Thursday, January 9, 2014

Is Artscroll instructing people to desecrate Jewish Books? "Tear off the covers of your chumashim"

Here is a recent offer from Artscroll Publications from their website:

"HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: You send us the front covers (only) of your shul’s worn Hebrew-English Chumashim—from any publisher—and we’ll send you the same number of pristine, brand-new ArtScroll editions (listed above) at 46% OFF the list price!"

To qualify for this offer, Artscroll requests that you tear off the front cover only of your Synagogues' Chumashim, from publishers such as Soncino, Koren, JPS etc and mail them to Artscroll. Seems to be that Artscroll is requesting you desecrate your current Chumashim and in the process render them useless and ensuring no one can ever put them to use again.

Several requests for a response from Artscroll have so far went unanswered.

Hat-tip: S. Appel

20 comments:

  1. Pretty despicable. What exactly was Artscroll thinking? I know of many people who would be happy to take for free a used chumash and it is a bizayon to the Torah to request to have the covers removed.

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    1. Al Pi Halacha, the covers need to be placed in Geniza, I wonder if Artscroll is ensuring that it is being done.

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    2. Where did u invent this psak from ?

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    3. Here are two Teshuvot I found on the web, with a Psak that they need binding need to be buried.
      http://www.yeshiva.org.il/ask/?id=66660

      http://www.batzion.co.il/shoot.php?id=8

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  2. https://twitter.com/AppelRN/status/421447597723627520

    Please give ArtScroll a chance to respond before re-tweeting. Case in point: Overlooking the many good things that ArtScroll publishes, someone called to "Boycott Artscroll until Weiss gives Gital her Get". Moral of the story: It's important not be senselessly extreme.

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  3. This is the correct and direct link to the above picture of ArtScroll's website: http://www.artscroll.com/upgrade.html

    The PDF linked to in the above page instructs that you "Remove the covers of your existing Hebrew-English Chumashim (minimum 25)."

    ArtScroll's phone number is 800-MESORAH (637-6724).

    Currently, this "sale" is through 1/27/14.

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    1. I suspect that this is a gimmick thought of by one of Artscroll's employees and without the knowledge of the owners or managers. Either way, I think Artscroll should end this offer. I emailed them asking for a response, I'll post a response once I receive one.

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    2. It's been 2 days and Artscroll still hasn't replied to my email requesting an explanation for this promotion. Perhaps they are too busy sorting Chumash Covers to reply to emails.

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    3. Refoel S. London, EnglandJanuary 13, 2014 at 6:14 AM

      Here is a copy of an email I sent to Artscroll:


      Dear Sirs,
      I recently read about a sales promotion by Artscroll whereby it is suggested that shuls remove the covers of worn chumashim and send them into you to earn a discount on sales of new seforim.
      If this were for the sales of sifrei chol of no intrinsic value, one might consider it a form of bal tashchis but could understand its logic.
      However, to disgrace sifrei kodesh in this manner is completely out of order, however lofty the intention.
      We see that great importance is attached, not only to the set of Luchos that Moishe was given on his second ascent to Har Sinai, but also to the Shivrei Luchos which had to be kept and preserved for all generations. But deliberately to go and break them is something that only Moishe Rabeinu was qualified to do and was informed of H-shem's approval for doing so.
      I have my strongest doubts that a commercial decision for sales promotion by Artscroll is going to draw praises in the form of "Asher shibarto, yishar kochacho al asher shibarto".
      Treating sifrei kodesh with a simply commercial intention is far from acceptable.
      Of course there will be someone who will say that it is so much better to enable people to enjoy a bright clean new sefer which will encourage better, more diligent learning and a brighter perspective on Torah by having fresh modernised seforim. Yes, they are right to say they want to encourage a more positive attitude to learning and so be it. But the way of doing so must not involve denegrating what has already served some purpose in the past. Here in England we have shuls and botei midrash who have had hundreds of seforim replaced, often by kind donors who re-equip complete stocks, but they never involve disgracing the old seforim. The old ones are sometimes put in separate storage cupboards away from the usual shelves and those people who don't have anything else are encouraged to go there and borrow, or take to keep, from the old ones. I have also seen pallets loaded with old print seforim which are repacked and shipped to communities, some in this country but more especially abroad, who simply cannot afford to pay for anything, but Boruch H-shem are experiencing an awaking for using sifrei kodesh as people return to Torah hakedosha. So an aitsa can be found if there is the will and someone is prepared to do the work.
      Artscroll's policy of what is effectively wanton destruction of seforim whereby they will not be used again is most unacceptable and casts a very unfavourable slant on the heretofore high esteem in which Artscroll is held in the Torah world.
      I trust that you will head my comments and put an immediate stop to this unacceptable practice.
      Yours truly
      Refoel Steinhart
      London, England.

