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The Return of the Seforim Sale

seforim sale Some of the thousands of book lovers who made this year's Seforim Sale a huge success.


After a one-year hiatus due to COVID, the Seforim Sale, the Yeshiva University student-run Jewish book sale, made its much-anticipated return to Belfer Hall’s Weissberg Commons from Sunday, Feb. 6, to Sunday, Feb. 27.

And what a return it was, with organizers estimating that more than 10,000 masked and vaccinated customers eagerly browsed through the book-packed aisles and stalls of the annual student-run event.

Part pop-up bookstore, part experiential business education, and part must-attend social gathering, the Sale has been a cherished tradition at YU since 1964, typically drawing close to 15,000 customers annually, in-person and, more recently, online.

As in past years, book lovers from across the YU community could choose from a vast catalogue of more than 10,000 unique titles from such categories as traditional Jewish texts and commentaries, Jewish philosophy, psychology, history and biography, contemporary novels, cookbooks and children’s literature.

In addition to the thousands of volumes on sale, the three-week event presented a robust lineup of stand-alone programs, including shiurim [lectures], book launches and panel discussions. Topics and speakers ranged from the Jewish perspective on happiness (Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Schiffman) and the challenges of translating Tanakh ( Jessica Sacks, daughter of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks) to the legacy of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt"l (Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin).

But the return of this one-of-a-kind book fair was much more than a bibliophile’s haven or a chance to happily reconnect with neighbors or colleagues. For the cadre of student volunteers who worked on the floor and behind the scenes, who stocked shelves or fulfilled online orders, the 2022 sale proved to be an opportunity to shine: to put their Yeshiva University education into action by managing and operating a business in real time. Net profits from the Sale are earmarked for YU Student Life initiatives.

Each year, a Seforim executive team comprised of a CEO, COO, CFO, CTO and CMO are chosen from a group of student applicants. Typically, the team has a four- to five-month lead time to order books, plan logistics, promote the event and, most importantly, recruit and train the more than 100 volunteers who are the backbone of the operation.

Lead time for the 2022 sale was cut short by several months due to the pandemic. But that did not diminish the determination and enthusiasm of CEO Eli Seidman’23SB and COO Ari Hagler ’22YC.

“We hit the ground running, with just two months or so to pull it together,” remarked Seidman, who along with his team of never-tiring volunteers worked around the clock to make the sale happen. “The Seforim Sale is really a significant part of YU life; it’s something that has been around forever, and we couldn’t imagine it being absent for another year. It’s not just a place to buy books. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spread Torah and the love of Torah.”

As a long-standing mentor to this student initiative, Michael Strauss, associate dean and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Sy Syms School of Business, is enthusiastic about the practical skills this year’s Seforim volunteers have had the chance to acquire and hone. “This was the real deal. For three solid weeks, our very dedicated student volunteers had the opportunity to practice every aspect of what they’ve been learning in class, from marketing, finance, accounting, data analytics and leadership skills to purchasing and negotiation.”

Strauss pointed out that given supply chain issues and the other added pressures COVID brought to bear, this year’s challenges were steeper than most. But nonetheless, the team prevailed. “I’m immensely proud of how our students summoned the focus and commitment to create an amazing Seforim Sale despite the curveballs thrown by the pandemic.”