How to Run a Book Drive

(updated December, 2010)

How to help – First steps

Thank you so very much for your response to the Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel Project, and for your willingness to help. We are very grateful for your interest. As a grass roots organization, our success relies solely on volunteers like you. After you have reviewed this document, please contact us here.

Starting a book drive

You can start a book drive at any time, for any length of time and duration. This is your creation and your Mitzvah project. We assist you to find a school, share our experience of collecting and shipping books, and offer to mentor you during the process. We encourage you to make a personal connection to real students and teachers in Israel. Please time the start and finish of your book drives based on your convenience and the appropriateness of the activity to your synagogue, church, community center or school. Keep in mind that Israeli school are closed in July and August, when there will be no-one around to receive your shipment.

Organizing the book drive

We will help you organize the project. Current organizers will assist you and mentor you with laying out the map to follow and break down the work into separate parts. We recommend that you ask others to help you. Someone is needed to gather boxes, visit the post office to obtain M bags, make up a flyer, and help gather books. You can pack these at your house or have a community book labeling and packing day at your synagogue, community center or church. Recently, the book drive commuity in Denver, Colorado, composed of churrches and synagogues, organized a community packing day and shipped 4000 books to several schools! Once you start the Mitzvah work, making a commitment to ship books to Israel, you will see wonderful things occurring. Many people will assist you and support you in your work.

What kinds of books are needed?

Israeli students need good quality reading books in order to be able to learn English. Our goal is to augment existing school libraries with books that kids like to read. The books should be light reading chapter books, soft cover or hardback, that will hold the children's interest.

When you are introduced to your school(s) in Israel, be sure to ask via email what type of books that school needs, and what is the reading level of the students. The teachers will guide you, and you can ask us for further details about books. Please do not send reference books, encyclopedias or text books. Israeli schools have their own textbooks, but English books are lacking. Chapter books such as Magic Tree House, Boxcar Children series, Magic School Bus and Newbery Award books are appropriate for children. If you are not sure which books are needed, give us a call or email us and we can discuss this.

Screening the books

Please have your volunteers screen the books before they are shipped out to assure appropriateness of the material and that the books are in good condition. Keep in mind that these books should be gently used, not torn or damaged.

If you are shipping to more than one school, while screening, the books should be sorted by reading level so they can be shipped to the appropriate schools, and boxes marked accordingly. If you are shipping K-12 unsorted books, the teachers in Israel will do this step. Israeli students are typically three grade levels behind American students in reading English, as this is their second language.

Based on American reading levels, separate books into:
  • elementary level (K-4),
  • middle school (4th grade-6th grade)
  • high school (6th grade and up)
  • advanced (native readers)

Preparing books for shipment

Each book shipped to our schools must bear a stamp or sticker indicating that the book is used and donated. Below is a sample sticker - you are welcome to modify it. Stickers can be inexpensively produced by simply running them off pre-pasted sticker sheets on a copy machine. The purpose of the stickers is twofold: stamps or stickers are used to personalize the donation, making it more meaningful both to the person who sends materials and to the students who receive them. Some of our donors have visited the schools that received their books, and were very excited to see their books in the library. We have been told that the visit to “their” schools was the highlight of the trip! In addition, the label denotes that the books are a donation and not a commercial sale item. This is very, very important so that the books go through customs without taxation.

Shipping books to Israel

There are two methods: the U.S. Post Office or Louis Haber Postal Company, Darlington, Md. We used to recommend using the Post Office, but since the price has risen drastically, we now recommend the services of Louis Haber, for about one half the cost of the Post Office. Note that books may be sent via Louis Haber from all over the US: see the instructions on the Louis Haber page.

Another way to ship is to give a few books to someone visiting Israel to take to the school or mail from an Israeli post office. Since the rates went up on May 14, 2007, we suggest you explore this possibility. Books would need to be packed loose in a suitcase with a flat box that could be assembled (provide tape) in Israel and mailed. Do not ask someone to carry a taped box for security reasons. A visit to the school is a treat for everyone!

What about money for the supplies and for shipping the books?

The Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel Project is a grass roots, totally volunteer organization. Each book drive organizer is responsible for paying for the books to go to Israel. This is a Mitzvah project. You can share the Mitzvah of giving books by asking for shipping donations as well as for books. Dollar for dollar, this is a very cost effective way to deliver books to Israeli schools.