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  4. It's ambiguous. Does worn mean "not new", covers losing their gloss, starting to get soft? Or does it mean "ready for the geniza"? If the latter, this sounds like a good deal. If the former, not so much. The Artscroll-bashers assume the first reading, and see it as Artscroll trying to undercut the market.

    We have a bunch of chumashim that are falling apart - the Artscroll ones. The Kaplans are just fine. So under the first reading, it seems they want to replace better chumashim with weaker ones.

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    1. If you look at the ad, the wording seems pretty clear: "—from any publisher—"
      They are not interested in used Artscroll Chumashim, they want Chumashim like Hertz and Kaplan out of the way. It is almost as if Artscroll wants to ensure that when the new Artscrolls show up, anyone walking in to shul will find nothing but Artscrolls to choose from.

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    2. Even if ready for the g'niza not sure you should be ripping them off. I guess if they fell off by themselves...

      In response to you and David G., they say from any publisher--obviously they mean Artscroll as well. Good point though that the older books are often more sturdy.

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  5. There is no ambiguity thanbo. ArtScroll clearly requests that you have to - and I quote - "Remove the covers of your synagogue’s existing Hebrew-English Chumashim"

    And thanbo, regarding your proposed "two readings," ArtScroll does not specify a limitation. This means that everyone is eligible to remove the covers of the ספרים, as long as the one removing it can reasonably consider it to be, as ArtScroll states, "worn." By the way, I was the one who informed the blog-owner of this and, as you can clearly see if you read the above comments, I am far from an "ArtScroll basher." I am simply pained to see such disrespect encouraged by ArtScroll. Also, I am actually surprised to see that this organization which produces often superior translations is proposing such a preposterous action. What an astounding disconnect.

    Again, they clearly state that the covers should be REMOVED. Even worse, the weekend has passed and it's already Tuesday night (5 days since the above post) and multiple people have contacted ArtScroll, yet heretofore ArtScroll has not ceased its incitement.

    How many people phoned ArtScroll? - 800-MESORAH (637-6724).

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  6. מה בערו האומר ישן מפני חדש תרדופו, מתחת השמים גם תשכחו.

    האין זאת נוול ברשות התורה?

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  7. Maybe it's a profit-driven business that just uses religious ambiance to enhance it's revenues - you know, like the kashrus business.

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  8. This is very real and very not new.
    My shul, to its discredit, took advantage of this "program" quite a few years ago.
    Scores if not hundreds of good-condition siddurim had their front covers torn off.
    I've not used one of the replacement Artscrolls since.

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  9. Sorry about the anonymity, but I did not clear my comment with the people mentioned below …

    I second Avinoam.
    My close relative from NYC told me of this story, from perhaps 3-6 years ago. At the time his large shul did this with siddurim (Birnbaum etc. editions), to take advantage of a substantial Artscroll discount for shuls. He described the shul gabbai crying as the gabbai tore off the covers, which were to be sent to Artscroll.

    My relative's interpretation of the request was, that Artscroll wanted to get the competitor's siddurim out of the market completely - that they did not want these old siddurim to be passed on to alternative use in an ancillary minyan, or a "shiv'a set", to or a new minyan in town looking for second-hand books to get started. We are not talking about "falling apart, on-the-way-to-geniza" books here, despite the picture in the ad.

    The only news in your story, is that this was not a one-time lapse, but that in 2014 Artscroll still has the gall to do such a thing, in what cannot possibly be halachically-permitted actions.
    More than any hashkafic differences over this or that translation, or the exclusion of such and such a prayer, the behavior described here should drive MO and other shuls to have nothing to do with those people – muktze mahmat mi'us.
    The rabbis of the "Artscroll sector" must come out publicly against such behavior towards seforim which were held by praying religious Jews for decades.

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  10. I called ArtScroll several times on multiple weeks and days; I asked the person at extension 211 (who takes orders for this upgrade sale) to speak to the one who is in charge of the synagogue upgrade offer. It has been seven days since I was told that someone would get back to me (for the second - maybe third - time) and I have not received a return call from anyone at ArtScroll since.

    The current upgrade offer officially ended today, 1/27/14. Unfortunately, it was not cancelled early.
    I hope that instead of responding to questioning with silence (my multiple requests to speak to the one in charge appear to have been fruitless in terms of a response) ArtScroll's response going forward will be permanent discontinuation of the offer, not to repeat again.

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  11. I ALWAYS SAID THAT ARTSCROLL IS NOT AN EHRLICHER MOSAD. I PERSONALY WILL NOT USE THEIR SIDDUR, AND IT IS KNOWN THAT BETH MIDRASH GAVOHA IN LAKEWOOD DOES NOT CARRY THEM IN ANY OF THEIR BATEI MIDRASHIM.

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