Carol Hupping Closes the Book on Her Career

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After 17 years, Carol Hupping is saying goodbye to the Jewish Publication Society.

Locked in a room on the eighth floor of the Jewish Community Services Building in Center City, the last 17 years of Carol Hupping’s professional life reside silently on the shelves within. All her work for the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) — from an Etz Chaim project she did for the Conservative movement in 1999 to a 2016 book on Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism — is in that room. In fact, it contains JPS’ works going back to 1843, many of them still in remarkably good condition.
For Hupping, though, there will be no more additions to the collection. On March 31, the woman from Merrick, N.Y., who years later became what she calls “a Jew by choice,” is ending her JPS career.
Sure, she’ll remain active — continuing to serve as librarian and co-chair of the ritual committee at M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, in addition to doing some volunteer work, gardening and a bit of travel. She just won’t be trekking into Center City each day.
“I feel it’s a good time for me to retire, because we’re in a stable position and have a lot of interesting books in the works,” said Hupping, who’s spent the last few weeks training her successor, Joy Weinberg, the former managing editor at Reform Judaism magazine in New York. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. It seemed like this was the right time for me — and for JPS. It’s been a terrific journey, and I’ve really loved it. It’s been a great experience working with so many smart people. I’ve seen over 100 books published in my 17 years — can you believe I didn’t make it to chai?
“But I expect the transition to be a smooth one.”
That transition actually started a few years back, when the nature of the publishing industry — highlighted by the growing popularity of books online — forced the nonprofit JPS to find a partner. That’s where University of Nebraska Press stepped in.
“We went to partner with them because it was very hard for us — with all the changes on the Internet — for us to maintain our independence,” explained Hupping, who spent 18 years with Rodale Press in Emmaus, then three years freelancing in London while her husband, Bill — a project manager — supervised a job there, followed by a stint at Peterson’s Publishing outside of Princeton. “The publishing business has gone through a lot of changes — like newspapers.
Being online has made publishing more competitive. So there’s very little money to be made. And when you’re in niche publishing — like Jewish publishing — that margin becomes even slimmer. Being nonprofit, we depend not only on money from book sales but also grants and donations to sustain us. We felt the only way we could continue and thrive was by partnering with a larger publishing house.”
The deal was completed in 2013, and has worked well for both sides. “They assumed two-thirds of our operation,” explained Hupping, who went to school in Vienna for a short while. “We weren’t in immediate danger, but before we had the partnership, we saw the direction we were going. They took the financial risk. I think with the partnership and the work we’ve done, JPS is set for a very bright future, with over 40 projects in development.”
Hupping won’t be part of it, though. Considering how she got here in first place, though, she leaves behind quite a legacy. “I’m a Jew by choice,” she revealed.
“I didn’t grow up as a Jew but converted to Judaism 15 years ago. I was Protestant. I grew up in a very Jewish community — many of my friends were Jewish, and I was always very intrigued with the Jewish religion. But I didn’t convert for my husband. I converted for myself; it’s always seemed a comfortable fit for me.”
So was JPS, which gave her the unique opportunity — à la Voltaire’s Candide — to have the best of both possible worlds. “I was here in Philadelphia and, luckily, JPS was in Philadelphia,” she explained about the chain of events that brought her here. “I was pursuing my Jewish education as somebody getting ready to convert, and I was in publishing, so it was a beautiful blend of my personal life getting to extend it into my professional life. I went to lunch with Ellen Frankel, our former director. She offered me the full-time managing editor’s job at lunch. At that point, I was freelancing and had a number of projects going, but I agreed to work part time.
“After six months, I said to her, ‘This really isn’t part-time work.’ She replied, ‘I was waiting for you to realize that.’ So I started working full-time on Jan. 1, 1999.”
Now, just over 17 years later, she’s leaving — with few regrets. “We have found our niche and will stay in it,” said Hupping, who will have to learn to stop saying “we” when referring to JPS. “In all truth, I think we’re well positioned. The core of our operation is the Bible. We publish the JPS translation Tanakh — that is the most widely read Jewish translation of the English bible. We also publish Bible commentaries, books on history, ethics, all the tradition and culture.”
You’ll find them all in that room on the eighth floor. From here on, though, someone else will have to unlock it. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Hupping, anticipating the June wedding of her son, Haddon, after her daughter, Lauren, got married last June. “I’ve worked with so many smart, caring people, and I’ve learned so much to advance my Judaism. Every book is a learning opportunity.”
“Every book is a learning opportunity and not just for the readers.”

The book on Carol Hupping at JPS is now closed. But the next chapter of her life is just beginning.

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729

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