And Thou Shalt Read’s RuthE Levy shares one of the many books that can be found in her Jewish book store in Roswell.

And Thou Shalt Read’s RuthE Levy shares one of the many books that can be found in her Jewish book store in Roswell.

 

RuthE Levy was ready for a change when she heard that the owner of the local Jewish bookstore was retiring. She had been teaching sixth and seventh grade Judaics at Davis Academy for three years, and while she had a passion for Jewish education, she was searching a broader venue by which to reach young people.

“I went home to my husband and said, ‘How’d you like to be a Jewish book dealer?’ He said, ‘Go for it,’ and that’s all she wrote,” says Levy. “We had a family contest and my husband came up with the name, And Thou Shalt Read, and we’ve been growing and growing ever since.”

Since then, Levy has been expanding the store, including the buy out of other companies, including the purchase of Oy Toys in 2011. Customers can now browse through Jewish-themed items, ranging from a Noah’s Ark floor puzzle to the book “Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life” by Ronnie Friedland and Edmund Case. Since its opening, Levy has devoted nearly all of her time and energies to the store.

“Just the idea, for a lot of people, that they can come into a store and see, in one place, a huge selection of Jewish books and Jewish toys and Jewish stickers,” Levy says draws in crowds.

This month, Levy will be hosting a special event for Bar and Bat Mitzvah aged children as well as their parents. On August 11 starting at 1 p.m., two young local talents will be showcasing their work – Rae Antonoff of Rae’s Designs and Meg Fisher of Elite Tallit.

Antonoff specializes in kippots and Hebrew micography and is a student at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, California, an education paid for in part by her artwork. The pieces depict Biblical scenes rendered by nearly microscopic Hebrew lettering. Fisher creates custom tallitot and chuppot, timeless pieces which will be displayed at the Trunk Show.

“It just enriches the experience for the child and really, everyone,” says Levy of the handmade Bar or Bat Mitzvah items. “Tallitot will be modeled by some of Elite Tallit’s clients who will share the personal meaning of their personalized tallit and why having it personalized means so much. It’s a really great opportunity for me to be able to promote two great local Jewish artists.”

When we spoke with Levy, she was in the midst of a national convention in Massachusetts hosted by NewCAJE (formerly Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education). She describes the scene as “just about everything you could imagine in the Jewish education world.” Herein lies the motivator behind her full and often frantic schedule.

“I’m very passionate about continuity of Judaism,” explains Levy. “It’s just very, very important to me that Jewish children stay Jewish children and live Jewish lives. I want them to know, love and appreciate the beauty that is our Jewish heritage. That is my truest goal. We can talk all day about dollars or who knows whatever, but that’s my big thing.”

At the end of the day, Levy is about making the Jewish tradition accessible and fun by appealing to children’s creativity. In honor of Rosh Hashanah, And Thou Shalt Read will be offering a variety of yellow and black, bee inspired products. Before she even advertised her bee finger puppets online, 10 had already been ordered. The pot full she brought to NewCAJE similarly was drained.

In addition, mark your calendars as the store will be bringing a beloved character to life October 6. Levy will be throwing “Sammy Spider” a birthday party, in honor of Sylvia Rouss’s children’s series turning 20 – an event which Rouss herself will be attending. It’s all about making Judaism accessible to children.

“I was talking with a guy here who was promoting a product,” recalls Levy, “and I said, ‘I’ll have to take this back home to my educators.’ He said, ‘Your educators?’ And I said, yeah, all the educators from Atlanta and all 48 synagogues that I deal with, and the ISJL institute for Jewish Life.  I’m doing my part for Jewish education. I might not be in the classroom, but I’m certainly behind the scenes.”

 

One of the fun things we’re going to be doing for Rosh Hashanah is bee things, you know? Bees, honey – Rosh Hashanah right? So we’ve got bee pencils, bee pencil toppers and we’ve got bee finger puppets. Before I even had the bee puppets on the web for an hour, we got an order for 10 of them. So, I brought a big pot full of them here and I’ve only got six left. We like to take new approaches and make Judaism fun.

I’ll give you a heads up. Do you know who Sammy The Spider is? It’s a series of children’s books all with Sammy Spider in them, written by a woman named Sylvia Rouse?  And the first one was published October 1st, 1993. The most recent one was published August 1 and I have it here. Anyways, so Sammy Spider is turning 20 and we are having a Sammy Spider birthday party at my place on October 6. So that’s the next big deal. It’s gonna be a very big deal. Oh and Sylvia Rouse is coming. Tres cool.

So yes, I’m doing my part for Jewish education. I might not be in the classroom, but I’m certainly behind the scenes.

 

I was talking with a guy here who was promoting a product and I said, I’ll have to take this back home to my educators. He said, your educators? And I said, yea all the educators from Atlanta and all 48 synagogues that I deal with, and the ISJL institute for Jewish Life. I like to keep them informed about the newest and latest in Jewish education. That’s part of my mission. Lots of great stuff.

 

 

 

How did you get started?

