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It’s ‘Hanukkah in the summer’ as New Yorkers raid the Jewish Book Council’s shelves

(New York Jewish Week) — The competition started in the elevator.

On Wednesday night, around 5:40 p.m., a woman lugging an empty suitcase across the ground floor of the nondescript 520 8th Avenue office building in Manhattan yelled, “Hold that door!”

She was hoping to get a prime spot in line at the event happening on the fourth floor — the Jewish Book Council’s annual “Raid the Shelves” event, which, for $25, allows members of the public to take home as many of the nonprofit’s spare books as they can carry.

An awkward silence ensued in the elevator, as the woman eyed a father and daughter who were also carrying suitcases. Early entrance to the event was about to begin: For an extra $30 —$55 in total — attendees could get a 15-minute head start.

The Jewish Book Council, which was founded in 1945, describes itself as “the longest-running organization devoted exclusively to the support and celebration of Jewish literature.” In addition to running the National Jewish Book Awards, the nonprofit organizes writing seminars, publishes a literary journal, runs other events and writes reviews of notable Jewish-themed books. As such, the council receives hundreds of books a year from publishers hoping to earn reviews, nominations for awards or inclusion in a program.

The Raid the Shelves event began in 2009 as a treat for alumni of a literature-themed Birthright Israel program that the JBC had coordinated. Opened to the public in 2011, the event attracts hundreds of bibliophile New Yorkers annually and has grown each year. Last year’s event featured the most books ever because it was the first post-pandemic lockdown edition — so the council had three years of leftovers to give away.

“You see some people and you’re not sure how they’re getting home,” Miri Pomerantz Dauber, a JBC staff member, told the New York Jewish Week, referring to the stacks of books many people try to amass. 

Standing in line on the fourth floor on Wednesday, everyone was polite. But at 5:44, a quiet tension simmered; one minute later, when early access opened, dozens of people speed-walked into a large room and began perusing the piles of books organized by genre —everything from fiction to history to memoir to children’s literature.

Though the books all had Jewish themes, not all attendees were Jews. Luke Hughett, for example, a 46-year-old creative director who works in advertising, heard about the event from a friend. “I was surprised at the sort of feverishness of it,” he told the New York Jewish Week. 

Hughett said he was also surprised at the selection. He took books on history (“Holocaust-adjacent things”); graphic novels for his daughter, who loves the Holocaust novel “Maus”; and even poetry collections. 

Books at the event ranged from fiction to history to memoir to children’s books. (Gabe Friedman)

Standing no taller than 5 feet, Hannah Zaves-Greene, a Jewish history professor at Sarah Lawrence College, was busily filling a bag nearly half her size. She said she will use some of her finds in her classroom — including “The Baron: Mau­rice de Hirsch and the Jew­ish Nine­teenth Century,” a biography of a prominent Gilded Age philanthropist.

“The selection is fantastic,” Zaves-Greene said.

This year, around 150 people attended, at times filling the room to capacity. The JBC offers whatever is left after one of these events to building staff and to other companies in the building, JBC Executive Director Naomi Firestone-Teeter said.

“It’s like our little mini-Hanukkah in the summer,” she said.

Firestone-Teeter said that she met some acquaintances via the event, people she sees only once a year. “I know exactly what books they like, I know what genres — I take them around… [and say] ‘This one’s for you! And this one’s for you!’” she said.

Just 20 minutes after the event’s official start time of 6 p.m., the crowd had mostly dispersed, leaving just a few books behind in their wake.

Attendees employed different strategies. Adi Elbaz, 35, who said she especially loves contemporary books in which authors draw from Jewish folklore or ancient themes, balanced well over a dozen books in her arms.

“I’m just kind of grabbing things without investigating,” she said. “Whatever looks good, I’m like, ‘Yes, give it to me!’”

Ken Shept, 76, a novelist and children’s book author, was looking for inspiration in the Jewish philosophy text section, which included titles such as “God Said What??” and “Dear Rabbi.”  

“I’m looking for books that will make me a better writer,” Shept said.

He summed up the event as “a kiddish without the food, basically,” referring to the social food spreads offered after Shabbat services.

The JBC’s Pomerantz Dauber agreed, saying, “It’s like TJ Maxx, for books!”

The post It’s ‘Hanukkah in the summer’ as New Yorkers raid the Jewish Book Council’s shelves appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Jordan Reaffirms Commitment to Peace With Israel After Iran Attack, Says Ending Treaty Would Hurt Palestinians

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi attends a press conference after a meeting on the Gaza situation in the government’s representation facility in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 15, 2023. Photo: NTB/Stian Lysberg Solum via REUTERS

Senior Jordanian officials recently reaffirmed the country’s commitment to maintaining peace with Israel, despite protests erupting across Jordan against their treaty amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

Pro-Hamas protesters have been actively campaigning to end the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, which the two countries signed in 1994 to end the state of war that had existed between them for decades and establish diplomatic relations. The treaty followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, a historic agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi said on Sunday that the peace deal was best for not only his country but also the Palestinians.

