Cast your vote on the poll to the right, then comment on this post…
Should Jewish Books Require a “Hechsher” Stamp of Approval Attesting to the “Kashrus” of their Contents or Not?
Brief explanation: Sometimes Jewish books contain material that some readers may find offensive, improper, or non-age-appropriate. There are those who contend that there should be an advisory board reviewing books before publication and deciding whether or not to grant their seal of approval on them. That way, as readers, we could be sure that any book we pick up will meet our standards perfectly. On the other hand, others may argue that as mature and thinking individuals, we should be choosing the literature we want for ourselves and for our children to read; it should not be left up to others to decide for us.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
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I think there should NOT be a “hechsher” symbol placed on Judaica books because this is really based on a hashkafic issue that needs to be understood and may even help publlishers evaluate their sefarim. Many people specifically choose to purchase from a Judaica retailer, verses a secular one since they expect that the novels, inspiration, and advice given is clean material without the fictional descriptions that are disgusting, immoral, and graphic scenes. Here one knows that by entering into these stores, they will expect to find material that is catered to them as well as not have on their consious that they are about to read a book that may contain hurtful words. Needless to say, there is one exception, which is that akk marriage, parenting related books should have a red symbol in the cover insert, warning that the material one may be exposed to should be monitored and censored well. Moreover, it should be placed in a special section on the bookshelves, like in its own category. Otherwise, the books should not require any advisory, hechsher symbol at all because it is proper to read at the appropriate age level. Remember, if one wanted the other type of literature(murder, lovers, bloodshed etc.), then they would seek it where it should be sought (i.e.Barnes & Nobles Bookstores)
On another note, in the modern world, where our generation is being desensitized by literature and advertisements, it is so comforting to have a Judaica bookstore and know that if one picks up a book from them, they can rest assure that they will not be placing filth into their mind, body, and soul. Also, I highly expect that all publishers, not just yours, keep in mind to which they are selling; homes where the kedusha and the “outside” are not balanced and not placed second in priority. Rather, it is always maintained and especially monitored from all things that do not belong in a Jewish environment.
In answer to your question if Jewish books require a hechsher, I firmly believe that they must have a hechsher. There are many innuendos in writing that can be misunderstood by many people (especially children ad teens.) It is not enough to put on a yarmulke and tzitzis or a shaitel and then write about things that are not appropriate for a frum Yid. Also, there are many things that we know are happening but should not be written in a family newspaper. There is an old saying we don’t have to say everything that we know. Many of these things are not appropriate for a family to read and also they can even be misinterpreted by the secular society and they might be turned off of frum yidden and yiddishkeit.
I have never found a Jewish book to contain improper material. However, it would be a good idea to put an age category on it.
Just because a book is written by a Jewish author and has characters with Jewish names, it doesn’t mean that it has correct Hashkafos.
I think it’s a good idea, because like that you can read with a clearer conscience.
Everyone has different standards, we as parent’s should decide what “kosher” reading material is for our kids (and ourselves.)Once it is marked “kosher” we would assume we don’t have to “watch out” and that’s dangerous.
Jewish books do not need a “hechsher” stamp. I don’t feel it’s necessary at all. First of all you usually know if it’s good book for you, based on the author. Some author only write “good” books and you’ve got nothing to worry about.
Second of all, it’s totally not right to put a “stamp of approval” on specific books. It can take away business from some authors.
What might be good for me, might not be good for others, vice versa. Everyone is different, and books can’t be stamped good or bad.
If you are not sure about some new books, then do research. Call up family or friend and find out if it’s appropriate for you to read.
Since “kosher” means something else to all the different types of people a “stamp of approval” would not suffice and still would need to be checked individually.
Our answer is definitely YES!
Although we agree that as mature & thinking individuals we should be choosing the literature we want for ourselves & our children to read we still would want the Jewish local bookstore to be a safe place for our kids so we shouldn’t have to worry about our “not yet grown up kids” getting offensive influence in our “own backyard” so to speak…
Even with an advisory board reviewing books before publication there still remains room enough for controversy, but at least we could rest assure that some kind of filter has been used, as opposed to the current situation….
(Personally, as family of bookworms with a houseful of teenager to toddlers, we as parents are Makpid to read every single book before making it accessible to the kids. And by the way, we also happen to boast the biggest private library in our neighborhood…)
I believe it shouldn’t be a simple Hechsher because different segments of our population accept or become offended by different topics.
I therefor suggest that books should be rated for specific topics. Some examples, and not limited to dating, pregnancy, computer/on-line, marital conflict…
With such a rating system every parent will be able to choose books for their child, which they feel are appropriate for their child’s age, culture, temperament…
This way, you save the parents the work of reading/ researching each book their children want to read. Yet they can still make the custom-tailored decision of what book is appropriate for their child.
If a person is buying a Jewish book, he expects it to be appropriate. And if someone’s against it, there’s a wide variety of secular literature out there, if that’s what you want.
As the mother of a couple of teenage girls I have a really hard time even though I really try to stay on top of all books that come into the house or to pre- read all of them it is mighty impossible. So I really think it would be a great idea if the publishers would come out with a system of Numbers. #1 accordance with age appropriate of the material that is included in the book. If its for single girls at all. If it’s made for older teens or good for preteen also. #2 Language since there are many good books that include such scenarios that are not necessary for Heimishe girls to know about and of course not to read about. A lot of books are also about churches and not Yiddishe hashkofas. This makes for a hard decisions what to let read and what not. Since we all know the written word could be great for the mind yet could be just as dangerous for the head. I feel we all have an obligation to be on top of the situation. It is true it belongs for the parent’s but with so many books coming out and all great advertisements about it. It really makes our job impossible and we could use everybody’s help and would really appreciate what we could get.
Because if the books are not “kosher” then why make the company lose out on selling the books if they want people to buy it let them buy it. You have no right to decide if it’s “kosher” or not. If on the side that it’s “kosher” let them buy it and then be happy with it or not. The End!
There is a danger in the written word. To read something inappropriate even once may open one’s eye to something one was not previously aware of and it could have a bad effect.
Because you can check if it is a jewish book and a good one and then you don’t need a “hechsher.”
I think that books SHOULD have some sort of “Hechsher” on them, but it shouldn’t tell you straight out “Don’t read this book if you are under the age of 20″ or ” This book is only for someone in such and such situation” or something of the sort. The “Hechsher” should indicate what the content is and what age group etc., it is intended for. This way, those that feel an advisory board should decide for them, can rely on the “Hechsher.” However, those that feel the choice should be left up to them, not others, can decide for themselves based on the “Hechsher” and on their own standards. The “Hechsher should be similar to the Hechsher on food: It tells you which group of Rabbanim approved of it, and based on your standards, you can decide whether or not to buy it.
Yes: When a person’s see’s that a Rav agrees they would want to but the book more.
No:If it is not kosher, then it would not get published. Since publishers proof- read it hte buyer would trust the publisher.
In today’s days, the supposedly Jewish books are not all so Jewish. Just because it’s a Jewish writer and sold in a Jewish bookstore doesn’t make the book fully Jewish. Therefore if they get the books approved, the stores won’t just be selling any “supposedly” Jewish books.
I don’t think that there should be a hechsher on books for two reasons:
First some books are okay for people of different ages. If we put on hechsherim it will go like this: “this book is permissible for children age 16 and older, but forbidden for children under that”. This looks funny and puts down the whole value of hechsherim a lot, it will turn into one big joke.
Secondly, I don’t think it will affect too many people. People usually read the book cover to get a feeling of what the book is about and then decide to read it or not. It is a challenge on everyone to make that decision. People know where they stand and what is right or wrong, it’s just sometimes hard to make the right choice. Having a hashgachah I don’t think will make much difference to most people.
I want my family to read solid frum hashkafadike reading material.
Very often the kids read the books before their parents. Sometimes the book isn’t appropriate. Example: A lot of books on the market discuss issue and topics that Jewish children shouldn’t know about. After the book is on the market for a long time, the gedolim decide that the book shouldn’t be read by Jewish children. But by then the damage was already done – everyone knows the story…
If the book had a “hechsher”, parents can be assured that the book is kosher and let their kids read it.
Every yid must make sure that anything entering his soul is pure and free of anything which is anti-torah. So just like food needs a “stamp of approval”, any book read mus be checked by a distinguished erliche person.
