Each year one of the unofficial Passover traditions is the Haggadah-sales competition. New and old Haggadot, many of them issued by established publishers, vie for shoppers’ favor.
This year a new Haggadah under a new imprint appears to be winning.
According to an informal poll of several local Judaica shops, the bestselling Haggadah in the weeks before yom tov is “An Exalted Evening: The Seder Night,” a collection of commentaries on seder themes by the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, published by the OU Press and edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack.
Rabbi Genack, veteran rabbinic administrator of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division, recently became general editor of the OU Press, a publishing enterprise that has expanded its operations after publishing two books of Rabbi Soloveitchik’s thoughts as a trial run.
The expansion of the OU Press, backed by the resources and reputation of the Modern Orthodox umbrella organization, presents a major alternative – for readers and prospective authors – to ArtScroll, the Brooklyn-based haredi publisher that has dominated Orthodox publishing for a generation.
“I don’t think we’re in competition” with ArtScroll, Rabbi Genack says. “We’re very pleased that ArtScroll has been successful.” Both the Modern Orthodox and the haredim have enough writers and readers to support at least two such major publishers, he says. “There is a tremendous thirst for works of real value.”
The success of ArtScroll, which produces books with crisp translations and attractive graphics, has found its Chumashim and siddurim in most Orthodox congregations and many non-Orthodox ones, and has paved the way for a growing number of Orthodox publishers, including the OU Press, says Gil Student, founder of Yashar Books, a small publisher in Brooklyn. “They came up with a business model that worked.
“From what I understand,” Student says, the OU Press “is focusing on books that ArtScroll would not touch.”
As a student at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Genack developed a close relationship with Rabbi Soloveitchik, helping the man known as “The Rav,” the philosophical leader of the Modern Orthodox movement, edit and publish his Torah insights.
The OU Press plans to bring out several new books each year, more, like the Haggadah, culled from The Rav’s extensive writings and taped lectures, and others by authors who share the OU’s philosophical approach.