Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pomeranz Booksellers "...where everybody knows your name..." #3

Yom chamishi, 2 Elul 5770.

When we visit a foreign country for more than a few days, most of us need to find a touchstone, a base, where we can feel at home. Someplace safe, where for a few minutes each week, we are in command of ourselves and our environment.

I started visiting Israel "on my own" in the mid-1990s. The trips were related to my work. I am not a person who craves wild new adventures. So I always marveled at my courage, as I would attempt these three-week trips without that excellent navigator and portable touchstone, The Dearly Beloved. (Somebody had to stay with the kids. Someday I'll write about those bachelor parties. Now that was true adventure!)

Michael Pomeranz
I stumbled upon a wonderful book store, when it was just a crowded "hole in the wall." This book store had more than just zillions of English-language Jewish books and seforim. It had Michael Pomeranz.

The fact that we were both born in North Hollywood California was a good start for conversation, and created something of a bond. But it was the American "service with a smile" that gave me that anchor in the stormy sea of foreign travel.

After several years of visiting, I remember saying to Michael how much I wanted to make aliyah, and how this would be "my book store" whenever I came to visit, and eventually when I would live here, please God. He pointed to one of the old, comfy reading chairs scattered around the small room. "Just remember that your chair will be waiting here for you when you make aliyah." His belief in my future aliyah meant as much to me as his extensive collection of "must have" titles and the "take as much time as you need" browsing policy.

Eventually, M. Pomeranz Booksellers moved down the street to a bigger, more beautiful store. (When we saw it, we wondered how the old store ever housed all those great books!)


Known simply as "Pomeranz" by regular customers, this excellent shop not only has books, but recorded music, various religious articles, and even Jewish gifts for the kids.

But with all the comfortable book-lined and air-conditioned space, and the excellent art (by Baruch Nachshon!), the real product of M. Pomeranz Bookseller is still the service, and the smiles.

Shira is the power behind Michael's smile.
A favorite employee: Michael's and Shira's handsome, hard-working son, Avraham Moshe

  Great sales outside the store tempt you before you even get inside.

Alon Freiberger finishes up his time in Israel with a larger purchase than he had expected. Don't worry, lad, it happens to all of us.  And -- you'll be back!
Don't tell us where the biggest bargains are. The Dearly Beloved and I will always prefer to shop at the places that treat you like a mensch. If the prices are decent, which they are at Pomeranz, that's just a bonus.

If you are visiting in Israel and want to find titles at good prices -- sometimes even before they hit the stores back in the Old Country -- drop by  Rechov Be'eri 5 in Jerusalem. You can also order books you are looking for by shopping online at

"Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came..." 
-- from the "Cheers" theme, by Judy Hart Angelo and Gary Portnoy

Seforim: books, often referring to holy books
Aliyah: Jewish immigration to Israel
Mensch: a human being -- here meaning "a person, not a number"
Rechov: street 


Anonymous said...

We love Michael! He helped us with a seforim registry for our wedding and recently told my husband how much he enjoys selling him books (which he brings to the Gush for us) because he can see the progress he's making on his daily learning. What a mensch! Really a pleasure to do business with him. Thanks for taking the time to give him the credit he is due.

bataliyah said...

What a lovely tribute. We first met Michael at a Israeli vendor fair in Baltimore during the years when few tourists were coming to Israel. We also remember the little store and have also dropped way more money in the new location than we intended to! It's all just so tempting and, you know, we are all book addicts in my house.

Shalomis said...

A lovely review. Well done. I recommend that Michael get his webmaster to put a link to this post on their site. If Michael has someone doing his Internet marketing, he should make hay of this. Include the link in a Twitter tweet, do a press release, link to it in an email to his customer list, print out copies of the post for his customers to read in the store, etc. You've given Michael's store free advertising...and he should make the most of it. Plus, by doing so, it helps advertise your blog to Michael's customers.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Beautiful. Lovely!

BTW, not to take away from Michael's stellar service, you CAN get good service in most places in Israel. My mom of blessed memory always said, 'you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.' In this country, once you go somewhere a couple of times, and especially if you can drag the owner/manager's name out of him/her, they'll practically give you the store. :)

sparrow said...

Oh Ruti, why didn't I know about this store before? I am a complete bookaholic (worked in publishing and bookselling for YEARS too). I have to visit the next time I come north. Thank you so much for the review. Please do some more posts like this - shops and streets and funky places I love about my homeland. I for one will be lurking and waiting for them:-)

BTW, could you give me an idea where this street is, say in relation to Yafo or the Old City. Bus route would be good too:-)

jessica golomb said...

We just shopped at the bookstore for Ruthie's midrasha needs. she chose a new siddur. her name will be engraved on it and Michael will have it brought to her school!It is a fabulous store and central to town. jessica golomb

Anonymous said...

Being on vacation I had missed this wonderful post. When I go to Israel, I want to visit this store.