Book of the Year
Subject: Select and Promote a Jewish Book of the Year
Target: All Temple Members, Aged Preschool through Seniors
Time Frame: Ongoing Throughout School Year
Congregation: Temple Israel
Contributor: Deborah Morosohk, Reform Jewish Educator
A book is chosen to promote throughout the congregation. At Temple Israel The Seven Good Years And other Stories by I.L.Peretz (1851-1915) was selected. These are Yiddish stories which have been translated. A series of five family programs and additional congregational programs were held over the course of the year. The theme for all the programs was Yiddish literature and culture. The book was used as a starting point.
The primary goal of the Book of the Year program is to encourage families to read Jewish books together. The program provides participants with opportunities to share their experiences reading the book within their own family as well as with other temple families.
- Help participants learn how to relate what they have read to their own Jewish identities.
- Build upon the theme of the book and expose participants to aspects of Jewish culture based on the book.
All temple members, preschool age through seniors.
Staff and Specialists
A Book of the Year Program Coordinator works with the Director of Education to choose the book and plan and implement each of the programs. Additional teachers are employed as needed for each program.
Once the book is chosen, the coordinator, in consultation with the Director of Education, plans out the list of programs for the entire year. Various programs need to appeal to various ages so all constituencies have a chance to participate. Once all the programs are decided upon and put on the calendar, the details of each individual program need to be addressed, one at a time.
1) Kick Off Event
This program includes the performance of a radio show adapted from the book The Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger. Following the show there are two stations – each featuring a story from The Seven Good Years. At each station the story is read, followed by discussion for adults and crafts for children. The program ends with a havdalah service.
2) 7th and 8th Grade Family Program
The program is for 7th and 8th grade students with a parent or grandparent. The program includes the reading of the story “The Little Hanukah Lamp” from The Seven Good Years, a discussion about issues of assimilation, and a craft activity painting a wooden Hanukah menorah.
3) 9th Grade Family Program
A repeat of the 7th and 8th grade program.
4) Movie Night
Fiddler on the Roof is shown. At the intermission there is a baked potato bar. In eastern Europe in the 1800’s, the potato was an important food for the Jewish population. Potatoes were cheap and easy to grow. They are also rich in Carbohydrates, vitamin C and minerals. There are discussion questions on the tables for groups of families to discuss while eating. Each table shares something from their discussion before the movie is concluded.
Some sample questions are:
Why does Tevye feel so strongly about tradition? Describe the role of Shabbat in the lives of these people. What are the core values in “If I were a rich man?” What does the Fiddler represent? What is the role of the rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof? How is it different form the rabbis today?
5) Book Discussion
For adults only. Themes like poverty and family, found throughout the stories can be highlighted and discussed.
6) Party Night
This intergenerational party includes participants from seniors to babies. Start with a story, discussion, and a havdalah service. Activities can includ strudel making and Yiddish bingo. The night at Temple Israel was topped off with dinner and entertainment by a Klezmer band.
7) Scholar in Residence
The scholar in residence at Temple Israel, was Jonathan Rosen. He culminated the congregation’s exploration of Yiddish literature with an address during Friday night Shabbat services titled, A Bridge of Yiddish: How we’re shaped by – and ignore – Yiddish literature.
The major costs to consider for this program are for the Book of the Year coordinator, the supplies and the Klezmer Band.
References and Resourses
The Seven Good Years is published by Jewish Publication Society and can be purchased from the website firstname.lastname@example.org
The Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger, can be ordered through