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Women of the Book

Libi Astaire

The non-Jewish publishing world may be in turmoil due to the economic downturn and the revolution caused by ebooks and ereaders, but we are in a Golden Age of English-language Torah publishing. Yet this “Golden Age” wouldn’t be possible without the contribution of the dozens of women who work in the frum publishing world. These women aren’t just involved with publishing novels and cookbooks; they’ve also had a hand in the making of many of the seforim that are found in our homes and yeshivah libraries.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The “ArtScroll Revolution” is something we’ve all observed. The Brooklyn-based publishing house has more than 1,000 books in its catalogue. Among the hundreds of people who have contributed to the publication of those seforim is Mrs. Mindy Stern, who’s worked as a proofreader at ArtScroll since 1993.

“Sometimes I feel that I should pay Rabbi Zlotowitz, and not the other way around,” she says, referring to Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, founder and director of ArtScroll along with Rabbi Nosson Scherman.

The monumental project now known as the “The Schottenstein Edition Talmud Bavli” was still in its early stages when Mindy was hired, and the one proofreader already on the ArtScroll staff was swamped. So the editorial director of the Gemara project told Rabbi Zlotowitz, “We need another proofreader,” and went on to explain exactly what he was looking for: a retired schoolteacher who knew the rules of English grammar well, and whose children were grown so that she could work crazy hours when there was a deadline. When Mrs. Stern came for her interview, Rabbi Zlotowitz was happy to discover that she exactly fit the bill: she had majored in English, had taught limudei kodesh in Bais Yaakov schools for twenty-five years, her children were grown, and her husband was understanding of the demands of the job.

Today I see that the Ribbono Shel Olam guided me to this position,” she says. “Everything in my life has somehow prepared me to do this.”

“This” includes working on prestigious Torah projects such as the English translation of the Talmud Bavli, the Talmud Yerushalmi, the forty-two volume Mishnah Series, and the new translation of Midrash Rabbah. But what exactly does she do?

“I check for errors. I read each sentence as a unit to make sure it makes sense. I check the flow of the sentences within each paragraph and look for misspellings, such as ‘form’ instead of ‘from’. During my job interview, Rabbi Scherman explained that in order for someone to be a proofreader, the mistakes have to fly off the page when you see them. The job demands a very exacting nature and an eye for details.

“I’ve always had a great love for learning limudei kodesh, thanks in great part to two of my teachers at Bais Yaakov Esther Schoenfeld High School, Rabbi Moshe Ebstein and Rabbi Pesach Oratz. And I taught limudei kodesh for about twenty-five years. Even so, I don’t always fully understand what I am reading in the Gemara. But by the time I get the Gemara pages, they have already been read by several editors who are talmidei chachamim.”


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