Like a lot of people, I enjoy reading. There is excitement when you open and start to read a new book that is only surpassed by getting to the end and finding out how the story ends. However, my love of reading and books pales in comparison to that of my youngest daughter. She can read for hours at a time and completely tune out the world around her. And she has no problem re-reading the same book over and over again. For her, it is a place of comfort to get lost in a book.
The reason why I am bringing this up is that November just so happens to be National Jewish Book Month. I know, between trying to keep track of when International Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Taco Day, or my favorite… National Doughnut Day, it is sometimes hard to keep all of them straight. However, I think it is rather symbolic for the Jewish community to have an entire month dedicated to books because, after all, we are the “People of the Book.”
In his recent book, “The People and the Books,” poet and literary critic Adam Kirsch expounds on this idea. He explains that books have served as a bridge between the Jewish past and today, while at other times books have provided inspiration for the future like Theodore Herzl’s “The Jewish State.”
Besides what Kirsch wrote, I think that books have also served as a metaphor for Jews throughout time in a similar way that the Torah has served as a guide for us on how to live our lives. (I mean even our guide is a book… actually five books, but I digress.)
It is this love of books, and our unquenched desire to learn that have propelled us and motivated our ancestors for hundreds of years. I think it is one of the many reasons why we re-read our “book” year after year… always trying to gain a new insight into who we are as a people, what is expected of us, and how we should live our lives. This deep passion for learning and understanding has helped move us forward, even in the darkest times of our history.
This love of learning has helped push us forward in society and helped make us who we are today. While some may see this as self-promotion and boasting, I see it more as an acknowledgment and understanding of how we got to where we are today as a people. I think we should take pride in our accomplishments and appreciate how we got here.
With this in mind, I would encourage all of us to celebrate National Jewish Book Month. How do you plan to celebrate? If you are looking for a few ideas, here is a list of some suggestions. Find a Jewish themed book and read it. Give your child(ren), spouse, relative, friend or colleague a copy of a book that changed your life. Read or re-read a classic. Attend a Jewish Federation Jewish Book Festival author event (or two) and hear from some of today’s leading Jewish authors.
However you decide to mark the specialness of National Jewish Book Month, remember… we are the “People of the Book” and that is something to be proud of.
And, one more thing… National Doughnut Day is the 1st Friday of June in case you wanted to mark it on your calendars.
jason moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the GREATER san gabriel and pomona valleys.