I think that a hechsher on books is a very helpful thing. This way, when someone wants to read or give his children to read any given book, he can feel secure that it is “kosher”. It might also be helpful to have a rating system, for example, books that are approved for adults only etc. So that people can enjoy them when appropriate.
Another big advantage of hechsherim on books is the fact that parents spend a lot of time censoring the books their children read, and this would make it a lot easier.
Then again, for those who want the freedom to choose, there are books without a hechsher where one can decide for himself.
All in all, I feel a “stamp of approval” on books would help people feel more comfortable about what they take into their homes and minds.
I was so excited when I read this question you posted. Would anyone strictly orthodox put something in their mouth before checking for kosher supervision?
How can one read something without a haskamah. It is exactly the same. What a writer writes, the reader becomes part of it when reading.
Again, just as you would check for kashrus on food. You should check for kashrus on reading material.
I thank you for being mezake es harabim and addressing such an important matter.
A hechsher is for clear-cut matters of halachah. With books its appropriateness depends on a person’s level of avodas Hashem.
As frum Jews, we need to develop ourselves as individuals with hashkafos and a personal relationship with Hashem. Therefore each individual will be on their own level and must make these decisions according to his/her standards, unlike halachic issue which should be brought to a Rav.
Just a sticker alerting parents that there is material that parents need discuss with a child…
Just like any food needs hashgachah, so does food for thought! Even more so!
We don’t have the time and sometimes mental alacrity, to review these books before our children
I very much agree for books to be reviewed before publication by rabbanim and be approved. The saying of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is true although I and many other people do judge a book by the front and back cover before buying it.
The book may seem fine until you read it and think we’d better hide it before the kids get hold of it. We can’t start reading the whole book in the store to make sure it is appropriate or not.
The other problem is when kids bring home books from a library and we don’t even get to read it before they do, it would be wonderful to know that we could trust that all books are approved by respected rabbanim.
Recently I read 2 books, one was for little kids and one for teenagers and both in my opinion were totally inappropriate. The first one had such traumatic scary stories that I wondered if the purpose of it was to create nightmares and the second had sensitive topics which not all parents would want their teenagers to read about. B”H I happened to read it first but if this would have been looked at by rabbanim it could have been changed before being published.
For those who don’t like to be bound to another’s decision, they could buy the books without the hechsher.
If we will read a book that was not checked for approval there can be consequences, especially with our teenagers which will be hard to fix…
It will save mothers of teenagers valuable time and they will not need to read/screen books.
Theoretically a hechsher on a book would be a fantastic thing. However, I don’t think it’s possible to make it work.
All books published by Jewish companies, whether Israel Bookshop, Artscroll, Feldheim, CIS etc. have been screened. Companies value their reputation very much, so we all know there’s nothing really bad in it.
Going one step further we each have very different sensitivities in hashkafah. No hechsher will tell me if anything in a book goes against our particular mesorah, or that it won’t strike me as promoting materialism too much, or that it carries a subtle undercurrent of disrespect in it etc. etc.
In regards to children, if parents will start relying on a “stamp” to let their children read a book as opposed to taking responsibility to know each book they allow their children to read, In my opinion only damage can com out of it.
No. Because you should a)know by the title, b) know by the publisher.
This whole idea just makes me uncomfortable…
It will make teenagers etc. want to see if it’s really something they shouldn’t be reading…
It should be up to the publishers as far as what they publish, we know that different people will have differing opinions even about which rabbanim should be approving the books…
I want to know that my children are reading material that is age appropriate, I can’t proof read everything before them!
I’d like to know that the contents of the book are kosher reading material and the author upholds a certain standard.
Just as i wouldn’t bite into a hero sandwich to decide if it’s kosher or not, why must i read a book to see if it’s kosher or not?
I don’t think it should be required, but it would definitely be a benefit particularly for hashkafah books such as parenting… it would also be beneficial if ti was written whether it is acceptable reading for children.
I believe that there should not be a stamp of approval on books. We as a community need to allow our people some leeway to create healthy and mature choices on their own. This can allow for well adjusted teenagers, adults,…
On a side note, I’ve read some novels that have more “adult” content in them. Yet, the adult content I’ve read, many children have already experienced in their own families. Wouldn’t it be comforting for many of our children to know that they are not alone? And to prepare other children (and adults) for the challenges many do face, or might, in their lives. What a healthy, balanced way to view the world we live in!
Jewish books DO NOT require a hechsher, and should not include one. An approval so common as such, will simply undermine the worth of a “haskamah” (approval) in the eyes of the beholder. Besides we’re parents for a reason… finally Hashem gave us sound decision skills when choosing books.
I don’t believe that books should have a “hechsher”. Is rabbi so and so going to read the book cover to cover line by line? I do think that books should be read by a panel of parents, librarians, storekeepers of mixed communities or anyone who listens to readers.
Sometimes correcting 1 line, 1 paragraph can make or break a book.
Any publisher that publishes anything that’s not 100% kosher should be embarrassed of themselves. The publishers should be careful with what they print.
All books that are published by a Jewish publisher have a hechsher in a sense. The problem arises if an author self publishes.
I am appalled by your current question as to whether our revered Rabbis should find it necessary to put a “hechsher” on books, or not. It smacks not of religion bu is a political move for power. It is a blatant “censorship” and first step towards Fascism and Dictatorship!
It is an affront to the martyrs of the holocaust and reminiscent of the “burning of the books” on Kristalnacht.
If our esteemed Rabbis, whose knowledge and sincerity we respect, wish to approve, or recommend a book to read – that is commendable.
My answer to your question is a definite NO!
The book cover of the book that I had just bought proclaimed loud and clear that the contents of the book were “shocking”. I brought the book home, lost interest in it, and forgot about it. My mother borrowed the book and then told me that she was glad that I hadn’t read it: “It was certainly shocking, but NOT in any way that I expected it to be.” The book, put out by a “Jewish” publisher, was not appropriate for any age level. (You can tell that it wasn’t put out by Israel Bookshop. Firstly, because it wasn’t appropriate, secondly, and most obvious, was the fact that I lost interest in reading it!)
Anyhow, things like that should not happen. Mature you may be, but a prophet you’re not. How can you know what’s inside that book without reading it? Are you gong to read every book that every one of your kids bring home? And what about a friend’s house? How can your kids, or you, as a kid, know which books to buy and read? Don’t test yourself. Even if something is discovered while reading the book, any avid reader will tell you how incredibly hard it is to stop. Let’s just be safe.
We all trust the “Big 3” Jewish book publishers, but without a mandatory rating system how are we to know which books, (put out by someone else, or privately perhaps), are to be read and which are not? A rating system will secure things. And those without ratings? We’ll know to keep away from them. Better safe than sorry.
Thank you for doing this survey! It is true that as mature individuals everyone has the capacity and “right” to choose which books are appropriate for themselves. However, there are 2 important reasons that I feel a hechsher or standard could benefit everyone.
1- as a busy mother, always looking for good reading material for myself and my children, I don’t always have time to read the book before I buy the book/while I’m standing in the store. (Is it right to the owner of the store to have people reading entire books?) It has happened more than once that I purchased a book and then fount that it’s not appropriate for its reader.
2- If consumers demand a hechsher, this can raise the standard for all books. Book companies will of course try to meet the standards in order to receive the hechsher. Everyone stands to gain!
Regarding your question of whether Jewish books should require a hechsher attesting to is kashrus, the answer is obviously a clear and resounding YES!
In recent years the standards of kashrus, regarding food products has been upgraded and improved. Consumers eye labels intently, searching for a respected kashrus symbol.
Mashgichim are sent overseas for weeks on end to ensure that only the most kosher of kosher reaches our pantries.
Why all the fuss? Why all the hiddurim?
The answer is self-understood. We all go to such lengths to ensure that our souls remain pure and untainted.
When an author writes a story, his emotions, opinions and hashkafadik views all flow through his pen and onto the paper. The text is saturated with his attitude toward Yiddishkeit, his sentiments, and mental feelings. Everything is there, waiting to be read and inscribed upon the reader’s heart and soul.
Can we risk exposing our souls to foreign values? In today’s world of confusion, it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. Our souls can be tainted be eating and by reading. Should we place a competent hechsher on both of them?
Opinions regarding the suitability of reading material is not only SUBJECTIVE, but the criteria for each and every Jew SHOULD vary.
Factors like individual background (ffb/bt), occupation (kiruv, rabbonus, counseling, etc.), and personal sensitivities are highly relevant. Some situations REQUIRE specific knowledge, while another person is best off unaware of the very same content.
