By: Sruli Fruchter  | 

2021 Annual Seforim Sale Cancelled due to COVID-19 Safety Concerns

The 2021 Seforim Sale — North America’s largest Jewish book sale held annually at Yeshiva University — was canceled due to COVID-19 safety concerns, The Commentator has learned. The next sale is scheduled for Feb. 2022.

“After much research and analysis, we have decided not to have the in-person Seforim Sale this year due to social distancing restrictions and health and safety guidance,” 2020-21 Seforim Sale CEO Eli Seidman (SSSB ‘22) told The Commentator. “We explored many different options. However, given the ever-changing NYS and NYC guidelines, it was not possible to plan and host the event this year and a virtual sale was not an option.”

According to Hudi Rosenfeld (SSSB ‘21), the 2019-20 CEO of the Seforim Sale, last year’s sale sold over 28,000 books, amassing around $740,000 in revenue. Roughly 89% of those sales came from in-person purchases, and the other 11% is through the online website’s sales. In 2017, YUNews reported that the 2017 Seforim Sale collected $750,000 in revenue.

According to its website, the Seforim Sale is run entirely by YU students and attracts about 15,000 customers for each sale, which is usually held in February. A registered non-profit, the book sale was established in 1964 and its profits go toward “YU Student Life initiatives.” Sy Syms School of Business Associate Dean Michael Strauss, who acts as the business and personal advisor to the student leadership of the Seforim Sale, told The Commentator, “Historically, the Seforim Sale has provided financial support to the Office of Student Life, for student programming. The Seforim Sale will be meeting with the Office of Student Life in the near future to discuss the 2020 contribution.”  

In past years, the Seforim Sale was held in Belfer Hall’s Weissberg Commons on the Wilf Campus, involving weeks of approximately 100 YU students setting up before opening and afterward for disassembling. “In terms of spacing — which is totally fair by YU, as it’s allowing students’ education to take precedence — YU is using Weissberg Commons as a classroom, and the Seforim Sale cannot be held there,” Seidman said. “In the time we’re living in right now, they need these large spaces for socially-distant classrooms and other things. YU can’t give up these important spaces for a long time as the Seforim Sale would require.”

Beginning Oct. 21, undergraduate students returned to campus and YU facilities such as the libraries, batei midrash and cafeterias opened in a limited capacity. As of publication, YU’s COVID-19 Tracker indicated that only three students or employees tested positive for COVID-19 since campus first reopened. 

Some students were disappointed to learn about the Seforim Sale’s cancellation, but they understood that it was necessary. “I really enjoyed working for [the Seforim Sale] last year,” said Rivky Terebelo (SSSB ‘21), who worked as a Hebrew Halacha section manager for the 2020 Seforim Sale. “I was looking forward to being on upper staff this year and having the opportunity to be more involved. I think it’s really sad that I will not have the opportunity, but I understand that it's necessary during this time.”

"The Seforim Sale is definitely an event that YU and much of the wider Jewish community look forward to,” said Zachary Ottenstein (YC ‘22), who worked as a Hebrew Tanakh section manager in last year’s sale. “It is amazing that this one event attracts everyone from Satmar chassidim to secular academics who all share in the pursuit of Jewish wisdom. While it is unfortunate that it will not run this year due to the pandemic;  I am confident that when it does return, it will be all the more exciting to the public."

Photo Caption: According to its website, the Seforim Sale is run completely by YU students and attracts approximately 15,000 customers each sale.
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University