“The treaty actualized all our rights and served our interests. Revoking it would not be in Jordan’s or the Palestinians’ interest,” Al-Safadi told Jordan’s official news channel Al-Mamlaka in remarks flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “If we thought even for a moment that revoking it would be in the interest of Jordan or of the Palestinians, we would have done so without hesitation.”

Revoking the peace treaty, he continued, would “harm both Jordan and Palestine and greatly limit our ability to continue fulfilling our main and primary role in providing aid to the Palestinian people … The peace treaty is a source of strength for us and allows us to continue our role of aiding the Palestinian people while protecting our interests.”

Al-Safadi’s comments came one day after Jordan — along with the US, Britain, and France — helped Israel repel an unprecedented direct attack by Iran against the Israeli homeland. Iran fired over 300 drones and missiles at the Jewish state, nearly all of which were shot out of the air. Only one injury was reported in Israel.

The chief diplomat’s defense of the peace treaty also came amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which has fueled anti-Israel animus across Jordan. Thousands of protesters have been routinely gathering for weeks to lambast Israel, express solidarity with Hamas, and call for an end to the peace treaty. Al-Safadi addressed such opposition in his comments.

“We respect Jordanian public opinion,” he said. “Back in 1994, when [the treaty] was signed, it protected our interests. We regained all our occupied lands, and the treaty enshrined Jordan’s special role in administrating the places holy to Islam and to Christianity in Jerusalem. Were it not for this role, there would have been a vacuum, and Israel would have exploited this to impose its own sovereignty and administration on the holy places rather than granting them to the Palestinians.”

Al-Safadi wasn’t the only official to recently articulate Jordan’s commitment to the peace treaty amid calls to revoke it and mass anti-Israel protests over the Gaza war.

Jordan’s government spokesman, Muhannad Mubaidin, told Sky News Arabia late last month that Hamas was inciting the Jordanian people against their leadership. The Palestinian terrorist group and its supporters in Jordan, he said, were trying “to force Jordan to choose different options,” but “peace is our strategic choice and the peace treaty [with Israel] is what allows us to fulfill our role of easing the pressures on the people in the West Bank.”

MEMRI was first to report Mubaidin’s comments in English.

The post Jordan Reaffirms Commitment to Peace With Israel After Iran Attack, Says Ending Treaty Would Hurt Palestinians first appeared on

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US Stops UN From Recognizing a Palestinian State Through Membership

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting to address the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The United States on Thursday effectively stopped the United Nations from recognizing a Palestinian state by casting a veto in the Security Council to deny the Palestinian Authority full membership of the world body.

The United States says an independent Palestinian state should be established through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and not through UN action.

It vetoed a draft resolution that recommended to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained, while the remaining 12 council members voted yes.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a recognition that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the West Bank.

“Recent escalations make it even more important to support good-faith efforts to find lasting peace between Israel and a fully independent, viable, and sovereign Palestinian state,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council earlier on Thursday.

“Failure to make progress towards a two-state solution will only increase volatility and risk for hundreds of millions of people across the region, who will continue to live under the constant threat of violence,” he said.

Israel‘s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Palestinians failed to meet the criteria to become a full UN member, which he outlined as: a permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter relations with other states.

“Who is the council voting to ‘recognize’ and give full membership status to? Hamas in Gaza? The Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Nablus? Who?” Erdan asked the Security Council earlier on Thursday.

He said granting full UN membership to Palestinians “will have zero positive impact for any party, that will cause only destruction for years to come, and harm any chance for future dialogue.”

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.

Ziad Abu Amr, special envoy of Abbas, earlier asked the US: “How could this damage the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis? How could this recognition and this membership harm international peace and security?”

“Those who are trying to disrupt and hinder the adoption of such a resolution … are not helping the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis and the prospects for peace in the Middle East in general,” he told the Security Council.

Abu Amr said full Palestinian UN membership was not an alternative for serious political negotiations to implement a two-state solution and resolve pending issues, adding: “However, this resolution will grant hope to the Palestinian people hope for a decent life within an independent state.”

The post US Stops UN From Recognizing a Palestinian State Through Membership first appeared on

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The value of Jews to Canada today: What would the cost be if the community packed up and left?

Jonathan L. Milevsky is an author and educator. Raphi Zaionz is the founder of mygoals Inc. Both live in Toronto, for the moment. (The latter’s children either have left or are planning to leave Canada.) Towards the end of the film Schindler’s List, there’s a scene in which the famous non-Jewish philanthropist, who saved over […]

The post The value of Jews to Canada today: What would the cost be if the community packed up and left? appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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