+5,000 people served each year

SERVING AND GROWING SINCE THE 1950s

By 1954, the collection of books, magazines and periodicals found at the Jewish Educational Society of San Francisco was considered one of the most remarkable collections of Jewish literature in the West. In 1958 the Educational Society became the Bureau of Jewish Education, now known as Jewish LearningWorks. Over the next 60 years, the Jewish Community Library has grown its collection to more than 40,000 items, and offers a year-round menu of book group opportunities and public programs reaching thousands.

The Library moved into dedicated space at the corner of 14th Avenue and Balboa in 1976. In 2003, in order to properly house the growing collection and make it accessible to all, the Library moved to the newly opened campus of the Jewish Community High School of the Bay. The Library also established Pushcart branches at the Jewish Community Centers in Palo Alto and San Francisco. The popular One Bay, One Book program was launched in 2012, inviting the community to read a single Jewish title simultaneously. This program, along with the Library’s long standing Book Club in a Box program, creates opportunities to discuss myriad topics from different perspectives, and most importantly, to connect through the love of books, and Jewish ideas.

Most recently, the popularity of the Library’s virtual public programs was propelled by the move to remote experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic. Today more than 5,000 people from across the Bay Area use the Library’s programs and services annually.

LAST YEAR, THE LIBRARY:

Hosted

public programs with more than 3,700 attendees.

Offered

eBooks for children and adults, free to Bay Area residents.

Supplied

eBooks and 366 audiobooks to 271 unique users.

Provided

sets of books to 43 book groups in nine Bay Area counties.

A Tribute to Howard Freedman, Library Director

CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF SERVICE

Writer Leo Rosten said that a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character” — just like Howard. With a background in education, he started working at the Bureau of Jewish Education in 1992 as the coordinator of the Battat Education

Resource Center, went on to become the reader services librarian for the Jewish Community Library, and became the library director in 2009 when Jonathan Schwartz retired.

A Tribute to Howard Freedman, Library Director

CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF SERVICE

Writer Leo Rosten said that a mensch is “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character” — just like Howard. With a background in education, he started working at the Bureau of Jewish Education in 1992 as the coordinator of the Battat Education

Resource Center, went on to become the reader services librarian for the Jewish Community Library, and became the library director in 2009 when Jonathan Schwartz retired.

When I asked Howard for something that touched him in his time at the library, he shared a story about Semyon Gerber, a former soldier who’d moved here after the fall of the Soviet Union, who always wore a suit with his military medals on it when he came to the library. Having taught Yiddish as a young man, and having lived through the suppression of Jewish culture in the USSR — he was thrilled to discover the library’s strong collection of Yiddish literature. But his delight turned into depression and loneliness as he gradually found that the thriving Yiddish culture he hoped to find here did not exist, lost in the indifference of the American Jewish community to this element of its past.

You can hear in his reflection on Semyon Gerber that Howard is attentive, caring, and “someone to admire and emulate.” I’m sure you’ve all read his book reviews in his monthly “Off the Shelf” column for the J Weekly. The engaging range of his choices, his insight and enthusiasm, come across in every sentence. As husband to Sue and father to Sabina and Isaac, I’ve seen his tender regard and deep capacity for connection, in a man who models for all of us the teachings of the prophet Micah, “To act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

When I asked Howard where he’d like to put more of his energy, as he enters his 31st year at the library, he told me that he wants to “encourage people to engage in real, sustained reading,” as opposed to reading short articles on our phones. He ended by saying, “Our consciousness, our imagination, our empathy, and so many parts of ourselves have been shaped by books in important ways.”

Clearly the perfect person to be the director of a library. A thoughtful, concerned, compassionate visionary. A mensch.

by Maggid Eli Andrew Ramer
Library patron, friend and former employee