It has always fascinated me as to how much Judaism values education. It is part of the fabric of not only the religious tradition but also deeply rooted in our culture. From an early age, children are encouraged to learn about our traditions, history, customs, and a wide array of other aspects of Judaism. In fact, the tradition of giving gifts to children on Hanukkah was started as a way to reward children for their studies. The idea of gelt, now symbolized with the chocolate coins, comes from this concept.
Traditionally, this education begins in the home from parents (and grandparents) talking about and modeling Jewish life, then, for some, it moves to the synagogue and religious school. While the teachers change, the goal remains the same…. to educate in all the beauty and richness Judaism has to offer.
For many, this emphasis continues to evolve and grow as we get older as we shift out of the classroom into real life and a pursuit of lifelong learning. In fact, the Hebrew phrase for this is Torah L’shema refers to the idea of studying for studying sake. It is part of the reason why there is a Jewish Book Month.
I bet many of you were not aware that this was a thing… but it is. In her November 2020 Forward article More than 90 years later, how Jewish Book Month became a tradition, Heidi Rabinowitz traced the origins and history of Jewish Book Month and how it evolved into what it is today.
It was because of this important celebration of learning that the Jewish Federation has conducted our annual Jewish Book Festival for the past 22 years and is excited to be holding the 23rd iteration of this important community event this year, which kicked off at the end of October.
As we looked at our 2021 Community Survey results, the Jewish Book Festival was the most recognizable of the Jewish Federation’s programs and services… and it is no surprise. Worked on by a dedicated group of community volunteers, the Jewish Book Festival committee works extremely hard to ensure that each year’s festival includes a wide array of genres and topics: fiction and non-fiction, current events, Israel-related, cooking and food, children’s… and the list goes on and on.
And just like last year when our festival shifted virtually due to COVID, we have made this year’s festival just as accessible. Please check out the incredible lineup of authors we have brought together for this year’s festival. Not only might you find a new author or subject to explore, but you will be taking part in Judaism’s rich history of lifelong learning.
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.