Behind The Scenes of the YU Seforim Sale
Since 1964, Yeshiva University has had an annual Seforim Sale run solely by YU students. Last year, because of COVID-19, we weren’t able to have one, but this year it’s back to its former glory.
I had the opportunity to interview this year’s Seforim Sale CEO, Eli Seidman (SSSB ‘23). He estimated that about 90 people are working at the sale. The preparation began as early as April of last year when Seidman began hiring the upper staff of this year’s sale. The actual planning began around October. The applications for employment at the Seforim Sale went out right around the Chagim and the deadline for interviews got pushed a little bit because they were waiting for an official answer from YU as to whether the sale could happen, so they ended up hiring everyone in late December.
This year’s Seforim Sale is as big as in previous years. There are fewer seforim because of supply chain issues with vendors, but in general, they have most of the seforim that people are looking for and a very wide selection. From Tanach, Gemara, Jewish Novels, Jewish Philosophy, books on the Holocaust, Chassidus, and Chassidic swag, they have it all.
On the weekends, there are a lot more people, especially on Sunday and Motzei Shabbat, but “no night is a quiet night,” Seidman said. On opening day, over 2,000 people walked in.
As a customer myself, I went to the Seforim Sale, and I saw that there were no Baba Batras —the masechet that Wilf Campus is learning — left. When asked if it’s their most off-the-shelf item, Seidman said, “It’s the most sought after so it was sold out very quickly. We do reorders so hopefully we'll get more in soon.”
Seidman added that “the most popular item has been Daniel Ish Chamudot, a sefer that came out in honor of Donny Morris.” As the back of book describes it, it’s a book that’s “Rich with insights in the weekly parsha and ben adam l'chavero from Donny's friends and teachers, Daniel Ish Chamudot seeks to guide its readers in glimpsing how Donny lived his life, and to discover how his voice reverberates in the way we learn the Torah.”
The prices at the Seforim Sale compared to other seforim stores are definitely the cheapest or almost the cheapest, Seidman said, because they get it at a discount from many of the vendors, which allows them to keep their prices low. As he said, “We don't have a high markup because our goal is to spread the love of Torah which shouldn't come at such an expensive cost to our customers.” The 2020 Seforim Sale generated about $740,000 in revenue and sold over 28,000 books. Nearly 90% of its sales came from in-person purchases.
When it comes to consumers, their most frequent customer is really everyone from the community, especially Wilf and Beren students. They’re just trying to attract people from everywhere, especially from the community, even students from other college campuses. Shai Bernstein, a West Hartford NCSYer who came for an NCSY Shabbaton on campus commented, “I love it so much when different and diverse Jews are able to come together and have an opportunity to retain something from one another, whether that be Tanach, Gemara, rabbinic advice, or even kosher recipes, which is why I love the Yeshiva University Seforim Sale.”
Overall the Seforim Sale run by Seidman and the Seforim Sale staff has been a massive success, and we’re looking forward to the Seforim Sale to continue for many years to come.
Photo Caption: The Seforim Sale
Photo Credit: YU Commentator