Back in 2007, when I was transitioning out of teaching, I found out that Dr. Wentos was retiring or was planning on retiring. So I went home to my husband after learning that and said, ‘How’d you like to be a Jewish book dealer?’ And he said, ‘Go for it.’ That’s all she wrote.

We had a family contest and my husband came up with the name, And Thou Shalt Read, and we’ve been growing and growing every since. We’ve done some company buy-outs, we bought some companies that went out of business and then in 2011 I bought Oy Toys.

Teaching before?

I was teaching sixth and seventh grade Judaics at Davis Academy.

Full time now?

Oh yes, full time and a half.

Conference right now?

I’m Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education , reborn as New CAJE.

What’s goin on over there?

It’s a national conference and they invite people from all over to give short classes, hour-long seminars, on various topics like spirituality and teaching Jewish. It’s just about everything you could imagine in the Jewish education world; Jewish music, story telling. There are a lot of great people here to rub elbows with. Lots of really great Jewish educators. So they have a vendors fair and I am one of the vendors.

Goals for the future?

Well, I’m not sure if I should tell you my real thing. I’m very passionate about continuity of Judaism. It’s just very, very important to me that Jewish children stay Jewish children and live Jewish lives. I want them to know, love and appreciate the beauty that is our Jewish heritage. That is my truest goal. Ya know, we can talk all day about dollars or who knows whatever, but that’s my big thing.

Event Details?

It’s going to appeal to children who are within Bar Mitzvah age, within a year or two, who would like to have something different in the way of a Tallit. Every time you add something like that, it just enriches the experience for the child and really, everyone. There are the tallit made with the grandfather’s ties.

 

How did you end up choosing the artists?

I’ve been working with Rachel a long time. Both of the people involved in the show, I’ve known for a long time and I’ve seen their work. They’re different and wonderful, each in their own way. I was just gonna say that they’re gonna have their shows and to top it off I’m going to have all of my Bar Mitzvah books on sale.

 

What kind of demographics in the store?

Age range, zero to death. I have adult books, teenage books and kids’ books of all sizes, shapes and descriptions. Or I should say, Jewish descriptions – music, videos, games.

 

Biggest sellers?

You know it’s really hard to say, but just the idea for a lot of people that they can come into a store and see, in one place, a huge selecition of Jewish books and Jewish toys and Jewish stickers – for example. You know I have something like 8,000 line items. You know, my computer gets sick when I try to do an update. There’s just so many things in there. We’re constantly trying to find new things to enhance the Jewish experience.

One of the fun things we’re going to be doing for Rosh Hashanah is bee things, you know? Bees, honey – Rosh Hashanah right? So we’ve got bee pencils, bee pencil toppers and we’ve got bee finger puppets. Before I even had the bee puppets on the web for an hour, we got an order for 10 of them. So, I brought a big pot full of them here and I’ve only got six left. We like to take new approaches and make Judaism fun.

 

What is gonna be really cool is the tallits are going to be modeled by the people who bought them and at least some of them are going to talk about their tallit and why they got it made, what they like about it. So it’s gonna be really cool.

It’s a great opportunity for people to see some really special things for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

 

It’s a really great opportunity for me to be able to promote two great, local artists. I’m really excited about the opportunity.

 

I’ll give you a heads up. Do you know who Sammy The Spider is? It’s a series of children’s books all with Sammy Spider in them, written by a woman named Sylvia Rouse?  And the first one was published October 1st, 1993. The most recent one was published August 1 and I have it here. Anyways, so Sammy Spider is turning 20 and we are having a Sammy Spider birthday party at my place on October 6. So that’s the next big deal. It’s gonna be a very big deal. Oh and Sylvia Rouse is coming. Tres cool.

So yes, I’m doing my part for Jewish education. I might not be in the classroom, but I’m certainly behind the scenes.

 

I was talking with a guy here who was promoting a product and I said, I’ll have to take this back home to my educators. He said, your educators? And I said, yea all the educators from Atlanta and all 48 synagogues that I deal with, and the ISJL institute for Jewish Life. I like to keep them informed about the newest and latest in Jewish education. That’s part of my mission. Lots of great stuff.

 

 

The trunk show we will be doing on August 11 will be a dual trunk show event with Elite Tallit and Rae’s Designs.  Some of the customers will be modeling their tallits and telling about them.  Others will be on display, as will be Rae’s Hebrew micrography.

 

Meg Fisher is a needle artist.  She works with customers individually to determine their likes and needs, helps them pick their fabrics, and does the designing.  The lion tallit was painted by hand as are all of the atarahs and corner pieces.  One of the tallits that will be on display will be one in which the grandfather’s ties were integrated into the design.

 

Rae Antonoff is the daughter of Debbie Antonoff and husband (I don’t know his name) in Marietta.  Rae is currently a student at Hebrew Union College (los Angeles campus) where she is studying to be a jewish educator.  She does the Hebrew micrography to help pay her way through school.   These are beautiful renderings of Biblical scenes all done in almost-microscopic Hebrew lettering from the appropriate parshiot.