May 2017

Topic of the Week: HBI Conversations

May 25, 2017

HBI Brings Together Conversations Volunteers at JBC

By Amy Sessler Powell

To choose authors and learn from each other’s best practices, HBI brings together volunteers from all 12 HBI Conversations book and author programs at the Jewish Book Council Annual Networking Conference in New York.

This year, HBI proudly sponsored 23 volunteers from the 12 groups across North America. The volunteer coordinators from these groups choose their own books based on HBI’s mission of fresh ways of thinking about Jews and gender. Since the program is structured around a conversation between the reader and author, the JBC annual conference gives volunteers a valuable opportunity to share best practices and feedback about authors they hosted. In addition, authors of new books give short presentations, allowing the HBI Conversations groups to make their choices for the coming year.

HBI staff members also attend and speak to the group. This year, Lisa Fishbayn Joffe, HBI’s associate director, Terri Brown Preuss, HBI Conversations National Director and Debbie Goodwin, HBI Conversations National Coordinator attended. The gathering is an opportunity to thank all the Conversations groups for their support of HBI and let them know specific ways that HBI supports Jewish women authors. Here are a few. 


HBI published Cynthia Kaplan Shamash’s memoir, The Strangers We Became: Lessons in Exile from one of Iraq’s Last Jews (2015) in the HBI Series on Jewish Women, part of Brandeis University Press. HBI is proud to publish this unique and personal story of one Jewish family’s journey 

Research Support

HBI financially supported author Marlene Trestman’s research on Bessie Margolin through a 2011 HBI Research Award. This program provides $75,000 per year to about 25 junior and senior scholars for research on Jews and gender. Trestman’s research became the basis for Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin (LSU Press, 2016).

Research Associate Program

HBI financially supported Rachel Kadish through a 2012 HBI Research Award, and appointed her as a Research Associate. This scholarly designation gave Kadish broad access to Brandeis’ vast resources and resulted in her forthcoming historical novel, The Weight of Ink, a Jewish Book Council 2017 designation, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June, 2017).

Topic of the Week: New HBI Staff

May 12, 2017

Terri Brown Press: New HBI Conversations Director

By Samia Bano, senior lecturer in law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Terri Brown Preuss is the new national director of HBI Conversations, a program that brings together readers and authors of books with themes of Jews and gender. Preuss comes to the HBI with a great deal of experience in program development and management as well as volunteer recruitment and engagement from her many years as an active volunteer and Board member at the Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, MA.

“I’m so inspired by the mission of the HBI to promote and support scholarship in the field of Jewish gender studies and am thrilled to be leading HBI’s public engagement program, HBI Conversations,” said Preuss. “HBI Conversations allows readers across the country an intimate opportunity to connect directly with authors about their works. I strongly believe that fostering this intellectual, spiritual and deep connection to others and the arts is so very important in today’s fractured world.”

A graduate of Boston University where she received her B.A. in History with a minor in Women’s Studies and Northeastern University School of Law where she received her J.D., Preuss is trained as a lawyer. Early in her career, she worked for the ACLU as an intake attorney focusing on civil rights and civil liberties.