We do not offer a tax write-off as we are not registered as a non-profit. Some people have set up a Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel fund in a sponsoring synagogue or church so donations can be tax deductible. If you have a question about this, write us directly on this matter.

Money is important. You need it for shipping. There are different ways to raise it, as in any project. You can give it yourself, you can ask friends for money, you can do fundraising projects. If you are part of a B’nai Mitzvah class, you can do a car wash, or rake leaves in the fall.

You can ALSO raise money via the grassroots approach. We recommend that in explaining a book drive, you ask for shipping money. Explain what you are doing and why, and give others a chance to participate in the Mitzvah. One of the most creative ways to get this across, as can be seen in the flyer below, was developed by friends and book drive leaders in Ohio, who came up with the slogan “A Book and a Buck” for shipping.

What about publicity?

Doing local publicity in whatever form is most appropriate for your book drive. This entire project started with one person telling another of her idea. Jade told Rena that there would not be books for the Israeli libraries and wondered what they could do. A single thought began this project, and now, look at how many schools have benefited from this Mitzvah work. Communication is the key; one person at a time. In putting together your leaflets, press interviews, spot announcements for local radio stations, or website blurbs for your synagogue, church or school, please feel free to go ahead and talk about the school and the school cluster that you've commmitted to help. It is fine to talk about the student population, local conditions, and special problems (including security issues, economic difficulties, etc.). that the community you'll be working with is encountering, etc. However, the exact address of the school is your private matter, and not to be given out.

As an added security precaution, when you ship books, we also sincerely ask that you e-mail the lead volunteer teacher of the recipient school, detailing the number of packages you have sent, the return address, any special marks on the packaging, etc. Your consideration in detailing what to expect will help keep Israel's postal workers, teachers and students safe.

What about a school? Where do we send the books?

Upon receipt of confirmation from you that you will launch a book drive, or will ship books to one of our schools as an individual book donor, we will work with you to identify a school or schools that you feel you would be comfortable working with. The school you adopt will have from 600 to 1600 students in it. You will be shipping to students who do not have the resources we take for granted in the U.S. and Canada. They do not have the same libraries we have here, and the schools have limited budgets. The programs rely heavily on parent donations and teacher donations.

We hope you can begin a warm friendship between your community and the Israeli community. When you email the lead teacher, ask what they need, and ask about the community and the students. If you are so inclined, find out where they are from, what their challenges are, and how you can assist. Digital pictures can be exchanged by email so both sides can put faces to the names.

How are the books distributed in Israel?

The Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel Project works with every type of school in the Israeli public school system -- Jewish religious schools, Jewish secular schools, Arab Christian and Muslim schools, Bedouin and Druze schools. We welcome and will continue to welcome any Israeli public school that chooses to apply.

School participation in the Project is strictly voluntary, and from the perspective of the Israeli school teachers, parents, and others who volunteer their time to make it work for the students of Israel, this is definitely a bootstrap operation. The teachers and community volunteers involved in the Project take on responsibility for sorting through books when they arrive and assuring that each book reaches a school in their cluster where it will be put to good use. They end up putting in hours of unpaid labor in addition to their hours of work as educators.

As of March 2008, the book drives and book donors working with Books for Israel have generously sent over 75 tons of books to Israel. That’s a lot of books, but there are thousands and thousands of students in Israel still trying to learn English without the materials in hand to do so, and we hope that you will decide to help.

Please tell others about this project!!

Endorsements from educators, community leaders, religious leaders, and people's friends, neighbors and colleagues are absolutely the most effective way for this project to grow. In fact, it is the most consisten means by which this project has grown to date. The occasional press relase or article certainly helps, but most people who are working with us heard about the project from someone else.

Contact us via our international or Israeli coordinators.

You can also donate to the Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel Project via the TO SAVE A LIFE foundation. Donations made through the TO SAVE A LIFE FOUNDATION can help us cover operating expenses in Israel (such as petrol, telephone, internet, printed materials and, periodically, funds to release large book containers from the ports). TO SAVE A LIFE (TSAL) is a recognized charitable, tax deductibe, 501c3, volunteer organization. Donations to TSAL help a number of excellent efforts in Israel. You can also opt to specify that your donation to TSAL will be earmarked directly for covering operating expenses of the Jade Bar Shalom Books for Israel Project.

See TO SAVE A LIFE FOUNDATION's website at: and our listing there at:

Thank you very much!!!