was a Galitzky, from Kolomea, deep in the Ukraine. That's where Hasidism began. Her second language was Ukrainian and the Ukrainians are wonderful storytellers, too. Most of the stories we think of as Russian are actually Ukrainian. She knew lots of spooky stories. They scared the pants off my and my brother, but we always came back for more. So I have impudent, clever Hershele and eight creepy "Shaydim." I'm in business.

Another important influence is a Russian tale (maybe Ukrainan) from Afanasiev's classic collection of Russian tales. It's "Ivanko, the Bear's Son." Ivanko would fit well in Chelm, Is he clever or is he stupid? One of the things he does is fool a goblin who lives in a lake. I liked that goblin, so I multiplied him eight times. Now I had to figure out things for my goblins to do. Originally, there was a goblin for each night. Eight goblins made the story too long. When it was first published in Cricket Magazine, my friend Marianne Carus asked me to cut it. So I did. The missing goblins can be found in the original manuscript. It's in the library at Keene College in Keene, New Hampshire. That's not as weird as it may seem. My dear friend Trina Hyman, who did the illustrations, lived in Lyme. The mountains you see at the beginning of the story are the White Mountains of New Hampshire, not the Carpathians.

What do you think is special about the illustrations?

The illustrations are special because they were created by one of the great American illustrators, Trina Schart Hyman. She was a great friend. "Top friend," as Shlomo Carlebach used to say. She was one of the great souls of her generation, a real lamed-vavnik. She died a few years ago. I miss her terribly. Trina wasn't Jewish. Her family was German. She grew up in Philadelphia. Her husband was Jewish. As she told it, a lot of the Jewish family members weren't kind to her. They treated her like "the shiksa." We all know that attitude, don't we? Despite that, Trina had great love and understanding of Jewish people. She Got it. She knew what the story was all about. I treasure the letter she wrote to me after she finished the illustrations. I have it framed. She wrote to tell me how pleased she was with how the artwork turned out. She felt it was one of the best books she had ever illustrated. I think so, too, although my personal favorite of all her work is "The Fortuneteller." I bought the picture of the Green Goblin with his hand in the pickle jar. I intend to pass it on to my grandson. It's a treasure.

What are some of your own recent favorite reads?

You're going to laugh. I love reading biographies of rock stars. I think I have read everything ever written about Elvis. Janis, Jimi, Jim, John. If you were there, you know whom I'm talking about. It's mind candy. Or maybe not. A good rock bio is like Greek tragedies: the hero struggles, triumphs, attempts too much, then falls. I balance this with history, especially books about the early history of religion. Norman Cohn and Elaine Pagels are two of my favorites. I hunt for books about the early Islam, too. The great Islamic historians have rarely been translated into English. They're hard to find, but what stories! Amazing stuff that helps you understand the present day. Why do we believe what we believe? Do you think that any religion is handed down complete, in one piece. You can believe it if you like, but it just ain't so.

I like folk tales, books about knitting and fiber arts, and books about bicycles and horses because these are all things I love to do. I go through two or three books a day.

How are libraries important to you (and important to the world)?

Do I seriously have to answer this question? Isn't it a shame that we have to make a case for libraries? Where would our books come from if we didn't have libraries? I couldn't afford to buy the books I read. The internet is a great tool, but you can't always trust what you find there. I depend on libraries to separate sense from nonsense. (Or to do the rough cut, at least. Plenty of nonsense gets in to print. And I usually read it. One of my favorite genres is "nut" books. Visitors from Venus, Flat Earth, Kennedy assassination theories. Crazy people make our lives richer. We need to keep a place for them.)

Libraries are important to my family. My mother lived across the street from the library. The books and the librarian encouraged her to start thinking about going to high school, then college, and becoming a teacher. She didn't get that at home. Nobody in my grandma's generation had EVER gone to school.

My fear is that libraries are not as important as they once were. How many elementary schools have a library with a professional librarian? If the library were also not the "technology center," would it still be there? How many librarians are really "book" people, not "computer" people? How many children and teens list reading as an important, pleasurable activity? Do publishers market books with the same investment and energy that corporations market toys and breakfast cereal? Can you think of another product that is not marketed? The world is changing. Will books be part of it? I don't know. I don't think anyone does.

What do you do when you're not writing?

You think writers write all the time? Hah! I'll let you keep that illusion. I go on long bicycle rides. I practice my banjo. I knit. I watch old movies. I think. Most of the real work of writing isn't done at the desk. It's in the thinking. I'll often kick back, do something else, and let thoughts and ideas float into my mind.

What can your fans look forward to next?

There's another Hershel in the works. This will be a Passover story, if it ever sees the light of day. I don't know who will illustrate it with Trina gone. A Sukkot story is coming up with illustrations by Katya Krenina, who illustrated "The Magic Dreidels." I've seen some of the artwork. Gorgeous! It's called "The Mysterious Guests" and it's about guests in the sukkah. I got the idea one night in Cherry Hill, NJ when the power went out at the hotel and I had to sit in the dark and look out at the lights. Ideas come when they come, and sometimes at the oddest times. You can't force it. And there's another story about Anansi the Spider to be out in a year or two. It's called Anansi's Party Time. There are plenty of other books, too. I'm always working on something.

Okay, CBI yidn! Books don't grow on trees. God doesn't hand them down from the mountain like He did with the Ten Commandments. The library needs money to buy books. So get out the checkbooks and start writing. And no little pisher amounts either. Or the goblins may show up at YOUR house on Erev Hanukkah!

Zei gezunt! Read and be well
Eric Kimmel

How's that, Heidi?

That was great, Eric! Hey everyone, be sure to visit Eric's web site at!

Cantor Shore Kicks Us Off

Many thanks to Cantor Stephanie Shore for kicking off the Library Blogathon with her beautiful voice. Cantor Shore has always been a great supporter of the library, especially the music collection.

Did you know that the library offers CD's for checkout? We have CD's of Jewish storytelling, kids' music, hip hop, folk, klezmer, world music, and even stand up comedy!

Enjoy some samples, then come by and borrow them from the library!

Let's Get Started!

I got my name in lights with

It's time to celebrate CBI's very own Feldman Children's Library with our first ever Library Blogathon! Throughout the day, I'll be posting fun stuff related in some way to CBI and to books & reading.

I'll be blogging all day to raise money to support our library, so please consider making a pledge! Any amount is acceptable, but I recommend starting with "lucky $18" -- the numerological equivalent of chai, which is Hebrew for "life." You can mail in or drop off cash or check at CBI, or you can donate online right now using your credit card (see the ChipIn box on the right)!

Even if you can't donate, I'd love to know you stopped by! Please post a comment or take part in the CBI survey you see on the right.

Happy Thanksgiving!
"Miss Heidi"

Not Long Now!