Yes, sometimes, you have to be discerning-all by your little old self. Or ask someone who knows you well to help you decide.
I was not sure if I should respond to your question, “should Jewish books require a hechsher”.
After all I tend to get over hyped about other issues that effect the community. And I have withdrawn from most community organizations. But, I figured if I put my thoughts and ideas in writing (where I have time to think before I speak) it could be better outlet for me.
The question listed areas of concern as offensive, improper, and non age appropriate. The question needs to be focused better. I do not feel we are talking according to the standards of the non Jews. But rather standards held by Bnei Torah. The group concerned about hechsher for books, should document with examples books that do not meet these standards. This would give a clearer idea of the issue at hand, only then could a discussion begin. Without an exact focus, discussion of the issue is useless
Also, which groups would be covered by this advisory body?
Yeshivish, Chasidish, Modern Orthodox, etc.
And who would appoint the group, to insure all groups are represented. Different groups have different styles of literature and expectations of content. What would happen if groups did not hold of their rulings? After all, this group will not be assigned by the the majority of our people.
I believe the question requires further clarification before it can be discussed in a general forum. We know that patience can solve issues more than any solution. In Pirkei Avos it says to be patient, deliberate, in judgment. Even though I have been told that this issue has been on the table for awhile, it is imperative to clarify and weigh the evidence either way.
Thank you for the opportunity to offer my thoughts on the subject.
Finding a hechsher system that would be universally accepted would be nearly impossible. In reality, if you check in the front of a Jewish book you can get an idea of whether the book will meet your religious standards based on who provides the Haskama. The publishing company is another good gauge. Flipping through several pages gives a general flavor as it provides a sampling of word usage. What is your gut reaction at that point? Ask your Rav or your kids’ teachers if they have heard of the book or the author.
hechsher of approval will up your sales!!! Tell consumers 1)who stands behind the author and writing 2)contents of the book (hashkafahwise-age appropriate material). This will increase your sales greatly since many parents do not allow their children to read books until they have read them first and they do not have as much time as their children do so they therefore purchase fewer books. Ratings (*, **, ***) along with the kashrus approval would be a great innovation!!!
i think there should be a hechsher on advertising
i really get annoyed at advertisments in religious publications as
must have fasion,show good taste and style,new and exciting
are all the sheitel ads intimating that no one will
no it is not real, all the ads which basically say “knock your neighbors’
eyes out with this furniture”, etc. are these torah values messages to give our children
As I noted in a previous posting, a “Hechsher” on books is a poor idea because it would be 95% dependent on pure opinion and not Halacha. However, a better idea would be for someone or some organization, not affiliated with a particular publisher, to make a website that is dedicated to reviews of the Frum oriented books sold in Hebrew bookstores. In that manner, the public could read all the reviews, both positive and negative and decide for themselves whether to read or allow the book into the home. Beside the text of the review, each one would have categorized ratings numbered from 1 to 5 such as, A. Hashkafa, B. Violence, C. Tznius, D. Starting age.
I want to thank you for airing this very important question. In general, my answer is YES.
However, I think it is important to understand that a hechsher for books is not the same as one for food. Rather, reading material needs to be rated, in a system more similar to that used in the secular world for movies. For our purposes, the rating should cover four separate categories, and they are as follows: proper hashkafos, age-appropriateness, level of violence, and “not recommended for sensitive readers.” I envision a circle like a pie graph, with each section representing one of these categories, and a number inside from 1 to 10, or a grade from A – D, depending on the category. The hashkafos section would be the “hechsher”, but the age-appropriateness must also be considered, as many books must be marked 18+, and some others possibly 14+. The last two categories are important for our community, due to books on the holocaust/inquisition and medical sagas that may cause nightmares. I myself still retain mental imagery of words I have unsuspectingly come across in some of our books.
At the same time, it would also be beneficial to have the children’s books marked with a grade level, as is customary among most publishers. This would serve both to inform the consumer, and also as an incentive for writers and publishers to actually make sure that each book actually is suitable for a certain grade level, in both content and presentation.
Again, thanks for this opportunity to share my thoughts, and wishing you much hatzlachah
I think there is plenty of competition out there to provide suitable reading material and the general editors of publishing companies wouldn’t accept manuscripts that may be considered improper in any way. if anything involving wrong hashkafa (for example slifkin) does slip past it wont take long until it will be banned so i dont see much need to worry
i think that most people should be able to make the decision by themselves. Although i dont think its a bad idea to have some kind of rating to know if its appropiate for children and/or teenagers.
i have read books as a girl which i would be very upset if my children would read it before they are married.
Requiring books to have a ‘Hechsher’ contains more than people would like to think.
Let’s face it; most good books (including and especially Hebrew Books on Law) have a letter of approbation from some recognised authority in any case.
By bringing a hechsher into the picture it will be difficult to filter the good from the bad. Take for example several books over the past decade that have been ‘banned’.
I was in Jerusalem when I saw signs up against Dov Eliach’s biography on the Vilna Gaon. Many in the Chassidic community opposed the publication as they saw it renewing the age old Chassidic-misnagid conflict. Yet the book contains a letter of blessing from Reb Chaim Kanievsky shlita.
Some people won’t like Tuvia of monsey’s idea to punctuate the Gemora, so no Hechsher for him then.
Next case. N. Slifkin’s books on animals were branded as heretical even though he had initial support from Rabbi’s. I never saw concrete evidence of the heresy but his publisher ceased working with him. In response a publishing house called Yashar (I think affiliated with the Modern Orthodox) printed his books which became a sell out due to controversy. This book is again available in our bookstores (albeit maybe some adjustments). (Similar to The Making Of A Godol)
Next point: You can’t stop our booksellers from selling ‘non-kosher’ books as most even sell books written by non Jews (such as pregnancy guides). So to require Jewish books to have a ‘hechsher’ smacks of hypocrisy.
I used to work in a bookstore and I read the books that were for sale and I also read new books that the suppliers assured me that “everyone is waiting for it”. I read such books and I would say that I would never allow them into my house, even as a “mature and thinking adult” I also need to protect my mind from the outside world and these books bring soem of the ideas, albeit in an indirect and muted manner into our homes that we are trying to protect. We want our children to grow up to emulate tzaddikim and what do we give them to read? we want our sons and daughters to build ehrliche homes and what is in their minds? all ages need full-fledged Torahdige stimulation and only a hechsher can provide that.
I just do not understand the logic behind this meshuggene proposal. The KBH has given each and every one of us the ability to distinguish between good and bad.
Aside from that, do we really want to invite the chillul haShem of the goyishe newspapers latching on to such a shtus and telling their readers that Yiddn cannot make up their own minds, but rather have their thought processes controlled by others?
There is also the Constitutional aspect of the guarantee of free speech and free thought to be considered.
well said, Sender. Great book, by the way.
Absolutely not! It would be a complete sham. The Laws of Kosher food are spelled out in the Shulchan Aruch. Although there exist variances in opinion, the general Halachos are not in dispute. One can learn Yoreh Deah, be tested on it, and on that basis give a Hechsher on food. NO SUCH GUIDELINES OF HALACHA exist for books (except for outright Apikorsus and pornography). Thus, every “Hechsher” on a book would be dependent purely on OPINION and not on Halacha; such a “Hechsher” is worthless, useless, and often malfeasant. I agree with many of the commentators found on this site, one can get an idea if the book is for him/her or their children, from blurbs on the back or perusing the book in the store.
Israel Book Shop originally published, Aleph Shin back in 2000. Many consider it the greatest frum novel ever written. However, after it came out some rabble-rousers ran to rabbis to get it banned. Over 90% of the feedback I received was positive. Those numbers include Talmidei Chachomim, who not only appreciated the Hashkafa in the book, but also caught the nuances gleaned from Chazal cryptically embedded within the story. Between 5%-10% of the readers found it distasteful. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with the infinitesimal percentage of lunatics and numbskulls, who like the proverbial coin in the empty Pushke often make the most noise. Unfortunately, I am certain it would they would hijack any effort to put an official Hechsher on books!
i think books Should not have. the wording in the back should be enough for someone to see if the book is appropriate for them.
For several years I had the privelege of being a reader for a local Judaica store in my neighborhood. I would read everything – fiction and non-fiction – and report back to the book department so that they could intelligently recommend or not recommend books when customers asked them. I found that there are plenty of books that I would not like my children to read until they are older teenagers and/or adults.
