How to Create a Jewish Library
The new library at the Chabad Jewish Community Center in Aspen, Colorado, is the only Jewish library between Denver and Salt Lake City, according to Rabbi Mendel Mintz, who founded and heads the organization. Targum Shlishi worked closely with Rabbi Mintz to establish the library; the effort was part of a year-long collaborative project that resulted not only in the library itself, but in a list of books that could be considered a “starter kit” of sorts for this type of small library or reading center in a Jewish community organization. In this mailing, we are sharing the book list as a resource for people and organizations, and we encourage our readers to share it with others.
A community gathering place
The library is located in the Chabad Jewish Community Center’s new facility. The library has quickly become a valuable part of the center and a locus for public programming, including book readings and story time sessions for children.
“The library is popular, and as word spreads, it is growing. It is an attraction for people who wouldn’t otherwise come into the building,” Rabbi Mintz reports. “The library has added an important element to the Aspen Valley Jewish community, bringing the world of Jewish books to so many who have had little or no prior exposure to our rich heritage.”
Many members of the community are not traditionally observant, but are connected to the Jewish world, notes Aryeh Rubin, founder and director of Targum Shlishi. The library serves as an important bridge for these individuals. “Books, and activities aligned with books, such as book clubs, lectures, readings, and the like, are all opportunities for community engagement and connection. In some ways, this library project can be seen as a stop-gap measure for fostering connections while the rabbinic leadership develops deeper and more long-term ways to build community,” Rubin says.
Rubin notes that the Chabad JCC in Aspen is a community that comprises both locals and many visitors, including large numbers of creative and influential people, and it is critical to build a strong sense of Jewish community in places such as this. While the unique character of Aspen and its JCC are part of the reason Targum Shlishi funded the project, Rabbi Mintz is “the secret sauce,” as Rubin puts it. He continues, “Rabbi Mintz is an unusual combination of scholarship, insight, tolerance, and openness, with his finger on the zeitgeist. He is widely respected, and he has a real understanding of what the Jewish community needs and a commitment to make it happen.”
This collaborative project was spearheaded by Targum Shlishi’s education consultant, Judith Dach, Ph.D. She consulted with a group of scholars, conducted research, and worked closely with both Rabbi Mintz and Aryeh Rubin to develop a wish-list of books for the library.
“In choosing the books, we took a holistic view. We sought to develop a library that would provide materials in a range of subject matter for readers coming to the JCC with varying levels of Jewish learning,” Dach explains. “Our goal was to create a collection of books that represents a solid foundation in Jewish learning, but at the same time for the selection to be as inclusive as possible in order to offer something for everyone.”
The choice of books
Targum Shlishi developed a list of more than 400 titles that reflects authors and leaders in a wide range of subjects. The subject categories of the books include Jewish thought, culture, arts/music, biography, family, history, the Holocaust, Israel, ethics, business, love/lore/poetry, law, science, sports, literature, mysticism, personal growth, religion, Shabbat/holidays, and women in Judaism.
Keeping track: software management
In addition to the book selection, Dach also researched and implemented a software system to manage the library. The system is called LibraryThing, and it provides users with basic information about each book.
Access the book list
To review the list of books compiled by Targum Shlishi as recommended volumes for starting a Jewish community library, go here to download.
About Chabad Jewish Community Center in Aspen
The Chabad JCC in Aspen, founded and directed by Rabbi Mendel Mintz, calls itself a “home away from home for so many who enter its doors. It’s where we embrace and enhance our connection to Jewish life.” And it describes itself as “not what you expect it to be. It’s what you want it to be.” The center is dedicated to creating a nonjudgmental, non-demanding environment that is open and welcoming to anyone. To learn more about the center, visit its website.
LibraryThing, the website used to catalogue the new library at Chabad JCC in Aspen, is a cataloging and social networking site for book lovers that is geared to both individuals and organizations. The website allows users to create catalogs of books according to varying criteria: books owned, books on the wish-list, books loaned, etc. Additionally, the social networking aspect of the site allows people to catalog books together and participate in member forums. To learn more about LibraryThing, visit its website.
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter.