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New York - Interview: The People Behind The ArtScroll Revolution

Published on: December 6, 2009 12:30 PM
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Rabbi Nosson Scherman, editor of the new 73-volume English translation of the complete Talmud. Vincent Laforet/The New York TimesNew York - As general editors of ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications, Rabbi Nosson Scherman and Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz have led the “ArtScroll Revolution,” a major transformation in the availability of Torah literature in English.

Rabbi Scherman shared some thoughts with Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times.

Rabbi Yair Hoffman:
ArtScroll, especially in the publication of the English Gemara, has impacted Jewish history with their translations. Do the people involved in the production—the sponsors, the writers, all those who took part in it—realize the historical magnitude of the translation?

Rabbi Nosson Scherman:
Some of us do realize the changes—that it created a new generation of Shas understanding, Shas-literate Jews. Some do not appreciate the magnitude of what was accomplished.

Y.H.: Do the Schottensteins realize what they have accomplished?

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N.S.: It is an amazing accomplishment that the Schottensteins, who did not have the benefit of a yeshiva education, should realize the enormous need for the translation of Shas so that every layman would be able to have access to it. They once told us, “We used to be known as merchants. Now we are known all over the world because of the translation of the Talmud.”

Y.H.:
I imagine it was hard, initially, to get haskamos for the project. Can you tell me what was involved?

N.S.:
We went around to gedolim and discussed it with them and showed them samples of the proposed work. Some felt it was a very good thing. Others asked some very probing questions. The result was that all of the gedolim we spoke to gave us letters of approbation. In Israel, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, and Rav Elyashiv, yb’lct, both gave us tremendous encouragement. Both said that they could not write a haskamah, but that we could use their names and that they were behind it.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, didn’t write a written haskamah because he said, “Who am I to give a haskamah when my father-in-law, Rav Elyashiv, has lent his support to it?” He did say that 150 years ago, the gedolim supported a German translation of Shas called the Goldschmidt translation in order to combat the anti-Semitic notion that the Talmud was filled with hateful remarks about others. He continued that years ago gedolim supported such a translation for goyim, but now we need it for Jews. Rav Shach did have difficulties with it. He said, “It would make learning Gemara too easy.” Privately he said that he was troubled by it. Several gedolim communicated with him, and he said, “If they are taking responsibility for it then I won’t say anything publicly against it.”

Y.H.:
Is there a plan in the works for also translating the Tosefos on Shas?

N.S.: Not at the moment. Maybe in five or ten years down the line, but meanwhile, no . . .

Y.H.:
Is there a plan to translate the Shulchan Aruch itself?

N.S.: It is under discussion. Meanwhile, we have started on a Kitzur Shulchan Aruch project. Two volumes are out—you should get hold of it. It will be five volumes in all. This project also includes the rulings of the Mishnah Berurah and those of Rav Moshe Feinstein when they disagree with the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. There is also a lot more background information explaining the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch text itself. Whether we will go on to the full Shulchan Aruch is under serious discussion.

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz

Y.H.: When ArtScroll embarks on a large new project, do you use any of the software out there that allow for new types of collaboration—where several authors and translators can work simultaneously on the same document or project? Do you use these new technologies?

N.S.:
We do use e-mail, but not any of these new technologies, no.

Y.H.:
A lot of people work with their computers wherever they go. They travel with them. They find carrying the Gemaras as rather unwieldy. Is there any thought on making the ArtScroll Gemaras available electronically? Even as a PDF?

N.S.: Eventually, yes; at some point it will definitely happen.

Y.H.: Do you have a possible timeframe on that?

N.S.: I can’t really answer that. It is not my area.

Y.H.: Where do you see ArtScroll going in the future?

N.S.: There will be other projects. The Yerushalmi completion is probably eight or nine years off. We also have the Ramban on Chumash. Just last year we did the Mishkan project. That was an interactive CD which is really quite remarkable. That is a must-see.

Y.H.: Yes, I know, I have that.

N.S.:
We will be starting a major new project soon.

Y.H.: What might that be?

N.S.: It is not for public discussion just yet.

Y.H.: Do the Judaic Studies departments in the major universities order from you?

N.S.: Yes, many of them do. If they want to instruct their students in the Talmud, they really have no choice—the students are not equipped to use the Vilna Shas.

Y.H.: Would you ever consider putting the footnotes of the Hebrew Schottenstein Gemara into the Bar Ilan University CD—the one that people use to look up responsa, Rishonim, etc.?

N.S.: Well, when and if we would go digital we would probably do so on our own and not go on another one. So the answer is probably not.

Y.H.: How many total Schottenstein Gemaras were sold, roughly?

N.S.:
Well over one million individual volumes.

Y.H.:
Wow. I am not sure, but I think I noticed that on the smaller Gemaras the font is larger percentage-wise to the actual area of the total sefer than the bigger volumes. Is that true?

N.S.:
I believe that it is, the margins were adjusted.

Y.H.: Do you ever redo the older Gemara? The original volumes that you first started with?

N.S.:
Yes, absolutely. Every new edition has corrections. All of them had typos. Some of the paragraphs were rewritten for content, too. Two of the earlier ones had some larger rewrites. It took a couple of years to develop the system we have now. In addition, we made some changes to the format of the earlier ones—improvements like that. We are never just content to reprint.

Y.H.:
Since ArtScroll has come out, there have been new Gemaras in Hebrew, like the Shas Lublin and the Mesivta. They are similar in style to the old “green books” called the Otzer Meforshei HaTalmud. Are these looked at when ArtScroll does their next edition of the Gemaras?

N.S.: No, not really. Their contribution is entirely different. They go through different shitos of Rishonim and Acharonim. Our format is different. We are presenting the Gemara according to Rashi and raising any difficulties and answers entailed in that.

Y.H.:
There is some overlap, though, isn’t there?

N.S.:
True. But no, we do not consult them.

Y.H.: How have the Conservative and Reform movements looked at the Schottenstein? Have they adopted its use—notwithstanding the Torah-true editorship of the Gemara?

N.S.: Yes, there is quite a lot of that. In fact, there are many Jews who are not observant who study the Talmud now on account of ArtScroll.

Y.H.: What is the most remote location that you ever sent an ArtScroll Gemara?

RH:
Hong Kong and Shanghai. I have also been told that there are universities in Japan that use the Talmud. There are non-Jewish scholars in Japan who believe that the Talmud is the secret to the wisdom of the Jewish people, and they now study the Talmud. We got a call once from someone in Tasmania. There is a small Jewish community there with less than 300 families. They made a siyum there on one masechta. The caller said it was probably the first siyum on a Gemara in Tasmania in his lifetime.

Y.H.: What was the most interesting encounter with a reader that ArtScroll ever had?

N.S.:
We one received a question from one of the readers. He had a very good question on the Gemara. The call was transferred to one of the editors. He answered, “You asked a very, very good question. It is found in a gloss of Rav Akiva Eiger. You can find the question in such and such a place.” The man responded, “Rabbi, you don’t understand—I can’t read Hebrew . . .”

Y.H.: What about variant texts? Do you just go with the text in the Vilna Shas or do you use manuscripts and the several Dikdukei Sofrim (ed. by Rabbi Rabbinowitz) at all?

N.S.: Oh yes, frequently. On the Bavli we do so only occasionally, but on the Yerushalmi, we use many, many variant texts. We have a whole peirush identifying the exact text.

Y.H.: Were you given any guidelines by gedolim as to what to include in the footnotes?

N.S.: Not that much, actually. They had confidence in the people working on it to do a good job. The fact is from the start we followed pretty much these same guidelines.

Y.H.: Which have greater sales—the English edition or the Hebrew edition in Israel?

N.S.: In terms of total sales, the English still sells more than the Hebrew. In terms of Hebrew Gemara sales in America versus Hebrew Gemara sales in Israel, they are at the same level. And, of course, English in America is much more than in Israel.

Y.H.:
I have noticed that in America the Gemara is called the ArtScroll Gemara but in Eretz Yisrael it is called the Schottenstein. Why is that?

N.S.: Yes, it is funny, isn’t it? I think that it is because ArtScroll existed in America for 15 years before the Gemaras came out. The name “ArtScroll” meant nothing to them in Eretz Yisrael. When the Gemara did come out there it said, “Mahadur Schottenstein” in big bold letters on the cover. A good analogy is that no one says, “Avenue of the Americas.” They say, “Sixth Avenue”—even though the street signs say “Avenue of the Americas.”

Y.H.: I have encountered a number of choshuva maggidei shiurim, roshei yeshiva, and rabbanim who use the ArtScroll Gemaras. Yet it is kept out of sight—in an upstairs bookcase, in an inner shelf. Do you have any thoughts or comments on this?

N.S.: There are plenty of roshei yeshiva who say it out in the open that they do use the ArtScroll Gemara. There is one rosh yeshiva who says, “I have very limited time to do the daf hayomi, and I do use it. I also look at it to help prepare my shiurim.” He says it quite openly.

Rav Elyashiv goes through the ha’aros in the Hebrew edition when he is learning on his own to see if he missed anything and to jog his memory. He is not ashamed of it. He even keeps it on his desk. Rav Shteinman says a shiur in the Yerushalmi. He is saying his shiur on Yerushalmi from the ArtScroll Gemara itself. Big people are not ashamed to say that they rely on something. Small people hide it. It is like women ask for directions; men are too proud to ask sometimes.

Y.H.: What, other than the Talmud Bavli, do you feel ranks among ArtScroll’s greatest accomplishments?

N.S.: Looking far ahead into the future, the Yerushalmi is the work of greatest impact. It is now very learnable. We started a French edition—there are about a dozen volumes out now.

Y.H.: Yes, I have been meaning to ask that. Why did you start with a French edition? It cannot be because of sales.

N.S.: It was more of a public service. The French-speaking Torah community is very small. People felt that if we didn’t do it, Torah study in French would just come to a halt.

Y.H.: Speaking of expensive, how is it that the price of an ArtScroll is so modest?

N.S.: People in universities have asked us, “How do you produce a Gemara that sells for $40? A textbook that we produce is usually well over $100.” The answer is fundraising. One of the main purposes of our fundraising is so that we could present the Gemara at a reasonable price to people.

Y.H.: Any thoughts on making some sort of a Gemara forum, like a Wikipedia for Shas?

N.S.: No, not really. The problem is that in such a project there are so many errors and inaccuracies. I once saw something there [Wikipedia] about where I went to yeshiva and where Rabbi Zlotowitz studied, and it was completely inaccurate.

Y.H.: Speaking of that, what is your background? I imagine that you learned at Torah VoDaas, but where else?

N.S.: I learned in Torah VoDaas and in Beis Midrash Elyon. I was born in Newark, New Jersey. I started off in public school and went to Torah VoDaas as a dormitory student when I was about ten years old. I was a rebbi for eight years in “Torah VoDaas of Flatbush.” It later became Torah Temimah. And I was principal in Stolin for six years. Then came ArtScroll.

Y.H.: If I remember correctly, ArtScroll started off publishing fancy high-end kesubos…

N.S.: Yes, ArtScroll’s name came from that. Meir Zlotowitz had a company that was involved in such printing.

Y.H.: How did you get started, though?

N.S.: It happened after a tragedy. Meir Fogel was a rebbi in a yeshiva who was a close friend of Meir Zlotowitz. He passed away in his sleep one night as a young man. Meir Zlotowitz wanted to do something in memory of his friend. He had the idea of doing a translation and commentary of Megillas Esther that would be completed by the sheloshim. He asked me to edit it and add an introduction—which turned out to be the first ArtScroll publication. It caught on and went through many printings before the first Purim. There was nothing like this before. It was a need that had not been recognized. We were encouraged by Rav Moshe and Rav Yaakov to continue such work.

Y.H.: So would it be fair to say, “No Meir Fogel, no ArtScroll?”

N.S.: Yes, that is a fair statement.

Y.H.: Can you tell me more about him? Was he married? Any children?

N.S.:
Married with no children. That made it particularly tragic. He was a rebbi in Toras Emes.

Y.H.: How did you get together with Meir Zlotowitz? He was a graduate of MTJ and working. You were in Stolin.

N.S.: ArtScroll did brochures too. Someone told him that I could write copy. So we got together on a few projects. In chinuch, everyone needs an additional means of parnasah. That was my side income. Rabbi Zlotowitz, though, was the founder of ArtScroll and is still our dynamo. He is amazingly creative and dedicated.

Y.H.: I see your son occasionally at Yeshiva Tiferes Yisroel in Flatbush. He is clearly Stolin. How did you become Stolin if you started off in public school in Newark?

N.S.: My son is more Stolin than I.

Y.H.: So are you Stolin because of the job that you had then?

N.S.: Yes, that is a fair statement. Hashem has mysterious ways. So I and two of my sons became Stoliner chassidim.

Y.H.: How did you get such a strong background in English language skills?

N.S.: Yeshivos in general in those days had stronger general-studies departments than they have today. A very important influence was my friendship with Rabbi Nisson Wolpin and Rabbi Mendel Weinbach. They were two of my classmates, and we used to correspond. Rabbi Wolpin was from Seattle and Rabbi Weinbach was from Pittsburgh. During the summers we used to write letters. Does anyone correspond today? We wrote to each other—that helped. We tried to outdo each other; we were big-shot teenagers. The only way to learn how to write is to write. You know that. That is your craft. But it was those correspondences that helped a lot.

Y.H.: I have noticed that the word “ArtScroll” has taken on a new connotation in some circles. It has replaced the expression “highfalutin.” I have heard people say, “I can’t read that! It is written in ArtScroll English”—meaning with too high a vocabulary. Do you have any comment about that?

N.S.: We try as much as possible to avoid complex terminology. Simplify, simplify, simplify. I do try to avoid hefty words. When I edit others, I try to simplify what they are saying. If people feel that our English is not intelligible, it reflects the fact that they just don’t know English. It’s the American educational system.

Y.H.:
Some have suggested that simplifying it even more will yield even greater understanding. It has been proved that if one dumbs down the English in hospital brochures it will actually save lives. Are there any plans for simplifying some of your texts and translations?

N.S.: We have been talking about that over the years. Someone is working on a sample of a Chumash commentary for children ages 10 to 14. A very simple translation—clear and with a simple commentary.

Y.H.: So there is thought to do that to the Gemara? An ArtScroll middle-school edition? Such as the perakim that are taught to younger children in grades 5 through 8? That might sell like hotcakes . . .

N.S.: It is not in the works but may well happen.

Y.H.: Rabbi Scherman, it has been a pleasure talking with you. Continued hatzlachah! ♦



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Read Comments (64)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:05 PM Liberalism is a Disease!! Says:

Meir Fogel's 34th yortziet is right around now. His neshoma should have an aliyah.

2

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:08 PM Anonymous Says:

simply another PR stunt by this Business!! Make no mistakes Artscroll is a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS!!! Its amazing how they get these people to "SPONSOR" a volume........ Wish i can get sponsors to pay the rent for my office.

3

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:19 PM Anonymous Says:

I wish Artscrol can do
trans. on shulchan oruch

4

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

simply another PR stunt by this Business!! Make no mistakes Artscroll is a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS!!! Its amazing how they get these people to "SPONSOR" a volume........ Wish i can get sponsors to pay the rent for my office.

yeah I always wondered how come every book they sell costs so much when they have 15 or more names that sponsor every volume. What a scam! Ultimately, though, the jokes on us because we don't give Torah the chashivus that it demands with old fashioned hasmadah instead of lazy artscroll learning. Hashem yerachem!

5

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:28 PM Anonymous Says:

nice interview,
remarkably i expected the interviewer to point out that the english edition states on the front cover "an aid to talmud study".
i believe this is what rabbi sherman meant when quoting rav shachs concern.
on the one hand it gemara learning is accessible to many many more people. on the other the "hurevanya" that was associated with talmud study has been dissipated.
thus resulting in a weaker and less genuine understanding of the Talmud.

as far as translating tosfos is concerned there is a website called tosfos.com that elucidates tosfos very clearly. i dont think its out on all of shas yet. but its a amazing accomplishment.

hatzlacha to all.

6

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:28 PM please Says:

these people are so full of bunk. they are only into price gouging and making money. they print a big new volume of something, everybody wants, so they all by it. then they make the core convinient volume set a year later. then a year after that they make the eve more convinient small size volume set. in the end everyone ends up spending 3 times as much on something that alreayd had an inflated price and now they flushed money, have the extra copies of something they dont need, and wasted paper.
On top of that, artscroll prices on "must have items" are so inflated its rediculous. on top of that , so many of their books are purposely printed in aextra large typeface with larger spacing to make for bigger books so they can charge even more.
They dont let individual sellers charge less than a certain price on the gemoras because of the hold the big retailiers have on the market (this is a know fact)

Money money money money is what its all about. this is a pr article to drum up sales for the so-called "holiday gift giving" season.

7

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:30 PM Anonymous Says:

Great business, Artscroll!
They are rolling in the dough .......................

8

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:39 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

simply another PR stunt by this Business!! Make no mistakes Artscroll is a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS!!! Its amazing how they get these people to "SPONSOR" a volume........ Wish i can get sponsors to pay the rent for my office.

So what? Who has time to sit there and accurately translate ancient Aramaic texts for free? How many Gedolim today can pick up a gemora and accurately translate it into English?--You won't find them. Printing books is very expensive business. Go to a university where you will be spending up to $300 for a text book. $40 translated text is very cheap. If some university press hired PhDs to translate these gemoras, the cost would be over $100.

9

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:40 PM Anonymous Says:

To #2. Artscroll has changed the. Torah map. Let's see you do that.

10

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:41 PM Anonymous Says:

#2 you are wrong I believe. Think of it this way. How much work does it take (and still continuing...) for the street view feature to be mapped on google maps. It takes a long time and it takes a lot of money for such a project. Google has lots of money to take on such an enormous project. When artscroll decided to start such an enormous project they knew it will take lots of money. They are not google with their amazing cash flow. So hense the sponsorship. Plus this is win for the community at large. Just read the article!!

11

 Dec 06, 2009 at 01:46 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

simply another PR stunt by this Business!! Make no mistakes Artscroll is a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS!!! Its amazing how they get these people to "SPONSOR" a volume........ Wish i can get sponsors to pay the rent for my office.

im sure when your business does for klal yisroel what theirs does, then you'll find sponsors for whatever you want.

12

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:00 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

simply another PR stunt by this Business!! Make no mistakes Artscroll is a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS!!! Its amazing how they get these people to "SPONSOR" a volume........ Wish i can get sponsors to pay the rent for my office.

Why are you so bitter, did they once fire you? Is your business also serving the public with gevaldige products? Maybe then you could find a sponsor!

13

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:24 PM Anonymous Says:

I happened to think it was a very nice & enlightening article. I just don't exactly get the analogy of "Big people are not ashamed to say that they rely on something. Small people hide it. It is like women ask for directions; men are too proud to ask sometimes."
Is he actually implying that men are the small people? If its a for profit business then he doesn't have a lot of business sense. He's insulting 99.9% of their clientle.

14

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:25 PM Anonymous Says:

my husband never would have started learning gemara if not for artscroll. say what you want, but if you've been blessed with a yeshiva education K-12+ and you don't need artscroll, then kol hakavod. my husband's great-grandfather was the last in the line to be orthodox until now. so, don't knock it, it has its place.

15

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:32 PM joey Says:

tora shebal pe is not to be taken literally, it is to be studied with the many meforshim ,reshoinim and achronim, therefore translating it is a waste of time money and effort.
artschrol is a scam because THEY know that this is not the way to teach torah...

16

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:35 PM Anonymous Says:

Artscroll is a fabulous company and if we do not recognize it we are lacking in hakaras hatov..

17

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:37 PM Artscroll Fan Says:

I am a long standing ArtScroll fan.

I would love to see the following projects:
1. Mishnah Berurah
2. RAMBAM (with commentary)
3. More Mussar Seforim

in regard to the point that "it is written in ArtScroll eanglish" I've heard that too and chuckle as they may want to put out an ArtScroll Dictionary or a translation to the translation.

19

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:42 PM raw nerve Says:

Wow! It looks like #2 really hit a raw nerve!
Granted, that artscroll needed start up money, but they have come a long way. I was wondering if they had yet to cover the start up fee for Mesechta Brachos. And if they did, who gets all the surplus? That goes for the whole Shas as well. And translating the talmud to Hebrew is a relatively small job once you have the english version. Does the surplus money go back to the sponsors? If you add the sponsorship money together with actual revenue raised by all the Talmud sales, minus the expenses, I would be shocked if the expenses come close to the revenue. I would think the books would be more affordable.
Here is my theory. For a long time already, artscroll has been a forum for wealthy families to get their name out. These wealthy sponsors did not get rich from being suckers. They know, just like you and me, where the money is going. And they choose to "sponsor" books. It does wonders for the self image!
Oh, and I always tell people that I'm the sponsor who donated the single "anonymous" volume! (Ever wonder why there weren't more?).
In sum, I do believe that artscroll does amazing things, but lets call a spade a spade.

20

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:42 PM A Bookstore owner Says:

As someone who sells their books, they are completely unfair when it comes ti use sellers. In the entire book business, sellers get 40-50%, Artscroll gives only 30 off the list price. A joke. And no one could stop them either.

21

 Dec 06, 2009 at 02:54 PM Anonymous Says:

The article is excellent, the only thing wrong is that is NOT REPEAT NOT Meir Zlotowitz. Rabbi Zlotowitz is a much much larger man. This guy resembles him but it is not him - maybe they photoshopped it but I am telling you it ain't him - No one could lose that much weight in so little time.

23

 Dec 06, 2009 at 03:28 PM Anonymous Says:

I definitely like what Artscroll has done for us.
I would love for them to do Shulchan Aruch and Mishneh Torah.

24

 Dec 06, 2009 at 03:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

The article is excellent, the only thing wrong is that is NOT REPEAT NOT Meir Zlotowitz. Rabbi Zlotowitz is a much much larger man. This guy resembles him but it is not him - maybe they photoshopped it but I am telling you it ain't him - No one could lose that much weight in so little time.

the guy in the picture is rabbi adin steinzalts in a photo taken during an internvew a couple of years ago with rabbi styeinzalts (the photo also contains and english random house steinzaltz gemara)

25

 Dec 06, 2009 at 03:31 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #20  
A Bookstore owner Says:

As someone who sells their books, they are completely unfair when it comes ti use sellers. In the entire book business, sellers get 40-50%, Artscroll gives only 30 off the list price. A joke. And no one could stop them either.

they atr finally gonna get a run for their money with better siddurim. its been a sad 20 years since our community decided that the little notes and instructions in art scroll siddurimg were regarded ans law and halacha when its all just their publishers minhag/opinon.

26

 Dec 06, 2009 at 03:55 PM Yaff80 Says:

I am a Rebbi in a school here in UK.
The artscroll Gemara is THE most useful tool. I use it to give me clarity for teaching purposes. Even the translation (which I often adapt) is an amazing tool.
Keep up the good work

27

 Dec 06, 2009 at 03:56 PM Yaff80 Says:

one thing is certain.
They have been m'kayem the mishna "he'midu talmidim harbei", against all odds.

28

 Dec 06, 2009 at 04:19 PM tipster Says:

I know that they rook their writers and noone can make a penny with them is for sure. Tuff businessmen.

29

 Dec 06, 2009 at 03:55 PM Yaff80 Says:

I am a Rebbi in a school here in UK.
The artscroll Gemara is THE most useful tool. I use it to give me clarity for teaching purposes. Even the translation (which I often adapt) is an amazing tool.
Keep up the good work

30

 Dec 06, 2009 at 04:42 PM Anonymous Says:

Just to clarify,
I am not arguing about the great job Artscroll did with their work. I use their Shas myself! What I am trying to say is that Artscroll is a Business and not a tzadokah! They do this wonderful job with the intent to profit! What I can't understand is how they get the sponsors to shell out big bucks to help their Business!!!
Yours truly,
#2

31

 Dec 06, 2009 at 05:38 PM yacovoflkwd Says:

Much thanks to the publishers of Artscroll. It seems that most of the negative comments come from those who do not truly understand the exceptional quality of the b'nei Torah involved in it's production. Nor do they understand the realities of the costs of publishing and printing.
For those who would like to advance to Tosfos there is an excellent website "Tosfos.com".

Yacovoflkwd

32

 Dec 06, 2009 at 06:54 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

So what? Who has time to sit there and accurately translate ancient Aramaic texts for free? How many Gedolim today can pick up a gemora and accurately translate it into English?--You won't find them. Printing books is very expensive business. Go to a university where you will be spending up to $300 for a text book. $40 translated text is very cheap. If some university press hired PhDs to translate these gemoras, the cost would be over $100.

Torah and G-D are not a university buisness,so whats your point. I'm not saying that its not useful,but it is a buisness,and you cant deny that.....

33

 Dec 06, 2009 at 07:17 PM Anonymous Says:

Everyone agrees that artscroll puts out the best, most polished products. Every frum jewish home enjoys their products. I think that people are grumbling because they portray themselves as a charity, yet they charge top dollar, and profit immensely. (All in the name of god). If the books are actually subsidized, I would imagine that they would be a lot more affordable.

34

 Dec 06, 2009 at 07:32 PM Anonymous Says:

The many postings that complain about the high prices of Artscroll volumes are the same cheap and low-class yidden who kvetch about the prices of kosher food, wear cheap suits to shul and haven't dropped a time into a pushka for years. These are beautiful publications that are the product of years of scholarly research and worth every dime they charge.

35

 Dec 06, 2009 at 07:35 PM Anonymous Says:

What is the difference between hebew shottenstein and shteinzaltz

36

 Dec 06, 2009 at 07:43 PM Anonymous Says:

What a bunch of fabissered jealous people you are. Who cares if its a business or not or they can sell it cheaper or not or if they are or arent rpping off the sponsors?
You think you can do a better or equal job cheaper? Do it. You think you are smarter than the sponsors and wont get ripped off by this scam? Go make the money they have made for themselves and invest/sponsor elsewhere.

37

 Dec 06, 2009 at 07:45 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #32  
Anonymous Says:

Torah and G-D are not a university buisness,so whats your point. I'm not saying that its not useful,but it is a buisness,and you cant deny that.....

The point genius is that it costs alot more, i repear, ALOT MORE than you think it does. If you think its that cheap put out an equal product at a lower cost/price and let the free market do its work.

38

 Dec 06, 2009 at 04:45 PM Anonymous Says:

Just to clarify,
I am not arguing about the great job Artscroll did with their work. I use their Shas myself! What I am trying to say is that Artscroll is a Business and not a tzadokah! They do this wonderful job with the intent to profit! What I can't understand is how they get the sponsors to shell out big bucks to help their Business!!!
Yours truly,
#2

39

 Dec 06, 2009 at 08:17 PM Anonymous Says:

There are many common misconceptions in the "frum" world today: one of them is that when our rabbis wrote the gemorah they intended that the people who study it in the future would break their teeth over it. This is wrong. Yes, I do know all of the possukim that people are going to quote to me such as "uvohem ne'hgeh yomam vo'layla" as meaning that we are supposed to kill ourselves for hours trying to figure out the translation of 2 words. But, that's not what they or the possukim mean.
We are supposed to "think like G-D" when we learn; which does not mean that our efforts should go in to translating torah, but into UNDERSTANDING it is what we are supposed to do.
Do all the artscroll haters really believe that gemmorah was written in aramaic for any reason other than that was the language that they spoke at that time.

I do believe that there is intrinsic kedushah to hebrew, but not to aramaic. We are supposed to toil and swim in the waters of torah and to read and actually understand even a translation of a gemmorah is doing exactly that.
not everyone was able to attend yeshiva for 12+ years and has a complete grasp on learning, so all those who were so fortunate need to think

40

 Dec 06, 2009 at 09:24 PM Anonymous Says:

Artscroll is a wonderful tool. I am a chassidishe yingerman that often learns with baalei teshuva, and the artscroll gemaras are a huge help in translating it to english. I would have had a hard time explaining the gemara in polished english if not for Artscroll. Having said that, and also acknowledging the good quality bindings etc., we are being overcharged. Mesifta and shas lublin, which are comparative to Artscroll, (even though they work on a different shittah), are a third of the price. Can someone please explain that?

41

 Dec 06, 2009 at 09:38 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

The article is excellent, the only thing wrong is that is NOT REPEAT NOT Meir Zlotowitz. Rabbi Zlotowitz is a much much larger man. This guy resembles him but it is not him - maybe they photoshopped it but I am telling you it ain't him - No one could lose that much weight in so little time.

excuse me! who do u think u r?! have u seen him recently?! i would b very surprised 2 c if u weigh any less then DOUBLE what he weighs now!! what a sweet thing 2 say about the man who is one of the biggest marbitzei torah in the history of klal yisroel. u make me sick. u prob live in lakewood

42

 Dec 06, 2009 at 09:47 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

simply another PR stunt by this Business!! Make no mistakes Artscroll is a FOR PROFIT BUSINESS!!! Its amazing how they get these people to "SPONSOR" a volume........ Wish i can get sponsors to pay the rent for my office.

your crazy. i would love 2 meet u. i would b very careful what i say about such a choshuveh organization. u must have once gotten fired from there or at least once run into a bad senario with someone there. bec there is no basis 4 any of your info. call them up and im sure theyll b happy 2 explain it all 2 u. do u honestly think all these gevirim r just giving away millions of dollars so that artscroll can make all the profit. do u think they're all dumb? obviously not if they're so loaded! i do not know myself exactly how it all works bec although i wish i had that zechus, i dont have enough money 2 sponsor anything of theirs. all i am saying is b very careful what u say about such an amazing organization.

43

 Dec 06, 2009 at 09:52 PM Anonymous Says:

I think Rabbi Hoffman did a great job and I look forward to his articles and interviews!

44

 Dec 06, 2009 at 10:34 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #42  
Anonymous Says:

your crazy. i would love 2 meet u. i would b very careful what i say about such a choshuveh organization. u must have once gotten fired from there or at least once run into a bad senario with someone there. bec there is no basis 4 any of your info. call them up and im sure theyll b happy 2 explain it all 2 u. do u honestly think all these gevirim r just giving away millions of dollars so that artscroll can make all the profit. do u think they're all dumb? obviously not if they're so loaded! i do not know myself exactly how it all works bec although i wish i had that zechus, i dont have enough money 2 sponsor anything of theirs. all i am saying is b very careful what u say about such an amazing organization.

It aint no organization, its a business!

45

 Dec 06, 2009 at 11:02 PM Anonymous Says:

Just to clarify,
I am not arguing about the great job Artscroll did with their work. I use their Shas myself! What I am trying to say is that Artscroll is a Business and not a tzadokah! They do this wonderful job with the intent to profit! What I can't understand is how they get the sponsors to shell out big bucks to help their Business!!!
Yours truly,
#2

46

 Dec 06, 2009 at 11:01 PM Am Ha aretz Says:

All of us who waste time on the internet should spend half an hour a day studying a blatt Gemoro with Artscroll and learn something. We are not on the madreiga of past generations who were well-versed in many mesechtos.

47

 Dec 07, 2009 at 12:05 AM wizir01 Says:

Congrats to Rabbi Hoffman on an excellent interview.

I took the initiative and updated Wikipedia to more clearly reflect Rabbi Scherman's biography. I didn't see anything inaccurate before I started, but I added the material from this interview. I hope he is more satisfied with it now.

48

 Dec 07, 2009 at 12:27 AM Anonymous Says:

Artscroll is a wonderful tool. I am a chassidishe yingerman that often learns with baalei teshuva, and the artscroll gemaras are a huge help in translating it to english. I would have had a hard time explaining the gemara in polished english if not for Artscroll. Having said that, and also acknowledging the good quality bindings etc., we are being overcharged. Mesifta and shas lublin, which are comparative to Artscroll, (even though they work on a different shittah), are a third of the price. Can someone please explain that?

49

 Dec 07, 2009 at 01:15 AM YCA Says:

Rabbi Hoffman - I would like to see you do next an interview with CIS Publishers, they are now bigger then ever, they are reprinting a lot of their old books in addition to some new books. I think people who have read their books would agree that they have impacted people across the spectrum, especially with their holocust series. So let's hear from CIS to see how they have made an impact with their books.

50

 Dec 07, 2009 at 01:34 AM artscroll Says:

i work for artscroll so let me enliten . do you think there is only 1 person working on any given project? let me tell you there are 8 or 9 choshuva talmidey chacomim who work at artscroll . learning , writing, translating (a mini kollel) then there are quite a few who work from home some even as far as isreal . a total of about 20 -25 people work on an artscroll project . then there is a typsetting office with about 12 people who type and proof read all manuscripts plus they have there own binding dept with about 35 people in all there are about 75 people working at artscroll . so you tell me should they give the gemorros away for free or should they make a profit and be able to pay there employees (about 85% of the company are himishe yiddin)

51

 Dec 07, 2009 at 03:41 AM Bluh as in Rosenb Says:

Artscroll has changed the face of learning in the Jewish world.That is a fact to any unbiased person.Nothing and nobody is perfect including Artscroll,but they have done a beautiful job a masterpiece.Now if Only Lubavitchers would start copying Artscroll instead of complaining that they don't publish Chabad seforim...

52

 Dec 07, 2009 at 09:25 AM Anonymous Says:

Rabbi Sherman has done a tremendous favor to the Jewish world. His family originally met the Chabad Shaliach in Newark NJ, Rabbi Sholom Gordon, and he is the one who convinced Rabbi Shermans's parents to send him to Torah Vodaas, thereby changing the direction of his life. Chabad Houses all over the world use his seforim, including those in Tasmania, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and many more. Kol Hakovod to you for what you have done for Yiddishkeit.

53

 Dec 07, 2009 at 10:18 AM Anonymous Says:

ArtScroll is doing great thing, their gemara edition certainly changed the accessibility of Talmud. They can charge whatever they want as far as people buy it, and people do buy it because they need it. And for sure they need sponsors to make the publishing of any volume possible, because it involves tremendous spending on the work to produce. They don't owe anything to anybody. You don't like it? Don't buy it. You want to learn on a higher level, with meforshim etc.? Go ahead, it is very good. To slam others who become acquainted with the holy Talmud solely thanks to ArtScroll - nonsense.

54

 Dec 07, 2009 at 10:20 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #51  
Bluh as in Rosenb Says:

Artscroll has changed the face of learning in the Jewish world.That is a fact to any unbiased person.Nothing and nobody is perfect including Artscroll,but they have done a beautiful job a masterpiece.Now if Only Lubavitchers would start copying Artscroll instead of complaining that they don't publish Chabad seforim...

As a chabadnik, I agree. And actually Kehos started doing it - new edition of siddur Tehillat hashem - really done in Artscroll format.

55

 Dec 07, 2009 at 11:17 AM AH Says:

Reply to #51  
Bluh as in Rosenb Says:

Artscroll has changed the face of learning in the Jewish world.That is a fact to any unbiased person.Nothing and nobody is perfect including Artscroll,but they have done a beautiful job a masterpiece.Now if Only Lubavitchers would start copying Artscroll instead of complaining that they don't publish Chabad seforim...

Where have you heard any such complaints? Chabad has its own publishers - Kehot, Sichos in English, Kol Menachem, etc. - who do an amazing job putting out beautiful sefarim in Hebrew, English, and other languages. (And Kehot, at least, has been around since long before Artscroll was a gleam in anyone's eye, so who is copying who?)

Granted that it would be wonderful if Artscroll published Chabad sefarim as well (or, heck, cite them occasionally). But no one is holding their breath waiting for that to happen.

56

 Dec 07, 2009 at 11:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

So what? Who has time to sit there and accurately translate ancient Aramaic texts for free? How many Gedolim today can pick up a gemora and accurately translate it into English?--You won't find them. Printing books is very expensive business. Go to a university where you will be spending up to $300 for a text book. $40 translated text is very cheap. If some university press hired PhDs to translate these gemoras, the cost would be over $100.

That is true, but the universities also sell much less copies. If a book does not have so many copies, the price is higher to cover the cost of printing. According to the article over 1 million gemaras have been sold. If each sold for $40 that is $40 million. Artscroll does not hire Ph.Ds, and they pay their writers a pittance. I once wanted to write gemaras for artscroll but a Rebbe in yeshiva explained to me how little the writers get paid.
As for textbooks, it is a racket. Some of these books have a large readership so they publishers keep making new editions, so that people won't buy copies off each other on the used market. The new editions are exactly the same except with some redrawn pictures or diagrams. (Artscroll Gemaras do have errors, I have noticed errors in the 2nd volume of Chullin, so that does justify their rewrites.)
In some fields the books change frequently, such as in Genetics, where new material is added as more research is done. But mathematics is the same as it has been 100 years ago. There is not much new math except maybe on the research/Ph.D level.
That said, I value the Artscroll Gemaras as I wouldn't be able to learn Gemara without them.

57

 Dec 07, 2009 at 12:19 PM Anonymous Says:

What everyone is forgetting is you have had Feldheim, KTAV and other publishers doing this for years before Artscoll came along. Another point Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. has been translated by Metsudah years before. What does Artscoll do that the others have not?

58

 Dec 07, 2009 at 08:13 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #50  
artscroll Says:

i work for artscroll so let me enliten . do you think there is only 1 person working on any given project? let me tell you there are 8 or 9 choshuva talmidey chacomim who work at artscroll . learning , writing, translating (a mini kollel) then there are quite a few who work from home some even as far as isreal . a total of about 20 -25 people work on an artscroll project . then there is a typsetting office with about 12 people who type and proof read all manuscripts plus they have there own binding dept with about 35 people in all there are about 75 people working at artscroll . so you tell me should they give the gemorros away for free or should they make a profit and be able to pay there employees (about 85% of the company are himishe yiddin)

They can easily make their payroll just off the millions of sponsorships.

59

 Dec 07, 2009 at 04:59 PM Anonymous Says:

They did a tremendous job with the English translation of the Talmud Bavli. I did catch a few minor mistakes however. One was in Maseches Bechoros where they translated the word "beheima" as a beast and a "chaya" as an animal. In their Stone edition Chumash and the universally accepted translation, it should be the opposite.

60

 Dec 07, 2009 at 06:23 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

The article is excellent, the only thing wrong is that is NOT REPEAT NOT Meir Zlotowitz. Rabbi Zlotowitz is a much much larger man. This guy resembles him but it is not him - maybe they photoshopped it but I am telling you it ain't him - No one could lose that much weight in so little time.

Lots of folks are getting lap-bands or gastric bypass surgery these days! IMHO, it's cheating...

61

 Dec 07, 2009 at 06:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

The article is excellent, the only thing wrong is that is NOT REPEAT NOT Meir Zlotowitz. Rabbi Zlotowitz is a much much larger man. This guy resembles him but it is not him - maybe they photoshopped it but I am telling you it ain't him - No one could lose that much weight in so little time.

I love how artscroll claims to want to spread Torah but then has a copyright on the cover page stating that even a teacher can't make a photocopy of a single page to help teach his/her class... Gevald!

62

 Dec 07, 2009 at 09:23 PM Lamden Says:

Reply to #61  
Anonymous Says:

I love how artscroll claims to want to spread Torah but then has a copyright on the cover page stating that even a teacher can't make a photocopy of a single page to help teach his/her class... Gevald!

Read your own words! If one were able to copy any pages, no one would buy, just make copies --> people don't buy Artscroll can't pay writers --> no money, writers can't produce more Seforim --> No more spreading of torah! Gevald! is right!!

63

 Dec 07, 2009 at 09:33 PM Mrs. Z Says:

The first chumash I bought as a young BT was the Stone chumash! The way I really started to do my daily parsha study with rashi was with the artscroll rashi set.

Btw, they can be great aids for learning but you can still try to challenge yourself by first only looking at the loshen hakodesh and trying to puzzle the posek out and then looking at the translation. Artscroll is only a crutch if you make it into one. Of course, there are days when I just have no time (most days as I'm a busy wife and mother now) but I'm extremely grateful for Artscroll.

And for my fellow Lubavitcher, #55, Artscroll did include the Frierdiker Rebbe in one of their books on various Gedolim. It came out a few years ago and there's even a picture of him on the cover.

64

 Dec 08, 2009 at 12:13 AM AH Says:

Reply to #63  
Mrs. Z Says:

The first chumash I bought as a young BT was the Stone chumash! The way I really started to do my daily parsha study with rashi was with the artscroll rashi set.

Btw, they can be great aids for learning but you can still try to challenge yourself by first only looking at the loshen hakodesh and trying to puzzle the posek out and then looking at the translation. Artscroll is only a crutch if you make it into one. Of course, there are days when I just have no time (most days as I'm a busy wife and mother now) but I'm extremely grateful for Artscroll.

And for my fellow Lubavitcher, #55, Artscroll did include the Frierdiker Rebbe in one of their books on various Gedolim. It came out a few years ago and there's even a picture of him on the cover.

True, I forgot about that - thanks for the reminder.

All the same, there's including the Rebbeim among the Gedolei Yisroel, and then there's actually using their works where it's relevant. There is easily plenty of material in Tanya, Torah Ohr and Likkutei Torah, Ohr HaTorah, and Likkutei Sichos, to name a few, that could be adapted and quoted in Artscroll's various sefarim. (For proof of this, look at the phenomenal success of the Gutnick Chumash and Haggadah.)

65

 Dec 08, 2009 at 06:13 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #61  
Anonymous Says:

I love how artscroll claims to want to spread Torah but then has a copyright on the cover page stating that even a teacher can't make a photocopy of a single page to help teach his/her class... Gevald!

its very simple if a teacher wants to make a copy call them up and ask them. they would have to be nuts not to put it on.If they didnt people would do what they do with jewish music, one guy buys it and 50 others get it. use common sense

66

 Dec 25, 2009 at 01:01 AM Anonymous Says:

The Shulchan Aruch really is the central text that everyone wants to see translated. I don't really understand why it is merely 'under discussion'. The Kitzur is nice, but The Shulchan Aruch is absolutely central. I wish Feldheim or someone would do it already if Artscroll doesn't get started with it. There are many competent translators who would relish the challenge. People have been asking for it in Jewish bookstores and looking for it on the Internet for about 15 years now -- so much so that there are amatuer attempts on the Internet to translate it bit-by-bit and share it online, people are researching old JTS dissertaions and theses to get sections of it here and there, the best they can, but meanwhile at Artscroll it is 'under discussion', 'something we may do at some point'. This really needs to be done already. Ktav, Feldheim, CIS, University presses, listen up: Fisrt one to do it gets the glory... By the way, the 2nd thing I would love to see (and I'm sure I'm not alone) is a translation of some of the more classical Chasidic texts, such as Kedushas Levi, Aish Kodesh, etc. How about a "Classics of Chasidic Thought Series"?

67

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