I believe that in the same way that secular videos are rated for language, violence, etc., so too, our books should be rated. There are books that are geared towards Baalei Teshuva that should not be read by young FFBs, books for parents that should not be read by children, and books on sensitive topics that might not be the perfect gift for everyone. A parent should have the right to know if there is chutzpah or misbehavior in the book, violence, death or traumatic experiences, or certain details of dating and married life before purchasing a book for their child.
However, by putting hechsherim on books, we will end up restricting authors and publishing companies on what will be acceptable in the greater Jewish community and this will greatly harm everyone from the publishers down to the reading public.
A rating system was a good idea. People can see the recommended age and decide for them selves whether they or their children should read it. A hechsher would not work out because one persons idea of an approved book is not everyones.
A hechsher NO, a paragraph on the dust jacket or back cover with an overview from the writer/publisher including a description of the target audience – age wise ……
Were Meyer Lansky and Al Capone alive today, they would be running hashgachas.
Just imagine if the Ribbono shel Olam had brought the Torah HaKedosha before a board of “kashrus” for certification. What would they have read – al peshat? Adam and Chava don’t wear clothes; Noah drinks too much…; Avraham’s father worshipped idols; Lot begets his own grandchildren; Yitzchak kisses Rivka; Yaakov deceives his father; Yosef is tempted – some would call this quite racy! Baruch HaShem we have the Torah and have become the Eternal People through these and other sections that may seem troubling at first glance. I am not saying that authors today are divine! Just that the tried and true practice of haskomos works. Here the haskoma comes from HaShem Himself – which is good enough for me, no matter what I find upon reading it. The same with all Jewish books. What haskama they carry, if at all, says volumes more than any hashgacha could.
If rabbanim deem something inappropriate to read then no one has the right to argue with them and say that it’s okay for them.
Just as hechsherim on food have different standards, I feel that hechsherim on books should also have them.
We need a Litvish-Yeshivish hechsher, and a chassidish hechsher.
The chassidish hechsher would indicate that the book does not include information such as pregnancy, delivery, nursing, romance (dating), DNA testing.
It would also mean that the book does not discuss problems such as shalom bayis or abuse.
Loving to read poses a big nisayon of wanting to read things that I have a doubt if they are appropriate for a 15 year old.
Yes, because books are to the mind as food is to the stomach. A wrong thought can never be erased.
As a school librarian, I see many books that are not appropriate for children.
Some families are more “open” and some not – how can a rabbi decide that for you? Also, some books may be suitable for older children, so put appropriate ages.
If we need a hechsher for the food that feeds our bodies then of course we need one for the stories the effect our neshamos.
Israel Book Shop obviously gives out only Jewish books! Maybe there could be an “age level” stamp…
Gimme a break, parents must control what they bring into their own home, a hechsher on books? PULLEEEEASE!
How wonderful that someone has finally come up with this question… My answer is absolutely YES! Just like a sefer needs a haskamah from an “erliche yid”.
My holy grandfather would say, “If a NON-erliche yid quotes Torah true hashkafos, we may not listen or read the contents from such sources, because the re’ach of tumah from that person’s being and or his machshavos are mashpia on the listener of the reader…
One might think that “why should someone else decide for me?” But lets look at the other side, you see a books with an interesting title and you are really tempted to buy it. Finally you get it. After reading the first page you realize that this is not for you. Now let’s think, would you put down this book? Think really hard, would you? I would probably convince myself that it is not so bad. Having a hechsher will just help us. If there is a swampy area you would want it to have a gate, the same here, let’s be sure that we can walk confidently on strong ground, at least in literature.
I would suggest that unless there is full fledged “apikorsus” or unanimously inappropriate content there should not be any “stamp of approval” on Jewish books. There is enough controversy amongst us already, we don’t need to bring in more issues with questions such as, “who authorized you to decide what’s right and wrong”? and “what’s wrong with the content? I feel fine with reading such-and-such a style!”
We should be able to let our kids read something without needing to read it first. Also, age appropriateness, sometimes books look like they’re for kids and it really isn’t appropriate for them.
Kids should not be just picking up books and reading it getting exposed to concepts that is not necessarily for their age or frame of mind. There should be more guidance in books that are given to read. At the same time, if parents approve kids should be able to read books that are “higher” than be limited to a small spectrum of books.
I want to feel comfortable that when my children pick up a Judaica book it is material that we would want them to read.
I have many times read a book by a supposed “heimishe” writer only be encounter things I would rather not have read. This way I would be able to decide which hechsher to trust.
What we read is “food” for the brain. It sure requires a hechsher. The rav should really know the author because a writer’s hashkafah is usually between the lines.
In theory, the idea is wonderful. It can keep the writers in check, knowing that their work will be censored and it will keep parents feeling safe about what their children are reading.
However, I feel this this is too complicated an operation to carry out. The umbrella of Orthodox Judaism, even “Ultra Orthodox” Judaism, covers a wide and varied spectrum. Chassidish, Litvish, Yeshivish, Haimish, a little more “with it”, etc… where does one draw the line? Will it be a hechsher for “chassidim”? “Machmirim”? or for those “middle of the road”? Then those more “to the right”, who are the ones who would appreciate this most, won’t trust it anyway!
There are other ways for children to read only “kosher” books, without a hechsher. School libraries have only books that have been censored, as do lending libraries. Most librarians monitor the books that children check out. Or you could take the harder but most secure route, the way my mother did. Read each book before your children do. Yes, it is more tedious and time consuming, but you will rest assured knowing that your children are reading books approved by the best possible hechsher-your own.
In conclusion, since there is no one hechsher that will satisfy everyone, I think this program should NOT be instituted. One should leave childrens reading material to the discretion of their parents.
I think that each person has to make that decission for himself. It is not at all the same as kosher food. Part of the reason why we need Hechsharim on food is becuase people are not well versed in the intrecate laws of Kashrus. But deciding what books to read is not the same at all. It is a decission that we should be able to make on our own. Of corse it never hurts to talk to a Rava bout subject matter. But ultimatly the decission is yours. Especially becuase its not as clear cut as the laws of Kashrus generally are.
It is unfortunate how yiddishkeit is influenced by the American society. If one has a hashkafic shayla one must ask a gadol and go by his ruling. Taking votes from the general public on any issue will not give you da’as Torah.
Who are you fooling? Are you going to read the book in order to know if you should read it? isn’t that ironic? Even if you still wanna be the judge, what will a Rabbi’s approval hurt? You will only be calmer that way.
Besides, once you read something it’ll stay in your mind “forever” and on way or the other have an impact. Why take the risk? Let us keep our eyes and minds pure and leave such great decisions to our gedolim.
The following was sent in by fax from a 7 year old in Brooklyn, NY:
Yes, cause if the books are bad the people will learn bad things.
I don’t think it would be a good idea to put a hechsher on books. I think it would give me a false sense of security. How do i know that my standards and standards of the hechsher are the same? The English language can be very complex. A perfectly innocent word, used in a different context can become unacceptable. Not only every world, but every nuance, would need to be examined and analyzed.
I think each adult should decide which books are “kosher” for themselves and their children. The lines to be drawn are too fine to rely on others to do it for you.
If would would want to bring just any books into our home then we can find plenty of books at the public library. The reason we don’t is that i don’t want to read inappropriate books. The written word has a tremendous hashpa’ah on people, you can have the zechus to put the right hashkafah in people’s mind. Hatzlachah Rabbah.
It would be nice to have a hechsher and write on the book what age level so that if its not appropriate younger children will not read it.
Yes, because although people have the right and ability to choose books, they don’t know the contents until it is read and then it’s too late, you can’t protect yourself anymore.
Because once you read it, to censor it, it already has a subtle effect on the mind. However, there would have to be several levels of hechsherim because people have different sensitivities.
It’s sort of like vaccinations, getting little exposure that when they encounter people with different views it doesn’t boomerang into a major crisis. Of course parents themselves shouldn’t give an 8 year old an adult book when their mind isn’t mature. That’s each parent’s own concern, not necessitating a hechsher on Jewish books in genera.
If we rely on a kosher book, we only want kosher to be in it.
