Volume 63 Issue 9
SOY Seforim Sale "Most Successful" to Date
Student-Run Event Carried Out Smoothly Despite Administrative HindrancesBy Dovid Menchell
This year's SOY Seforim Sale was the most successful ever, measured by profit accumulated, according to its two co-chairmen. The Seforim Sale, a yearly tradition carried out by YU students for the metropolitan Jewish community, began on February 7th and culminated on the 21st. Though confronted by all too typical administrative impediments in the preparatory stages, to the credit of the student coordinators, the Sale ran extremely smoothly.
As in years past, the Sale provided an extensive selection of merchandise to the YU student body as well as to the Jewish community at large. An estimated 6000 English and Hebrew titles were offered at an average discount of 30% off typical bookstore prices.
The wide variety of classical Jewish texts combined with Jewish literature included works in the areas of Tanach and its commentaries, Jewish law, Jewish philosophy and thought, Talmud and its commentaries, responsa, reference books, Jewish history and biographies, and prayer books. The range of materials extended to Jewish children's books, cookbooks, music CDs and tapes, computer software, tzitzit, and other common Jewish items. The Toras Chaim and Arzei Halvanon Haggadot proved to be among the most popular single selections, selling between 70-100 copies each.
In planning arrangements for the sale, Co-Chairmen Amichai Erdfarb and Chaim Loike encountered the usual lack of cooperation from the upper University administration. Sale organizers were not able to secure the room, Belfer 502, until late in the arrangements. Erdfarb said that members of the lower administration dealt with were extremely helpful, but the upper administration made every permission request an ordeal. The upper administration members never availed themselves directly, but required written requests for every minute detail and then did not give Sale organizers the opportunity to negotiate. However, Security and Facilities Management, particularly Jeff Socol and all the captains, were extremely helpful, Erdfarb related.
Other administrative hindrances included securing elevator usage. Because the third elevator in Belfer Hall was not functioning, Sale organizers were unable to schedule any retail hours during the day, even on President's Day. The reason given was that classes, in particular at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, would be disrupted by the increased bustle and demand for elevators. As a result of only night retail hours, Sale workers faced more exhausting hours as they had to restock each time the Sale closed. Frustrated by the lack of assistance, Loike said, "The administration does not like the Seforim Sale," with their only explanation being that they feel it is against students' interests.
Despite the obstacles, the Sale still ran more smoothly than ever. People involved in previous years' sales were able to implement changes that provided needed improvements. Last year's two biggest problems were that the computers were connected to several different databases rather than a single one, and that the check-out centers did not always work simultaneously. Much work was put in by Ben Sandler and Mendy Berkowitz, who devised a computer program and system to solve those and other problems.
According to Sandler, what makes the Seforim Sale so unique is that it is solely a product of students' efforts. In addition to the aforementioned organizers, plus Jeff Weiss as floor manager, and Ephraim Shapiro as music coordinator, numerous students chipped in with their time. An estimated twenty-five students put in hundreds of hours each. All volunteers were partially compensated with Seforim Sale credit.
Erdfarb complimented all of the staff for their job, saying, "I'm extremely impressed with the whole staff. The crowning achievement was the efficiency with which we were able to get everything done, despite the numerous obstacles." Erdfarb was particularly proud that this year's total of dollars grossed compared favorably to top past years' Sales despite being restricted to fewer retail hours.
Innovations for this year's Sale included a much improved web site, designed by Ephraim Shapiro. Also, for the first time ever, the Seforim Sale had a book signing. It was conducted by Chanoch Teller on Thursday night February 11.
The most telling sign of the Sale's success was that over 10,000 people came and benefitted from the experience. Erdfarb hopes that next year's Sale will match this year's level of success without the administrative stonewalling.
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