publishing phenomenon was born. Artscroll released a Shloshim commemoration volume on the Purim Megillah, a conglomeration of short commentaries and insights, culled from the classic Jewish commentators. Due to the unusual enthusiastic response, AS embarked on more and more exciting projects, as they realized there was a void in the market for classic Jewish literature, translated and annotated using the aforementioned Meforshim.
Emboldened by the early successes, AS took on other projects, building themselves a reputation for producing top quality books, both on the inside and the outside.
Recently, I've seen some AS bashing on other Jblogs, so I felt that on this day of Thanksgiving, I should express my appreciation towards the AS revolution. Below are 10 things that we owe AS, not in any particular order.
AS has raised the level of Jewish book publishing to a new plateau. There was a time when the term "Seforim Store" conjured up images in one's mind of dilapidated quarters on the Lower East Side, where the proprietor would wait for his disheveled customers to choose a Sefer from the overladen, decrepit bookshelves. Eichler's of Flatbush changed that image, in the early 80's, expanding from a one-storefront to a three-storefront superstore; clean and immaculate, with music playing in the background. In my opinion, much of Eichler's success was due to the new AS market, as the customer was now the typical Flatbush Baal Haabos, not the nerdy bespectacled scholar. AS's Seforim, in addition to the content, were produced to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, in addition to being well bound by their SeferCraft Inc. bookbinder.
2. The Shul Siddur:
In 1984, AS produced their first Siddur. It was a weekday/shabbos Siddur, yet it came with English translation, commentary on the bottom, contained every possible Tefilah one could ever need, and had easy instructions. In addition, they ensured that there would be minimal "flipping" around. They even produced an RCA edition, to satisfy the MO community that preferred the Prayer for the State of Israel and some other minor changes. Shortly thereafter they published the Siddur with a Russian translation, to ease the transition of Russian emigrants during the Glasnost and Perestroika era. AS also produced a children's edition, and finally an all Hebrew edition which has gradually taken over the Shul market, being cheap and sporting a superior binding. Additionally, their linear Siddurim, with bi-directional flow, have become favorites of many.
3. The Shul Chumash:
In 1993, they offered a Shul Chumash. This was a fantastic work, culling insights from a myriad of scholars over the centuries. Much thought went into it's production, even the height was altered so as to fit the average Shul shelf. A classic. In 2004, they initiated the all-Hebrew version, which is also slowly cornering the "Shul Chumash" market, being of long lasting quality binding and cheap in price.
4. Rashi/Ramban on Chumash:
Pure classics. Monumental works which required much research which clearly shows in the end-product. The old blue linear Rashi translations have been totally replaced by the AS Rashi (1995-1998). The notes are superior, explaining much of the French/Laaz and just about any question one could have on Rashi will be explained in those notes. The Ramban (2004-2010) is similarly a fabulous work, easily usable by the scholar and layman alike. Sure to become the definitive Ramban translation for anyone studying this work.
Following on the successes of the Siddur, AS published the full set of Machzorim. RH, YK, Pesach, Shavuous and Sukkos. True to the AS tradition, these Machzorim provided easy instruction, simple translation, no flipping, and interesting footnotes. Also they complemented the works with a short summary of Halachos in the back. Upper end leatherbound editions were also marketed. In 2003 and 2004, they also introduced the bi-linear versions of the RH and YK Machzorim, to make it easier to know the meaning of what one is saying as one is saying it. Similar bi-linear versions of Tehillim, Selichos and Kinnos were also published.
Notable though, was an unheard of recall for the Sukkos Machzor. Due to a minor error, AS recalled the entire shipment of Machzorim, and replaced them with a brand new version. [Recently I've read how there are mistakes in the new Koren Machzorim, yet I have not heard of any such unprecedented recall as was done by AS.]
7. Daf Yomi:
A good portion of the Daf Yomi success can be claimed by AS. Their Shas project, begun in 1991 with the publication of Mesechta Megillah, and recently completed (2005), made learning the Daf something that anyone could do. While many may argue that it is a crutch, no one can deny that thousands have been added to the Daf Yomi rosters since the advent of the AS translation. Going from the Felt Forum to Madison Square Garden to dual arenas and now a stadium, AS can be proud to have had a hand in this Kiddush Hashem. Additionally, AS has produced a Hebrew version, French, and now they embark on the Yerushalmi. Heroic!
Classics have been produced in many areas, inclusing Kashrus, Shabbos, Niddah and Aveilus. Their "Mourning in Halacha" is certainly a classic, enabling one to know what to do in the time of need. Rabbi Forst's Seforim are excellent references for one to be guided by.
Great for the youth to have role models. Reb Yaakov, Reb Moshe etc.and many of the Gedolim of yesteryear come to life in these well written books.
10. Shaar Press:
A new Label created primarily for Rabbi Berel Wein and now includes any publication that does not fit 100% Hashkafically under the AS umbrella. Notable is the History Trilogy begun by RBW in 1990 and completed in 1995. Shaar Press has a picture of a "gate", as their monogram, but sometimes I wonder if Shaar Press was named for the other meaning of Shaar...as in remainder, left-over.