(JTA) — Jewish Lights Publishing, an influential independent publisher of books on Jewish spirituality, renewal and self-help, has been sold to a Nashville company that said it will not be keeping any of the staff.
Turner Publishing said it would be acquiring Jewish Lights along with three other imprints owned by LongHill Partners, the Vermont-based company founded by Stuart Matlins.
Matlins, a former management consultant and co-founder with his wife, Antoinette, of Congregation Shir Shalom in Woodstock, Vermont, founded Jewish Lights in 1990 to publish “an inspirational literature that was intellectually interesting, emotionally satisfying and spoke to the relevance of Judaism to life, and of the personal relationship between people and God,” as he told an interviewer in 2010.
Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, an author whose books with Jewish Lights include “Being God’s Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link between Spirituality and Your Work,” credits the publisher with recognizing the spiritual longings of American Jews at a time when fewer mainstream publishers were publishing Jewish books.
“Stuart wanted to demonstrate that the intellectual world of Judaism could actually help the reader have a richer and deeper life,” Salkin wrote in a recent appreciation. “Jewish Lights essentially invented the genre of modern Jewish spiritual literature – and as such, revolutionized contemporary Judaism.”
Among the rabbis and scholars it published were Lawrence Kushner, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Art Green and Daniel Matt. Top sellers included “Happiness and the Human Spirit: The Spirituality of Becoming the Best You Can Be,” by Orthodox rabbi and psychiatrist Abraham Twerski; “The Women’s Torah Commentary: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions,” and the “Rabbi Harvey” graphic novel series by Steve Sheinkin.
The new owner’s president told Publishers Weekly that Turner will publish 20-30 titles a year from Jewish Lights and the three other imprints acquired from LongHill, and the search for new acquisitions is “active and ongoing.” The new imprints will be Turner’s first that focus solely on religious and faith-based topics.
“We are buying the assets only,” Todd Bottorff said. “We will continue to work with some of the existing personnel on a freelance basis.”