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The Jewish Publication Society (JPS), originally known as the Jewish Publication Society of America, is the oldest nonprofit, nondenominational publisher of Jewish works in English. It is especially well-known for its English translation of the Hebrew Bible, the JPS Tanakh, today regarded as the authoritative Jewish translation.

When JPS was founded in Philadelphiamarker in 1888, it was the only Jewish publisher in the English language in North America. Though other publishers now produce Jewish books, JPS as a nonprofit publisher continues to develop projects that for-profit publishers will not invest in: significant scholarly projects that may take years to complete. Its mission continues to be to make the rich Jewish literary legacy accessible to all those interested in Jewish culture, both within and outside of the Jewish community. In addition, JPS engages in service projects such as providing books to Jewish military personnel, chaplains in hospitals, nursing homes, and the military, and to impoverished Jewish communities throughout the world.

The JPS Bible translation is used in rabbinical and Christian seminaries, on hundreds of college campuses, in informal adult study settings, in synagogues, and in Jewish day schools and supplementary programs. It has been licensed in a wide variety of books as well as in electronic media. Its core projects—the ongoing JPS Bible commentary series, books on Jewish lifestyle and customs, the new JPS Guides, its many Bible editions and Bible study resources—have had and will continue to have a lasting impact on our understanding of the contributions made to world culture by the People of the Book.


The first Jewish Publication Society was founded in 1845 in Philadelphia, but was dissolved years later after a fire destroyed the building and the entire JPS stock.

The 1880s saw an “awakening of interest in Judaism and Jewish culture of the part of young Jews… [and a] growing sense of American Jewry’s destiny on the world Jewish stage.” In response to the growing need for English-language Jewish texts, rabbis and lay leaders of the American Jewish community met on June 3, 1888 at a national convention in Philadelphia to discuss the re-founding of a national Jewish publication society. That day, after many squabbles, debates, and political maneuverings, the Jewish Publication Society was “gaveled into being.”

As JPS moved into the 20th century, membership grew rapidly. After years of meetings, deliberations and revisions, the entire translation of the Bible was finally completed in 1917. This crowning achievement was put to use at the start of World War I, when young Jewish men were given prayer books and Bible readings as they marched off to war.

As Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power during 1930s, Jews in America resisted anti-Semitism through the power of words. Works such as The Decay of Czarism and Legends of the Jews became staples of Jewish literacy and helped to preserve the legacy of European Jewry. JPS also assisted the war effort by supporting refugee employment and resettlement, and by printing pamphlets that were dropped behind enemy lines, at the request of the American government.

During the latter half of the 20th century, JPS published a revised translation of the Bible, books detailing both war atrocities and triumphs, and books with a new-found focus on the State of Israelmarker. Works such as The JPS Commentary Series, The Jewish Catalog and The K’Tonton Series were tremendously successful. In 1985, the newly translated 3 parts of the Bible (the Torah, Prophets, and Writings) were finally compiled into what is now known as the JPS Tanakh (or NJPS, New JPS translation, to distinguish it from the OJPS, or Old JPS translation of 1917).

Since then there have been many other milestones in the history of JPS. Awards have been won, many works made it to the bestsellers list and over 2000 copies of The Book of Psalms were sent to survivors and volunteers helping with the clean-up after 9/11.

Currently, JPS is working on a number of major projects including the JPS audio Bible, the Tagged Tanakh (an online interactive Bible study tool), an expanded JPS Books-around-the-World program, and The Lost Bible Project.


JPS is governed by a Board of Trustees, headed by Board President David Lerman.

Past editors-in-chief include Henrietta Szold (1893-1916), Solomon Grayzel (1939-1966), and Chaim Potok (1966-1974).

Chaim Potok was significantly involved in JPS's publication activities for 35 years, serving as editor for 8 years, secretary of the Bible translation committee for the Writings (Ketuvim) for 16 years, chair of the JPS Editorial Committee for 18 years and literary editor to its Bible program for 18 years.

The current CEO and editor-in-chief of JPS is Dr. Ellen Frankel, who has been editor-in-chief since 1991 and CEO since 1998. Frankel is planning to step down in October 2009 in order to pursue her own writing and a number of scholarly projects; she will stay on with JPS in the advisory capacity of Editor Emerita.

Recent Publications

  • 20th Century Jewish Religious Thought By Arthur A. Cohen, Paul Mendes-Flohr ISBN 9780827608924
  • American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide By Josh Lambert ISBN 9780827608832
  • Celebrating the Jewish Year By Paul Steinberg, Janet Greenstein Potter ISBN 9780827609020
  • The Commentators' Bible (Leviticus) By Michael Carasik ISBN 9780827608979
  • Elvina's Mirror By Sylvie Weil ISBN 9780827608856
  • A Heart Afire By Netanel Miles-Yepez and Zalman Schachter Shalomi ISBN 9780827608849
  • The Jerusalem Crown (Keter) Bible ISBN 9780827609129
  • Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices—Power By Elliot N. Dorff and Louis E. Newman ISBN 9780827608627
  • JPS Illustrated Children's Bible By Dr. Ellen Frankel ISBN 9780827608917
  • Maimonides By David Hartman ISBN 9780827609112
  • Naomi's Song By Selma Kritzer Silverberg ISBN 9780827608863
  • Subversive Sequels in the Bible By Judy Klitsner ISBN 9780827608887

Mitzvah Projects

From its earliest beginning in the late 19th century, JPS was committed to giving away a portion of its books to those in need. In 2005, JPS discovered that the approximately 13,000 Jews serving in the U.S. military were offered only the New Testament as their “standard issue Bible.” JPS responded by raising more than $70,000 to send free copies of the JPS Tanakh (an English translation of the Hebrew Bible) to these American Jewish servicemen and women.

Soon JPS began to receive requests for Jewish books from hospitals, prisons, nonprofit organizations, and small congregations around the world. To address this need, JPS established the Mitzvah Project, sending thousands of free JPS books to underserved communities and organizations in the U.S. and abroad. In 2008, JPS sent more than 500 pounds of books to 11 communities in North and South America, Israel, Europe, Africa, and China.

In 2009, JPS restructured the Mitzvah Project into an umbrella program which encompassed three separate projects: Books-Around-the-World, Legacy Libraries, and Adopt-a-Synagogue. Similar to the previous iteration of the Mitzvah Project, Books-Around-the-World sends free books and educational resources to underprivileged communities around the globe. Legacy Libraries allows the donor to gift a collection of JPS books to a synagogue, JCC, or school of the donor’s choice. Through Adopt-a-Synagogue, JPS connects synagogues and communities in need of books and educational resources with congregations and B’nai Mitzvah who want to give back.

Today, JPS sponsors a variety of Mitzvah Projects such as:
  • Books for Israel: providing Israeli students with Jewish books to help them learn English
  • JPS Heritage Libraries: donating sponsored collections of JPS books to day schools, synagogues, nursing homes and Christian Projects
  • The Diaspora Project: providing Jewish Books to small Jewish communities in Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and other remote locations that lack Jewish books
  • JPS Renewal Projects: providing Jewish books to communities whose Jewish libraries and schools have been destroyed by hurricanes, fires and other major disasters

A project is currently being developed for the visually impaired that consists of large print editions and audiotapes of some books, available at little or no cost to those whose degree of visual impairment does not qualify them for federally funded programs.


In the past 20 years, JPS has won 19 National Jewish Books Awards, an achievement matched only by major presses such as Random House, Doubleday, Yale, Princeton and Oxford University Press.

National Book Awards (since 2000)

  • Synagogues without Jews, Ben-Zion and Rivka
  • Forged in Freedom, Norman Finkelstein
  • The Rebbe’s Daughter, Nehemiah Polen
  • Etz Hayim, ed. David Lieber
  • To Do the Right and the Good, Elliot Dorff
  • Folktales of the Jews: Tales from the Sephardic Dispersion, Dan Ben-Amos
  • Lilith’s Ark: Teenage Tales of Biblical Women, Deborah Cohen
  • Inventing Jewish Ritual, Vanessa Ochs
  • The Power of Song and Other Sephardic Tales, Rita Roth

Children's Book Awards

  • Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, Eve Bunting (A Notable Children’s Book in the Field of Social Studies)
  • The Jewish Kids Catalog, Chaya Burstein (National Jewish Book Award)
  • The Castle on Hester Street, Linda Heller (Parents’ Choice Award)
  • In the Mouth of the Wolf, Rose Zar (Association of Jewish Librarians Best Book Award)
  • Haym Salomon: Liberty’s Son, Shirley Milgrim (National Jewish Book Award)
  • Mrs. Moskowitz and the Sabbath Candlesticks, Amy Schwartz (National Jewish Book Award and Association of Jewish Librarians Best Book Award)
  • Clara’s Story, Clara Isaacman (Sydney Taylor Honor Book)
  • Of Heroes, Hooks and Heirlooms, Faye Silton (Winner of Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition)
  • Potato Pancakes All Around, Marilyn Hirsch (Children’s Choice Award)

Other Recent Awards

  • Skipping Stones Honor Award--A Shout in the Sunshine, Mara Cohen Ioannides
  • Sophie Brody Medal--From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books, Arie Kaplan

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