No, I don’t think Jewish books need a stamp of approval. The “big name” frum publishers such as Artscroll, Targum, Feldheim, Israel Book Shop, Jerusalem Publication, HaChai, etc. already are pretty good at choosing books that are suitable for the frum public. And there’s the matter of taste. Just because I don’t fancy violence doesn’t mean that the book isn’t Kosher (as my nephew says, “What’s a frum novel? Violence, violence, violence, Mincha, violence, violence, violence.”). Sometimes very frum writers use some contemporary life – I’ll make up an example of a Peanuts t-shirt on a character – to make the setting more believable. Most of us have heard of the Peanuts comic strip, but some might be offended that the author isn’t using only Jewish references. Would you say that the book should be banned because of it? On the other hand, I’ve sometimes read a book and thought, they shouldn’t have put that in. Usually by the next edition, that part is deleted. Hey, I’ve complained to a very frum Israeli newspaper about things that they let slip through and they have a Rabbinic board that reviews what goes in! We all have our own hakpadas and sensitivities, and if we don’t like a particular book, we don’t have to read it!
The issue at hand is not whether to seal a Jewish book with a hechsher denoting its kashrus or not. A “Jewish” book is already validated by way of its having been printed. We have several outstanding publishing companies and we trust that the editors and other personnel have sufficient, capable staff on hand to proofread, edit, and censor any questionable materials. It is understood that although the work is now “kosher” and read by the literate among us lines must be drawn. Not all works are appropriate for every age, gender, and mindset. A child’s book is conspicuous by its larger text, colorful photos, thinner binding, but what of an adult work? And who is to decide which age is considered to be adult age? “Adult” oriented books have captivating covers, fascinating, unfolding tales and promise untold reading pleasure. But some of the content is totally inappropriate for the Jewish teen. Our children are constantly being tested facing enormous challenges in their daily lives. I have read “Jewish” works portraying in-law issues, inappropriate details of illnesses, spousal conflicts, teens straying from the proper path and indulging in various vices, bouts of loshon hora and nekama, and other conflicting matters. One cannot condemn these writings as they contain facts of life but a system such as a “warning” (already in place on toxic chemicals) must be in initiated so as to warn the reader at a glance of a work’s content and age appropriateness. We must protect our precious youth.
There ought to be at least one publisher who, with a lot of Siayatta Dishmaya, will not print morally and ethically wrong books. Yes, business may be very slow/ hard but a: I reckon that lots of upstanding people would turn to them first as a publisher, and b: if there is little business and the temptation comes up to print something not quite ok, is it worth keeping open a business which is delivering wrong morals to people?
Non age appropriate is very difficult thing to rate as each family has their own opinion as to when something becomes appropriate. It’s similar to how some parents allow their children to walk to school on their own from age 7, whereas others are still reluctant to allow them that independence at age 10.
So I guess that is really a YES, just if something has a shtempel, you run the risk of certain kids purposely checking out the un-shtempled books (especially in libraries).
I think that books should not need a “stamp of approval” because different books are appropriate for different people. By looking at the front of a book and reading the back, you can usually tell if a book is for you or not. A book needing a stamp can be offensive to authors, publishers, and readers.
Especially since some people will buy a book regardless of whether it has a stamp or not, a requirement of a stamp of approval can cause people to think badly of people who ignore this “kashrus approval.”
I think that Jewish books should not have a hechsher. What I do think is that those books should all be printed with“age appropriateness” inside. In that way, if parents don’t think a book is appropriate for their children’s ages they will not buy it. Also, it would be too difficult to get a hechsher on every book, and then, even some books that are ok in terms of age and content, will be put aside only on the basis of :”it doesn’t have a hechsher.” So I think we’re ok as is, but there could be the addition of an age group printed in each book or magazine.
If a respectable Orthodox publishing company puts out a book then it is kosher period. However, we may need to know what is milk, meat, or pareve. Topics such as, teens at risk, birthing, mental illness, sholom bayis (and in some circles even dating) are definitely topics many of us would not want our children reading. These are all 100% kosher, though they are sensitive issues to some and not to others, mostly due to age, gender etc. And so a rating system done by the author and editors themselves, (similar lehavdil to what’s used in the secular world on movies), would be a very viable option, a great service beneficial to all, without restriction or increase of price. Once these ratings become known, a mother of several bookworms will easily be able to navigate through the pile of new releases and find the one most appropriate for her household. Something like the following will give you a better picture of what I mean.
AO= Adult only
SB= Shalom Bayis
TR= Teens at Risk
MI= Mental Illness
In summary, we don’t need kosher certification, only guidelines so that the consumer can choose wisely.
My opinion is that placing a hechsher on books is unnecessary, for several reasons: First, I think that books containing any questionably kosher or inappropriate material should either be edited or not published at all! Even if they were to be published and the hechsher idea instituted, chances are that the books without a hechsher would not sell! Second, determining whether or not a book is kosher should be left up to the consumer. While giving a hechsher on food is clear-cut (it is either kosher or not!), regarding books it is a matter of personal opinion. One reader may find a book to be wonderful and appropriate, while another can find the same book grossly inappropriote and horribly offensive! The only thing I can suggest is to stick a label on books which may not be appropriate for certain age groups.
Without a stamp of approval how can one know if a book is age appropriate or not. Teens read whatever they get their hands on and parents can’t choose without having read the book.
As for adult books, I’d rather read a book that has been approved than read a book and feel that it was offensive or improper.
I believe it will only cause much controversy and hostility among people.
Some people will not want to follow the hechsereim with the excuse that they don’t follow that rabbi/mechanech that gave the hechsher, and rightfully so.
People today get very intimidated when they are told what to do.
Ultimately, people will anyway read or not read whatever they want.
i dont think people should put a hechsher on books. if a mother does not want her children 2 read certain books she should read them first. and if a child is able 2 obtain them without the parents permission then oviously he/she is old enough 2 read these books. in many instances parents may not realize that young children/teens today r more mature and and the generations have changed drasticly.
Unlike in halacha, there are so many different hashkafic points of view in Jewish outlook, I believe that it would be impossible to encompass it all, into a “kashrus organization” of sorts. While one person might feel that an action packed mystery novel is a goyishe novel with Jewish names, another might feel that if a child/adult wants to read about mystery and suspense, it may as well be without the violence and crude language used in goyishe books. Definitely, if a book comes from an unknown publishing company, a parent should definitely read it before allowing children to.
One thing that I believe should be done, is that books should be rated. What is perfectly acceptable to an adult can be extremely problematic for a teenager. If a book would say that it’s for adults only, or “parental guidance recommended”, then it would provide better guidelines.
Yes, Books should have a Hechsher. People must realize that what they put in their mind and what shapes their thoughts is as important as what they put into their mouth. However, I understand that Haskamas serve as a Hecsher. Furthermore, only kosher books will allow themselves to be reviewed by a Rabbinical board. Treif books won’t, so practically I don’t think that such an idea will ever work but if it gets out the message that we must protect our minds and neshamos then it is certainly worthwhile.
I think books should be reviewed by “Mechanchos”, not only will this make it a more safe read, but would also take off the burden of worried moms who need to read their childrens books before giving it to their children to read.
We are taught “Chanoch l’naar Al Pi Darko”. Every child, family, and community has its own derech. What might be completely appropriate for one family will be actually assur for another. For example, in some families a boy is expected to ride his bike if he wants to go someplace. In other communities – a boy is not allowed to own a bike. Should a book in which a boy rides a few miles to visit his friend be approved? The same is true for playing certain sports and many other examples. And these are the easy topics. Discussing death, divorce, war and other major issues are dilemmas. Literature is part of a child’s chinuch, and must be individualized for each child and family.
A responsible parent should assess each book individually and with the rav’s guidance choose what is appropriate for the family.
I think the question shouldn’t be “should” but “Can”? Is it at all possible? Hechsher to me means clearly quantifiable. So much of the decision-making regarding literature is subjective.
Here are just a few of the many hurdles that would have to be cleared by those seriously attempting to create a literature hechsher:
– What words, turns of phrases, and situations are considered kosher?
a) Are there objective and subjective levels of kosher?
– Will there be a ratings or age system?
– Will there be different levels of hechsher with suggested options?
– Who will be giving the hechsher? An individual? A panel? Will the nitty gritty work be done by those whose names are on the hechsher, or agents?
– Will the hechsher de facto go on the entire publishing house? Will publishers dare publish some books with a hechser, some without?
a) Will publishing houses continue to maintain various imprints for different types of works that might not mesh with their primary focus?
– Is there any way to accomplish this with absolute transparency?
– And with the end result not being machlokes?
