Reflecting the Diversity of the Jewish Experience
Community thrives on diversity. The Jewish community includes diversity of all kinds - geography, opinion, gender, religious practice, ability, family makeup, race, and more. All of these differences make the community stronger, more exciting, and more creative.
We recognize how important it is for Jewish children and families to see this diversity reflected in images as well as content, especially as they are creating and building their personal Jewish identities. Even young children listening to storybooks spend the vast majority of time looking at the pictures, research shows.
In all our materials - whether they are educational materials or Apples & Honey Press picture books - Behrman House strives to reflect the diversity of the Jewish experience.
As Executive Editor Dena Neusner explains, "Images and stories have been described as both a mirror and a window. Content that is a mirror—that reflects our diverse identities and experiences--can help to validate those identities and experiences by showing others who are like us. Content that is a window into the lives and experiences of those who are different can broaden our horizons and help us to better understand the world around us and multiple points of view."
What does this look like in print materials?
In our educational materials, we often show photos of children and adults engaged in various activities, and we are careful to include photos that mirror the diversity of the American Jewish population. For example, this is reflected in our new revised series Let's Discover Fall and Spring Holidays for grades K-2, which is featured on the cover of our current catalog. Other recent educational materials, such as Making Tefilah Meaningful, Let's Discover Kindness, Min Ha'aretz: Making Meaning from Our Food and How It's Made: Torah Scroll for example, include children of various races, such as Asian, Hispanic, African American, and South Asian engaging in everyday as well as specifically Jewish activities.
Our choices also seek to reflect strengths of adults and children with diverse abilities—whether that's a girl with Down Syndrome playing with a friend or an older man in a wheelchair in one who is clearly not the one being helped. Other choices highlight different family structures, for example, as in Jewish Holidays, Jewish Values and The Jewish Home.
Our storybooks from Apples & Honey Press also promote and reflect Jewish diversity.
For example, Debra Darvick, author of We Are Jewish Faces, explained that what she hopes comes through to readers is "the beautiful and vibrant truth of racial diversity in our Jewish community today. Twinned with that hope is the prayer that we cherish this diversity within the greater unity of Am Yisroel."
This means sharing stories from different Jewish experiences, such as Yosef's Dream, which tells the story of a young boy's journey from Ethiopia to a new life in Israel, and the forthcoming The Persian Princess. "We promote diversity in our books by seeking out stories from other cultures," Neusner says. "For instance, we just signed up a new picture book called Pumpkin Pie for Sigd, about kids from varying backgrounds in an absorption center in Israel celebrating the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd."
“Like water dripping on stone, it takes a while to have an effect, and if you're in the middle of it, it's hard to see," says David Behrman, publisher. "But we know we’ve really done a nice job when we hear from people that they are noticing the diversity in our recent books.”
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