Born on May 15, 1895 [some sources say 1888], in Kamenets-Podolsk, Russia (now Kamyanets-Podilsky, Ukraine), Fanny Goldstein devoted her life to books and community. She was the first female Judaica librarian and the first woman to direct a branch library in Massachusetts, where she was head of Boston's West End Branch for many years. A prominent figure in the Boston Jewish community, she is best known as the founder of Jewish Book Week, which began when Goldstein organized a display of Jewish books at the Boston Public Library in 1925. Goldstein worked tirelessly to bring authors to participate in Jewish Book Week in Boston and to export the concept to other cities.
The West End Branch Library under Goldstein addressed the needs of the diverse ethnic populations (especially Italian, African-American, and Jewish) of Boston's West End. Goldstein created programs and collected books that appealed to each of the community's populations and which brought them together as one community. The West End Branch, which she directed from 1922 to 1957, offered a model of the public library as community center.
Goldstein served as the first chairman for National Jewish Book Week, sponsored under the auspices of the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB), in 1940. The national effort was designed to increase awareness of American Jewish literature. The JWB sponsored exhibits and discussions across the country during the designated week each year. The Week took on new meaning, and new urgency, during World War II when the JWB recast it as a response to the persecution of European Jewry. In 1941, the chairman of the National Jewish Book Week committee told the New York Times that one of the goals of the Week was "to cultivate and strengthen our internal life, so as to be in a position later on to reciprocate fully by aiding European Jewries to replenish their depleted resources."
Goldstein compiled significant and pioneering bibliographies in Judaica, including what was probably the first bibliography on books about Jewish women. In 1947, Goldstein published The Jewish Child in Bookland: A Selected Bibliography of Juveniles for the Jewish Child's Own Bookshelf, a Jewish-themed reading list for children. In Boston, she maintained an extensive archive of book reviews, photographs, pamphlets, and correspondence related to Judaic topics. In Spring 2004, the Boston Public Library exhibited selections from this archive together with materials documenting Goldstein's career as part of a series of special events, organized with the Jewish Women's Archive, celebrating 350 years of Jewish communal life in North America.
Today, Jewish Book Week has become Jewish Book Month, celebrated each November with exhibits, lectures, and discussion groups in synagogues, schools, libraries, and Jewish Community Centers across the country.
To learn more about Fanny Goldstein, visit Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
See also: Librarians in the United States.
Sources: http://www.bpl.org/research/special/collections.htm#g; New York Times, November 24, 1941; May 23, 1946; Fanny Goldstein, The Jewish Child in Bookland: A Selected Bibliography of Juveniles for the Jewish Child's Own Bookshelf (New York: Jewish Book Council of America, 1947); Fanny Goldstein Papers, MS-205, American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati.