Louis Behrman met Sara Diamond more than 100 years ago while working for a small publishing company in New York. Behrman had emigrated from Lithuania, and Diamond, an immigrant from Poland, had applied to be his secretary.
The two fell in love, married, and in 1921 pooled their publishing know-how to open a bookstore on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. In its early days, Behrman’s Jewish Bookshop mostly carried religious books and ritual items such as menorahs, prayer-shawl bags and religious texts. In time, the business evolved from retailing to publishing. Today, Behrman House Publishing is the leading North American publisher of materials for Jewish education.
“We serve virtually every Jewish congregation in North America and many in English-speaking countries around the world,” says David Behrman, Louis and Sara’s grandson and current co-owner of Behrman House, headquartered in Springfield Township. “If there’s a strong Jewish community, we’re present in that community.”
The company shifted to publishing under the guidance of David’s father, Jacob Behrman. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Jacob returned home and noticed that Jewish families were moving from the cities to the suburbs and forming new religious schools. To meet their needs, the business began to focus increasingly on publishing religious books and texts.
The business grew rapidly over the ensuing decades, and in 1985 shed its bookshop to focus solely on publishing out of an office in West Orange. David took the reins in early 2000 and moved the firm to its current 23,000-square-foot home in Springfield Township.
These days, the business is co-owned by David and his wife, Vicki Weber; it has 18 full-time employees and uses authors, illustrators and copywriters from all over the world. Behrman holds rights to more than 1,000 titles, a dozen of which are part of a new imprint called Apples & Honey Press, developed in partnership with Gefen Publishing House of Jerusalem.
Behrman House continues to change with the times. Today, digital education comprises a third of the company’s business. Behrman offers its Online Learning Center—a digital platform for students and teachers to interact—as well as online games, apps and books for Kindle.
David and Vicki also remain committed to serving their local community. David is on the boards of the Jewish Book Council and the New Jersey Partnership for Jewish Living and Life Metro, headquartered in Whippany, and formerly served on the executive board at his synagogue in Summit. Vicki served on the zoning and planning boards in their hometown of Summit and currently sits on the board of trustees for the Winston School of Short Hills.
David and Vicki have three children, ages 21 to 25; each has worked summers in the business. David says there is no pressure on the new generation to take over the family enterprise. For now, he plans to continue serving the communities that Behrman has served for the past 94 years.
“This is a place where we do good things, we help educate children to learn how to be successful in the world,” he says. “And we’re appreciated by the community for what we do.”Click here to leave a comment