As a parent, avid reader, and school librarian, a hechsher certainly seems appealing. But realistically I doubt it will happen. The publishers will continue to publish what sells, translations of authors popular in other countries, etc., and we emptors will continue to exercise our rights to caveat, buying carefully and hoping for the best.
INO. My first reason is who are these rabbanim who are going to be giving this hechsher… It is very unfortunate, but nowadays the rabbanim… are nothing like the rabbanim from years ago who everyone trusted and their words we all adhered to. When the old Satmar Rebbe would say something, who wouldn”t listen. But today, sadly, there is no such thing as a Satmar Rebbe. A second reason is that the price of books are very expensive and living expenses are very high and why higher the price of books more than necessary. Who in the long run is going to be paying for this so called hechsher on books -it is of course going to fall on the consumers who purchase these books.
I am strongly in favor of Jewish Books requiring a Hechsher or Stamp of Approval. It is known that the well-read reader of secular novels will look to the new York Times Best Seller list to read the book review before purchasing a book. These readers understand that although hundreds of secular books are published, there are only a select few that meet their high literary standards. For the Jewish reader, literary standard, although upheld by Israel Bookshop Publications, is not only what we seek. In addition readers of Jewish novels are looking for books that meet their high moral standards. However where can a Jewish reader find assurance before purchasing a book? As of yet there is no New York Times list which endorses the moral content of the book. Enter Israel Bookshop Publication’s brilliant idea of a stamp of approval in a each book. This would enable the reader to feel confident that the book does not contain any immoral ideas before purchasing it. For these reasons I am in favor of a “hechsher” or stamp of approval in each book.
i think a hechsher of some sort should be put onto the cover of the book, so the reader should know if it’s appropriate for their age.
i borrow the books i read from a local jewish library, and the books that contain sensitive material have a big 18+ sticker on the front.
it’s up to the parents to make the proper decisions to allow their kids to read it.
it will make things easier for the library if they don’t have to read all the books first to sensor them and organize them according to level.
Books do not require a hechsher. Everyone should monitor on an individual basis what they feel comfortable reading.
I am an avid reader of your books, as well as those of the other popular Jewish publishers. I have an extensive library, filled with novels and self help books, as well as Jewish magazines and newspapers.
When someone enters my home, I don’t have to worry about which publication they will find sitting on the table or in the magazine rack – they are all acceptable reading material. (I no longer allow secular publications into my home, there is no need with the extensive collection of acceptable orthodox reading material now available).
I don’t think it is necessary to put a “hechsher” stamp on every Jewish book. Experience has proven that almost every orthodox Jewish publishers today is very careful about what they publish. If you trust the publisher, that in itself is the “hechsher!” In all my years of reading Jewish novels and fiction, I have yet to find a book that I had to remove from my library due to its content, and I have a great many books in all categories!
All the “hechsher” would do, is raise the price of the book. With the cost of books constantly on the rise, I find that the additional cost of rabbinical supervision would make it more difficult for the average person to purchase books. SG Michigan
This will cause politics and Divisions of communities and people feeling guilty for reading Jewish books that are okay to read.
Adults should be able to consciously decide which books are appropriate for them and children shouldn’t read anything without parental approval.
I think that every family can decide on their own if the book is good for them to read or not.
There may even be a need for different types of “hechsherim” as in food. In today’s world, where everything is written, people have different standards of what is okay.
There are a lot of good books out there for kids and teens, that could help them with their issues, and teach them important lessons. Some parents don’t let their kids read books that are really proper and age appropriate, because these parents are paranoid with worry that their kids are going to find out about bad things. If books would have a stamp of approval on them all parents will be able to feel secure that a board reviewed the books and it’s kosher. Parents won’t have to see if they let their kids read it.
“Hechsher” stamps are a very smart idea. It has happened more than once that I read a book and it wasn’t “kosher” enough. In addition, not everyone has someone to pre-read the books for them. In my opinion the “hechsher” stamps are extremely important.
It is a well known fact that all that we read, hear, see etc. is imprinted in our minds forever. Even if we won’t recall all that we were exposed to, subconsciously it’s there. We may as well be confident in the contents of at least one area of exposure.
Also, it is quite difficult to stop reading a book once started, even if one finds the contents inappropriate. Should the books have a “stamp of approval”, we will not put our kids and ourselves in an unnecessary nisayon.
Yes. Not all books that are advertised as Jewish are kosher. Parents are busy and do not always have the time to pre-read and censor all the books their children bring home.
Just as children are taught to look for certain hechsherim when they are sent shopping to the grocery, so too can they be taught to check the hechsher before borrowing a book from a library or friend.
If I see a book advertised with one of my “approved hechsherim” I will be more likely to buy or borrow it than if I see 50 or 100 books on the shelf without any hechsher to attract me to it.
In my opinion the frum editors are doing an excellent job insuring the “kashrus” of our Judaica literature. Who would be appointed to give the hechsher of approval? Our gedolim can most certainly not waste their precious time reading fiction. There are no specific “kashrus” laws to be studied as far as books are concerned. I can not think of any “mashgiach” who would be more reliable than the staff of the Judaica publisher. They are trained to ask “shailos” when in doubt.
I wish you much hatzlachah in your wonderful work.
Finally! As the resident librarian in our bungalow colony, I try to read every book before i put it on the shelves for the children (or even adults) to read.
Not every Jewish themed book sold in any Judaica store is appropriate for a Torah observant Jew. Sometimes the only thing Jewish about the book is the name of the main character! At best, some of these mysteries and thrillers leave the reader with absolutely nothing gained. And at worst, there may be really questionable material or even clear apikorsus in the book. Once you’ve read something, it’s filed away in your brain-absorbed in your memory-ready to surface at any time.
We absolutely must have some type of review by an approved advisory board to give a hechsher on our reading material.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my opinion.
I do not think that books should have a hashgacha. The Jewish books/sefarim that are on the market are by and large acceptable and useful. Although not every book/sefer is for every person, each individual family needs to decide (with the help of their Rav, if necessary) which books will be conducive to growth for them and which are not for them. Furthermore, it is impossible for a a single organization to decide which books are acceptable, since that organization will have to follow its own shitah, and will thereby invalidate any other shitos, even though that book might be helpful and good for those who follow a different mehalech. For example, there are books on tznius which are written for those who did not grow up with an appreciation for tznius and there are books on tznius which were written for those who already have a strong appreciation for tznius and who are looking to grow even stronger in that area. BOTH books are necessary, but both would not receive “hashgacha” from a single organization. The same applies to many other topics – e.g. books written to answer questions on emunah, which are helpful for some and perhaps confusing for others.
If it aint broke, don’t fix it!
The system as it exists today works as well as can be expected for any such system to work…
Books should have a hechsher so that i won’t have to be concerned about censoring my kid’s books.
Not sure, but it should say for what ages it is recommended.
That idea would be too complicated. All books should make sure to include on the cover or summary if the content might be offensive…
I think reading a book is a lot like eating. When we put food into our body, we are supposed to be nourishing our bodies and also our souls. When we read a book, we are doing a physical act of reading, but also taking in information that can certainly alter who we are as a person. The material that we read can help to form or change perspectives on the world around us. It is important to know, before we start taking in this information, if it is in sync with our belief system or if it meant to challenge it. The difference between books and food is that with kashrus, the food must be in sync with Halacha and while we can certainly read what we want and do with it what we want, it would be beneficial for people to have the option of knowing where the book stands in relation to out belief system. I therefore feel that a “Hechsher” for a book is beneficial to readers.
First off, haskamos do not take the position of a hechsher because the book is not thoroughly checked. Secondly, assigning hechsheirim will likely do the same thing that banning books has done – it will make the banned book more marketable! Therefore, we could put an advisory on a book that has content that should be read only with the guidance of a Rebbe, but not a hechsher of approval – only in an ideal world will this work. But in our olam hazeh, it’s counterproductive, with the exception of those unique high-level yirei shamayim out there who would follow it – but they unfortunately are a minority. Everyone else are regular yirei shamayim, but not as high of a level.
A hechsher will never work, as there are very few topics that are black and white not fit for frum consumption. Especially in todays day when everyone tries to be ground breaking by being the first to write about mental health, gambling, blogs, and so on.
Parents must realize that there are certain responsibilities they must take for themselves, without taking someone else’s word for it. What is important for one person to read, is probably not a good idea for another person, especially if they did not know these “things” (ie online-gambling or blogging)were available for their enjoyment.
