World’s most un­usual book fair

The new­est Me­labev cen­ter cares for men and women with de­men­tia un­der age 50. How mo­ti­vat­ing!

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - BAR­BARA SOFER

It starts with a stubbed toe. Bare­foot and hur­ry­ing to an­swer the phone, I crash into a chair. My toe turns mauve. Too much fur­ni­ture, too much stuff, I gripe. Next comes my New Year’s res­o­lu­tion to de­clut­ter our home. The few su­per­flu­ous chairs are easy to elim­i­nate. Next – an easy tar­get – tens of video­tapes. Then I re­ceive a re­minder from Dr. Deb­o­rah Katz, a Jerusalem or­tho­don­tist, about the an­nual fund-rais­ing book sale she runs from her den­tal of­fice for the Me­labev Day Cen­ters for de­men­tia and Alzheimer suf­fer­ers. That’s the sign to face what is for me the hard­est area: prun­ing books.

Katz, who straight­ens in­cisors, bi­cus­pids and mo­lars for adults and chil­dren in the tony Tal­biyeh neigh­bor­hood of Jerusalem, is once again about to re­move the mir­rors, probes, ex­ca­va­tors of her workspace, and fill her five-room of­fice with some 30,000 used books. Chil­dren’s sto­ry­books, adult nov­els, his­tory and psy­chol­ogy tomes, cook­books, how-to, Bibles – you name it. Each book sells for NIS 10, re­gard­less of size or rar­ity.

The more books I do­nate, the more I sup­port the Me­labev cen­ters. The new­est cen­ter cares for men and women with de­men­tia un­der age 50. How mo­ti­vat­ing!

Ex­cept that ev­ery­one knows, when it comes to books, part­ing isn’t easy. And maybe for us Peo­ple of the Book it’s even harder. We have shelves of sacred books, plus semisa­cred vol­umes of com­men­tary and phi­los­o­phy. No one has yet in­vented a Shab­bat Kin­dle for our “readingest” day of the week.

I seek ad­vice from the in­ter­na­tional TV star Marie Kondo, best-sell­ing au­thor of The Life-Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up: The Ja­panese Art of De­clut­ter­ing and Or­ga­niz­ing. Her over­all strat­egy is to tackle one clut­tered genre at a time, and not to go room by room. I seem to be on the right track. She rec­om­mends touch­ing each book. If it fails to trans­mit joy, part with it, say­ing a fond but firm good­bye. She warns not to be dis­tracted by pa­pers that are in prox­im­ity of the books. Deal with those later. I over­look her ad­vice to take all the books off the shelf and pile them in the liv­ing room. A lo­gis­tic im­pos­si­bil­ity in our home.

The be­gin­ning goes eas­ily. Dou­bles go. Old col­lege text­books are out­dated. I can’t of­fer fam­ily mem­bers my old child-rear­ing ad­vice books; they’d take it as an in­sult. Be­sides, ba­bies don’t sleep on their bel­lies any­more. I find a glo­ri­ous pho­to­graph of my late mother on a cruise ship in one of my an­tholo­gies of Shalom Ale­ichem sto­ries. She must have loved this book. I put it back on the shelf.

I have no idea why I’ve kept a 1992 guide to Scan­di­navia, ex­cept that the top shelves are so hard to get to. I’m no longer in­ter­ested in med­i­ta­tion, Malaysian cook­ing or the me­dieval English po­etry that pre­ceded Be­owulf. But is any­one?

I DROP off my first 38 books and have a sit-down with Katz, an en­er­getic for­mer Amer­i­can with short gray hair and light blue eyes. She grew up in Cleve­land and stud­ied den­tistry at Columbia Univer­sity in New York.

Run­ning the book sale has given her a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the wide-rang­ing tastes of book buy­ers. “Just when you think no one will want a cer­tain book, some­one will come in and gasp that this is ex­actly the book he or she is look­ing for,” she says.

The sale is vis­ited by peo­ple rang­ing from con­nois­seurs of rare books to par­ents with crawl­ing ba­bies to seniors. There are in­deed buy­ers for over­size cof­fee-ta­ble books and mul­ti­vol­ume his­to­ries.

How did this busy pro­fes­sional get in­volved in this la­bo­ri­ous phi­lan­thropic project?

About a decade ago, Katz’s daugh­ter Ye­dida and her dear friend Noa Mishaly, both then 12, wanted to take part in the Me­labev fund-raiser walk. To their con­ster­na­tion, each walker had to raise NIS 1,000. The pre­teen girls couldn’t bear ask­ing peo­ple to give them money. They thought they’d bake cakes and run a bake sale in­stead, but their moms thought a book sale would be bet­ter. After all, ev­ery­one had ex­tra books, and those same book­worms would find other peo­ple’s books ir­re­sistible. They filled the Mishaly din­ing room ta­ble in Gi­vat Ze’ev with books and, voilà, they raised the money. The fol­low­ing year the sale moved to the Katz fam­ily’s larger din­ing room ta­ble. Then it moved to Katz’s pro­fes­sional of­fice.

Be­tween pa­tients, Katz and her long­time sec­re­tary, Es­ther Lerner, sort and cat­a­logue ev­ery vol­ume. And then, to fa­cil­i­tate what must be the world’s only book sale in an or­tho­don­tist’s of­fice, Katz closes down her prac­tice for a week and a half. Overnight, she and vol­un­teers build book shelves and dis­play the books.

The process of col­lect­ing and sort­ing books by topic and lan­guage takes all year. In be­tween pa­tients, Katz and Lerner cat­e­go­rize ev­ery book that comes in.

“Be­ing pre­cise down to the tenths of mil­lime­ters to align teeth makes me highly or­ga­nized,” Katz says with a lovely smile.

Most books are in He­brew and English. There’s a grow­ing re­quest for French books.

BACK AT home, I add my only book in French, Ca­mus’s L’Étranger, to the next grow­ing pile of books for do­na­tion. What are the chances I’ll ever reread this book in French?

One of the five rooms at the book sale is filled with Jewish re­li­gious books, sifrei kodesh. I find these hard to part with, but let’s face it, how many hard-backed Passover Hag­gadot do we re­ally need? Our off­spring now have their own fa­vorite edi­tions.

As my shelves lighten up, for­got­ten but dear or fas­ci­nat­ing books be­come more prom­i­nent. A slim vol­ume of es­says by the late Rabbi Aryeh Ka­plan has a book­mark from a lit­tle Jewish cal­en­dar for Tishrei 2003, and his es­says on life and death suit my New Year mus­ings as well as they did 16 years ago. It’s a keeper.

I get my hus­band in­volved in the chal­lenge. We reach 200 books, a small but sig­nif­i­cant dent in our col­lec­tion.

My bro­ken toe has healed. One ques­tion re­mains. How many books will we buy and re­fill our shelves with, when the book sale starts? After all, it’s all for a good cause.

The book sale runs Novem­ber 4-6 at the Katz Orthodon­tic Of­fice, 19 Wash­ing­ton Street, Jerusalem. Hours 8 a.m.-10 a.m.; phone be­fore to drop off books: (02) 624-8655. A pre­sale, re­quir­ing a do­na­tion of NIS 50, is on Sun­day, Novem­ber 3, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The writer is the Is­rael di­rec­tor of pub­lic re­la­tions at Hadas­sah, the Women’s Zion­ist Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­ica. Her lat­est book is A

Daugh­ter of Many Moth­ers.


THE PROCESS of col­lect­ing and sort­ing books by topic and lan­guage takes all year.

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