Massachusetts book dealers rescue German prayer texts
SOUTH DEERFIELD, Mass., Feb. 18 (JTA) — Kenneth Schoen and Jane Trigere, owners of Schoen Books in South Deerfield, Mass., spend a lot of time matching rare books with interested readers. Now, the couple has embarked on a new matchmaking project: finding homes for German-Hebrew prayer books in synagogues in Germany.
For the past several years, Schoen, whose customers range from academics to rabbis, has been sending books to Rabbi Mordechai Przybilski in Paderborn, Germany. The rabbi has been distributing the books to people in his community. Last fall, Schoen saw an article in Aufbau, the German-Jewish newspaper of New York, about Fulda, a German town that was searching for prayer books. He sent the community 30 Chumashim and prayer books. Schoen already has sent about 100 books to Germany.
“Often when we buy a library, there are prayer books,” Schoen says. “We don’t sell them, we tend to give them away. Now we have a way to bring them back to life.” “Both my parents originally came from Germany,” Schoen said. “My mother, Betty, left Herborn in 1935. My father, Irving, left his hometown of Vacha in 1927. Part of my motivation is to honor my parents. Another part is to help fellow Jews in Germany.”
Schoen and Trigere are hoping to find other communities in Germany looking for German-Hebrew and Russian-Hebrew prayer books. They welcome information from anyone who may know about a community who would like to receive books. “We want people to let us know if they have a connection,” Schoen said. “I know for a fact that there are a lot of German Jews who have been invited back to their hometowns for memorials. So there has been some kind of reconnection.”
When a prayer book can no longer be used because it is falling apart, it is either buried or placed in a “genizah,” a storage area for old Jewish books, often in the back of synagogues or in a burial plot in a cemetery. “What we are suggesting is, instead of burying these books, that we recycle them. Send them to synagogues that need them,” said Schoen.
The booksellers specialize in out-of-print, scholarly and antiquarian books in the following fields: Judaica in all languages, exile and refugee writers, the Holocaust, Germany, fascism, World War II, Zionism and psychoanalysis. They also stock and order new titles. Catalogs of recent acquisitions are produced at monthly intervals and sent around the world by mail and via the Internet. A stock of 25,000 books fills the shop in the renovated South Deerfield Fire Station.