Perhaps; and this is not an idea that would solve the problem of relying on other people; but, being most people like to hide behind titles and organizations; Someone should arrange an orthodox publishers reccomendation rating board (like videos)for different catagories. This would be very successful for the first person to arrange it with a wide backing of publishers and the rabbonim who consider themselves to be “hip” by taking a public stand on any modern issue…
The publisher bears the burden of responsibility for what they publish. Ideally, each publishing house has a specific da’as Torah (whether individual or a board) that they receive guidance from. At the end of the day, the question is, who is your rebbe’s rav? If It is know that Rav Ploni is the manhig for X Publishers, then it is assumed that Rav Ploni has enough trust in X Publisher’s senior editor to be associated with that publisher. In a case where a known talmid chacham is involved with running that company, perhaps that’s enough. Best part of that is that there is room for differing hashkafos, so that a consumer can decide if it’s for him or not (i.e. a company with dati leumi orientation, or modern orthodox etc.) Is this a hechsher? No –as it’s hashkafic, not halachic– yet important! I would like a rating system however, especially if it would enable a more grown up, yet Torah-true treatment of certain topics. It is too hard to prescreen everything, so I’d like an easy way to know what won’t be suitable for a 12 year old, yet might be perfectly fine for a married woman.
I feel that once we start with hechshairim, we will end up with books that are stilted and will have little appeal to the reader. as it is, we cut out so much from our stories. Everyone is wonderful and heilig and anything less than that will be hidden under the carpet. as a community, we need to read about issues so that we can face them and work with them.
1. I received the magazine with my Binoh
2. I feel there should be a hechsher because nowadays so many books/novels, ostensibly for teens or even younger contain a huge amount of violence, robberies, guns, or even too graphic descriptions of the birth process. Once upon a time I could just buy a jewish book and give it to my kids, now I have to read each one before I allow them to read it and some are forbidden from the house. Many books are so far removed from yiddishkeit that the only jewish bit in them is the characters’ names and the odd Boruch Hashem, if we’re lucky. Why should I have to check Jewish books?! I already check the non-jewish ones and many of the golden oldies are more ‘kosher’ than today’s so called ‘jewish’ books!
Boruch Hashem for the Israel Book Shop whose books are, on the whole, good solid Jewish books that don’t need checking! Bring on a hechsher, even if it’s only for one publisher it will be a start!
Is what you put into your children’s mind and heart less important then what you put into their mouths? Cmon! Its sounds like a typical Americanized way of thinking. “Who are the rabbanim to decide for me what me or my family should read?” Then who are they to decide not to eat a certain hecsher thats not up to par? Well if you care about the hashpaha that not such heimeshe food has on your child’s intestines then I think its time to consider worrying about your child’s mind and heart too!
I am a librarian for a Jewish community library. I buy almost all the novels by the frum publisher. i.e Targum, Artscroll, Israel Bookshop. It might we wise maybe to have more of a guide of what age group the book is geared to and list if there is a topic which may be of sensive nature to certain people or age group such as sholam bayis, mental illness etc…
I think a Hechsher is a bit extreem and makes things more black and white. Some books are not appropriate for a teenager but suitable for a married woman.
There have been a couple novels printed in the past few years which was written to a young audience but had some sensitive topics such as discussing non-jewish holidays which do not think our kids should be exposed to.
Who’s to say which books are “kosher”? Mainstream frum publishing companies already have a censuring system in place. That system should doubtless be improved, but a hechsher seems silly.
If books will require a hechsher then authors will automatically think twice before publishing no appropriate material and the books that come out with be fitting for all.
I think it’s important especially for kids/teens books and then the consumer can decide if they want to buy with the certification or without.
No! People can ask the opinion of those they trust if they don’t trust themselves.
Yes! Anything non kosher creates a flaw in our neshama, whether reading, writing, hearing, speaking etc. We want to keep our neshamos pure!
What goes into your head is at least as important as what goes into your stomach.
Life is about making your own decisions. You gotta train yourself, for people are not out there to make decisions for you every step of the way. Having a hechsher solves this issue (maybe) but it’s just covering up the fact called “life”!
No! Because a good standard publisher, such is Israel Bookshop is sure to have checked their books.
Publishers should do more in editing those books so that they will be acceptable for the public. However, the reader/parent should make the final decision.
Jewish consumers are looking for appropriate material. Inserting a “rating” would be a service for the public.
Nowadays, with all the tumah in the world, we sometimes think not so kosher things are okay, so to keep us on track we need a “hechsher”!
There are pros and cons, some people can say yes because like that they’ll know what to read and what not, but still others can say no because everyone is different and what one can think is kosher others can think we may not read it.
I don’t think Jewish books need to have a hechsher on them. If it’s a Jewish book and put out in a judaica store and it does not fulfill the Jewish perspective, it should not be put in the store. For books that do not abide to this and are necessary to sell for the Jewish home they should have a special section in the store for them.
Giving books a hechsher is tantamount to rating conversations, monitoring random acquaintances and setting curfews.
Every parent knows his/her child and knows what is appropriate for their level. Different upbringing allow for differences in what is accepted. Not all 18 yr. olds are on the same page either as 18 is just an age, not a mindset. Responsible parents have the job of supervising who their children talk to, where they spend their time and what they read. No board, no matter how respectable, can and should take the place of responsible supervision.
The most this new censorship will accomplish is to raise the price on one of the only forms of entertainment uncontroversially still available to our youth.
Having a hechsher will lead to the same politics as the kashrus industry. Where one won’t give a hechsher someone else will, leading to the confusion of who’s haskamah to trust. The only option would perhaps be a rating system helping parents choose books by content.
I sincerely hope this hechsher does not go into affect. It’s time we stop trying to standardize everything from classrooms to dress sizes to books. We need to trust out adults to make responsible decisions for those in their care.
It is overall a great idea that naturally would have to be worked out in detail. Possibly, not all books would necessarily be evaluated. If an author does not wish it, he may not be required to have his book evaluated. The advisory board would have to be a group of leading mechanchim.
Of course not everyone would have to rely on the “hechsher”. Individuals could always choose to make their own decisions on what is appropriate for themselves or their children to read, whether it was evaluated by a team of mechanchim or not. The “hechsher” can be used by those who wish to avail themselves of it, as a general guideline, as to the appropriateness of the reading material. Consideration may be given as to whether the hechsher should appear on the book itself, or possibly in an independent publication.
So many different people have different opinions on what is kosher and what is not. No matter what the board will come up with, some people will say that it’s too strict and others will say it is too lenient.
I feel its a good idea to have books endorsed by rabbanim or rebbetzins and the buyer could decide whether to rely on that endorsement.
I also feel books should come with age lever guide so parents could know that a book is not age appropriate for their child.
These days, when there are so many books on all different kinds of subjects, some are written with just children in mind, whilst others are written specifically for adults, I would say, being an adult who loves to read, being a mother of children who love to read, that Jewish books should have a “hechsher” attesting to the “kashrus” of their contents, so that we know straightaway that the book we are looking at is Kosher.
On the other hand, it is still up to each individual person/parent to decide what is okay for herself or her children to read.
Do books need a hechsher?
It’s hard to tell. Who is going to give this hechsher? Not every community has the same standards and relies on the same rabbi. What’s good enough for one may not be good enough for another. I do think that there must be some kind of limit. It seems to me that people know the publishers and know that books that they would deem unacceptable wouldn’t be published by certain companies and so they rely on those companies for their books. It’s necessary for the publishers to have their guidelines and Rabbis and the people are mature enough to decide which publishers publish material acceptable to them. It may be helpful for the publisher to say that certain books may not be appropriate for children or teenagers if that is the case. In short, the publishers need guidelines and the buyers need to know who they want to and can rely on.
Obviously if a Jewish publication (Israel Bookshop, Feldheim, Artscroll etc.) published the book that in itself is already a kashrus on the book. You’ve already put the utmost into your books so they are sensitive to us Yidden. Kashrus though is a very broad title. There are topics that out children shouldn’t be exposed to (ex. non frum lifestyles, marriage topics etc.) If such a book is sitting on the shelf of a Jewish book store that in itself gives any child and teenager the permission to go ahead and read it. Yes, it’s kosher, but not for every age. I’m sure you can come up with suggestions on how to take care of this issue, or how about if that becomes one of the questions in this contest…
Since literature is something that has to be appropriate for the specific reader, it would be very difficult to place a stamp of approval on a book that is sold to everyone. A book that may be kosher for women may be harmful to men, and a book that is perfectly suited to an individual from one background can be confusing to another. Sometimes an individual facing a certain challenge may grow from reading on that topic while this same books can ‘create’ this challenge in others who have not been struggling with this. I think that the “kashrus” of a book is not only dependent on the content of the book but also who will be reading it, therefore individuals who cannot discern for themselves what is kosher for them should seek the advice of a mentor.
