Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz, Director
The Jewish Publication Society
2100 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
April, 2020 Nisan,5780
Concerning JPS and the Global Impact Bible
In the summer of 2017 JPS was approached by representatives of the Museum of the Bible to participate in a Jewish edition of their forthcoming Global Impact Bible and who requested a multi-year license of The JPS Tanakh to use in that volume. Given that JPS has long licensed its translation to a wide variety of Jewish, Christian and academic publishers and foundations in the United States, Israel and around the world, JPS was favorably inclined toward such an arrangement.
JPS did due diligence by requesting to review the available draft of the volume and determined that the project was a valuable study Bible. We were also informed that several Jewish scholars, including at least one very well-known to JPS, were vetting the project. In the summer of 2018 JPS concluded the license agreement.
Soon after this, several Bible scholars contacted JPS advising us not to enter into any agreement with the Museum based on their belief that the institution, funded by a billionaire evangelical Christian family, was subtly advancing an anti-Jewish “supersessionist agenda. While concerned about this issue, JPS did not believe there were grounds to attempt to void our newly signed contract. In September of 2018 I responded to the scholars, writing in part:
“Needless to say, our many authors and licensees do not necessarily agree on issues from the theological to the political. As a not-for-profit, educational organization we do not endorse any particular viewpoint or organization, but would not want to support a group whose interest is inimical to the Jewish people. Should we desire to revisit any decisions we have made it would be helpful, in this instance, to document any offensive passages in the specific book in question. Likewise, to make an informed decision it would be helpful to have access to arguments that both oppose and support Jewish involvement with the MOTB in general and this project in particular.”
The Global Impact Bible- Jewish Edition was supposedly published in late 2018 although availability was non-existent until recently. Now in the spring of 2020 concern has once again been raised about the issue and several points brought to our attention. The Table of Contents lists the first part of the Hebrew Bible, which we call “Torah” as “The Old Testament.” This is an unfortunate decision, and one which actually contradicts the cover of the volume itself. Placing the JPS logo on the cover was likewise ill advised. JPS has brought these matters to the attention of the Museum. We have been advised that neither the Museum nor the listed project editors in fact vetted and authorized final publication of the book, and that a sub-contractor has released a limited number of what amounts to “bootleg” copies, which is also in violation of the terms of our license. For these reasons we are joining with the Museum in seeking a “cease and desist” order for publishing or distributing copies of the book and removing extant copies from the market.
The Museum of the Bible itself remains a divisive issue within some circles of the Jewish academic world, and JPS authors, among the preeminent Bible scholars in the world, can be found on both sides of the debate. The larger issue of whether the Jewish community should cooperate with the evangelical Christian community also continues to be vigorously contested.
I find it sad and dispiriting that after 132 years of faithful service to the Jewish community calls are circulating on social media for a boycott of JPS.
I find it likewise lamentable that I have personally been the subject of crude and vitriolic comments and emails.
During the past decade that I have been head of JPS no concern by an author or reader has gone unaddressed. For this reason we have investigated and quickly taken the action mentioned above and issued this response. If further developments warrant additional response we will do so.
Bible literacy remains core to our mission, and JPS will continue to support appropriate projects that advance that cause, both in our own ambitious publication program and through the license of our translation.
In this age of pandemic the need to cooperate and work together, and to honor the Jewish value of civilly addressing our differences, is more apparent and critical than ever.