|Country of origin||United States|
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. Founded in Philadelphia in 1888, by reform Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf among others, JPS is especially well known for its English translation of the Hebrew Bible, the JPS Tanakh.
The JPS Bible translation is used in Jewish 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.
As a nonprofit publisher, JPS continues to develop projects that for-profit publishers will not invest in, significant projects that may take years to complete. Other core JPS projects include the ongoing JPS Bible commentary series; books on Jewish tradition, holidays and customs, history, theology, ethics and philosophy; midrash and Rabbinics; and its many Bible editions and Bible study resources.
Since 2012, JPS publications have been distributed by the University of Nebraska Press.
The first Jewish Publication Society was founded in 1845 in Philadelphia, but was dissolved six years later after a fire destroyed the building and the entire JPS stock. A second, founded in New York in 1873, ended in 1875.
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 the 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 Israel. Works such as The JPS Commentary Series, The Jewish Catalog and The K'Tonton Series were tremendously successful. From 1975 to 1975 A. Leo Levin was its President. In 1985, the newly translated three parts of the Bible (the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms/Writings) were finally compiled into what is now known as the JPS [tanakh|Tanakh] (or NJPS, New JPS translation, to distinguish it from the OJPS, or Old JPS translation of 1917).
In September 2011, JPS entered into a new collaborative publishing arrangement with the University of Nebraska Press, under which Nebraska purchased all of JPS's outstanding book inventory, and is responsible for the production, distribution, and marketing of all JPS publications, effective January 1, 2012. JPS continues its operations from its Philadelphia headquarters, acquiring new manuscripts and developing new projects.
JPS is governed by a Board of Trustees, headed by Board President Gittel Hilibrand.
Past editors-in-chief include Henrietta Szold (1893–1916), Solomon Grayzel (1939–1966), and Chaim Potok (1966–1974). 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.
Dr. Ellen Frankel was editor-in-chief (and later also CEO) from 1991 until October 2009. She is now Editor Emerita of the Society.
Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz became the CEO in 2010, when he came to JPS from Congregation M'Kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he had served as senior rabbi for 11 years. Rabbi Schwartz served on the board of several nonprofit organizations, and is especially active in environmental work.
Carol Hupping was managing editor (and for some years publishing director) from 1991 until her retirement in March, 2016. Joy Weinberg succeeded her as managing editor in April 2016.
The JPS TANAKH: The Jewish Bible, audio version is a recorded version of the JPS TANAKH, the most widely read English translation of the Hebrew (the Jewish) Bible. Produced and recorded for JPS by The Jewish Braille Institute (JBI), this complete, unabridged audio version features over 60 hours of readings by 13 narrators. It is available for purchase or by subscription from many audio book vendors.
The audio version of the Weekly Torah portion, also known as parsha, was available on the JPS website and will be again soon.