It’s very important. When I was a girl my mother read all the books before the girls. Today’s mothers don’t all have the time for it, but I think it’s necessary. Some books are simply not meant for teens. I might be interested in joining your “board” that will check out books.
It won’t happen so there is no point in arguing besides, if someone wants to make sure it’s a kosher book they could ask someone who read it already. That’s what I do.
The publisher itself is the hechsher. They have a responsibility to print what’s appropriate for the frum world. If a book has content not suitable for children, that can be noted on the cover. NO “Rav Hamachshir” can take the place of a parent as there is no uniform standard suited for all.
I think that we already have a concept of a “hechsher stamp of approval.” It’s called Haskamos and I almost always check to see what haskamos a book has and who they are from before I read it. This is aspecially important on any book that discusses Torah thoughts or philosophy.
The very concept alludes to a decline in Jewish scholarship and thinking. This mean-mided attitude is now being applied to Rabbi Slifkin’s brilliant work “The Challenge of Creation” the same way as it was applied to R’ Goren’s works.It’s quite possible that this very same attitude if applied in the time of the Rishonim would have resulted in the burning of the RAMBAM’s manuscripts. This only points the way to more neighborhoods where there are “modesty squads” and intimidating “pashkevillen”, higher walls and more restrictions. I feel that today’s hashkofa works are all caveat emptor, no matter the haskama.
I think that creating a hechsher for books would be very useful, with one caveat. As many commenters above mentioned, what some kehillos might find acceptable might be too strict for some, or too lenient for others. Perhaps if there were a running “list” of explanation attached…like (sorry to say) are used for movies…to specify if the book is meant for adults only (not racy, just because of a mature topic like marriage or death), was rejected because it contained scientific claims not accepted by a certain group, was rejected because boys and girls are playing together in the story, or was rejected because the book used language inappropriate for a Jew to use or had undebatably anti-Torah content. That would provide guidelines that could be implemented more flexibly by readers/parents/schools/libraries.
There have been books I’ve read in the past that I’ve wondered if the Hashkafa in them are ok, and some books that I’ve thought that the hashkafa in them are too extreme. This of course depends on who the reader is, and once an author has a few books out, one becomes familiar with their style, and a reader can judge the book for themselves. It’s the new authors that should have a little blog about them at the beginning of a book that gives the reader an idea of who the author is and then the readers can determine for themselves if they share a same history and value system to know where to go with the story. The background of author and reader doesn’t have to be the same, but it should give the reader an idea of what he’s getting into. Sometimes the author’s acknowledgements opens up the reader to what the author is about, but not always. A more comprehensive history may be desirable to acurately get a portrayal.
I think it would be very beneficial if a hechsher is found on books. It would save time for parents of teenagers. They wouldnt need to proofread every book if there was a hechsher and a age group attached.
Kashrus of food is more clear-cut than “kashrus” of books. Some ingredients are vadai kosher, others are vadai treif. Although there are varying standards within our community (including chalav Yisroel, yoshon, various shechitas), there are definitely clear halachos involved with food. Not so with reading material. The issues we are concerned about within the geder of frum books are not clear halachos, but things open to many interpretations and standards. Yes, it’s nice to have a book pre-approved—we already have this. The Israel Bookshop symbol on the spine, for example, is a “hechsher” of sorts. But I think further labeling books as “kosher” according to Rav X or Advisory Board Y makes non-approved books “treif.” This only serves to divide us more as a people; label some legitimate, important issues and authors treif; and close our eyes to some of the realities of the world we live in and the real challenges we face as human beings.
In addition, because the frum community is so small, having hechsherim would surely limit the books that are published. If there’s a book approved by Rav X and another that’s not, what publishing house would invest in the non-approved, yet very important book about teens at risk or the Holocaust? I think it’s important for us to be able to explore a wide variety of topics in our books and for authors to not be afraid to address real, pressing issues in the frum community.
I say NO! Because everybody has different standards of “kashrus”, therefor it won’t work anyway…
Yes, I think it’s a good idea for books to require a hechsher. The hechsher will save innocent girls from reading what’s not appropriate.
The following is excerpted from a fax to Israel Book Shop Publications, 732-901-4012
I was gratified to read your timely question in The Next Page magazine regarding the option of book approval by an advisory board…
…We live in a very open society, where the social norms run contrary to our hallowed beliefs as an am kadosh…
…I am very troubled by the nonchalance displayed by many authors when writing about discreet topics, especially those written for children and teens…Why do we need to introduce openness to our children? …Leave that job to the parents!
As an avid reader and as a mother of several bookworms, I try to screen the books my kids read. This is quite a difficult task, as my children devour books with great speed. That is why I constantly consult with librarians whom I trust to guide me…How much easier it would be for us parents to have an advisory board of people who are sensitive to our hashkafos to do the job for us!
…In addition to censoring books for sensitive material that run contrary to our hashkafos, it is important for books to be screened for age/maturity level. There are many issues that are difficult for our children to comprehend, such as the Holocaust, the suffering of righteous people, and mental and terminal illness. Feeding our children with such information before they are ready to digest such topics, is risky.
Let this letter declare my whole-hearted endorsement of the “Hechsher” stamp of approval!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my views with you.
In theory we should be able to decide for ourselves, but as a parent, it would make walking into a bookstore to buy something for my kids, much less daunting. The way it works right now, I more or less go by the publishing house, or by an author’s name that I am familiar with. I don’t try new authors or publishing houses because what if I end up having to throw it out. A simple rating system would make me more willing to buy
Although I am opposed to a “hechsher”, I think a rating system, similar to the one used on video games, makes a lot of sense. A Hechsher implies some objective standards about what is and isn’t acceptable, which is obviously a gray area, whereas ratings would provide some guidelines and actually help streamline the choices for consumers so they could purchase wisely. It is certainly frustrating to pay 20 bucks for a Chanuka present for your teen and then find out it isn’t something you’d want them to read. I can just see it…”contains mild to moderate heresy with subtle Internet content” :)
This was by far the smartest answer so far.
I’m Jewish, and Jewish people answer questions with a question of their own. Here’s mine, Should Jewish Website Blogs have a “Hechsher” Stamp of Approval Attesting to the “Kashrus” of their Contents or Not?
If anybody wants advisory boards they could move to Afghanistan or Iran they have excellent advisory boards. Could we have any decision making ability in our private lives? Any? Are we that dumb that we need to be told what we can or cannot read? They have them in Israel how are they working there? Next comes women sitting in the back of the bus
Thank God I live in Florida.
It doesn’t get me angry cuz I personally don’t live in this bubble so all the fundamentalists could do whatever they wish and it wouldn’t really affect my life, that being said I think Rabbinical power should be kept at bay otherwise there is even more room then there is now for power abuse and corruption, …just like government you give them a pinky and they want a hand. Orthodox Jewry in America has lasted and grown in the last 100 years without a hechsher on books I think we can manage without it in the future as well.
And if anyone has any comments they want to tell me they can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
i think the idea of a hechsher on books, while well-intentioned, is flawed. kids, and surely adults, have to learn to think for themselves. if not by reading and sifting thru ideas they will never know how to formulate an opinion of their own. the only reason we have a hechsher on food is b/c we cannot ascertain its contents.however, we dont have a rabbi telling us eat this, or dont eat this b/c its not healthy….we choose on our own. it is the same with other forms of consumption as well.
I don’t like the comparison to Kashrus of food. Food requires a kosher symbol because we need to know if its kosher otherwise we can’t eat it. It’s the halacha, (I think) we can’t assume a random piece of food is kosher, most foods aren’t kosher. Sooo, The Laws of Kashrus of food are complicated and best left to a Rabbi to decide.
Books on the other hand, unless you feel your Rabbi knows you inside and out, you need to make the decision yourself.
Having said all that if enough people want a particular rabbi or organization to make the decision for them, that’s their prerogative.
Everyone should make their own decision, with their own personal posek, if necessary.