Ellen Frankel

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Ellen Frankel (born 1951) was the Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) from 1991 until 2009, and also served as CEO of the JPS for 10 years.[1] She retired in 2009 to pursue her own writing and scholarly projects, serving as JPS's first Editor Emerita.[2][3]


Frankel received her B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1973 and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University in 1978.

Frankel travels widely as a storyteller and lecturer, speaking to synagogues, summer study institutes, Hillels, Jewish women's groups, JCCs, museums, schools, retirement communities, and radio audiences. Among the programs she presents are Reading the Torah through a Woman's Eyes; The Evil Eye, Hamsas and Other Jewish Superstitions; Jewish Tales of Love and Romance; Jewish Ethics through Jewish Tales; From Spark to Fire: How Jewish Books Are Born; The History of Jewish Publishing in America; and Writing a Jewish Children's Bible. She also lectures on her work as a librettist of operas and other musical works.

A scholar of Jewish folklore, Frankel has published The Classic Tales: 4000 Years of Jewish Lore, a collection of 300 traditional Jewish tales; and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols, co-authored with artist Betsy Teutsch. She is also the author of The Five Books of Miriam: A Woman's Commentary on the Torah, published in an Israeli Hebrew edition as Midrash Miriam. She is the editor of The Jewish Spirit: A Celebration in Stories and Art, and contributing author to the ten-volume series, My People’s Prayerbook. She is also the author of The Illustrated Hebrew Bible, and the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible.

Frankel has published two books for young people - Choosing To Be Chosen, a collection of stories for Jewish pre-teens, and a sequel, Tell It Like It Is: Tough Choices for Today’s Teens, which she co-authored with her teenage daughter.

Frankel has also written libretti for two oratorios composed by Andrea Clearfield, Women of Valor and The Golem Psalms. The first was premiered in Los Angeles in 2002; the second in Philadelphia in 2006. Her most recent opera, with composer Leonard Lehrman, is "The Triangle Fire," based on the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York. The opera will premiere at the American Labor Museum on September 4, 2016. She is also developing an opera libretto based on Karel Capek's science fiction classic, R.U.R.

Frankel wrote the libretto for the fact-based opera Slaying the Dragon with music by American composer Michael Ching, based on the book Not by the Sword by Kathryn Watterson. The opera was commissioned by the Center City Opera Theater in Philadelphia, and had its world premiere in June 2012, conducted by Andrew M. Kurtz.

Frankel received the Myrtle Wreath Award from Hadassah in February 2000[citation needed], the Bernard Reisman Professional Excellence Award from Brandeis University in May 2009[citation needed] and the National Jewish Book Award in the Illustrated Children's Book category for The JPS Illustrated Children's Bible in 2009.[4]


Stories, Essays, Articles, Reviews

  • "Tales of the Crystal Shofar," Shofar Magazine (1982–86)
  • Essays/Reviews, Moment, Judaism, Jewish Spectator, Jerusalem Report (1977-)
  • Stories anthologized in Taking the Fruit: Women's Midrash:
    • Chosen Tales, edited by Peninnah Schram
    • Multicultural Children’s Literature: Through the Eyes of Many Children, Donna E. Norton
    • Humanist Readings in Jewish Folklore, Bennett Muraskin
  • My People’s Prayerbook, contributing author to 10-volume series (2000—)
  • On One Foot: A Middle East Guide for the Perplexed, Mitchell Bard - contributing author (2002)
  • “Jewish Women in Publishing,” Nashim, (Spring 2008)
  • “Jewish Symbols,” in Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora (2008)
  • Preface to the Torah in Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Qu’ran, ed. Brian Arthur Brown (2012)
  • “The Art of Libretto Writing” in The Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music, Volume 19, #1 (2013)
  • “Sing, O Barren One!” in Chapters of the Heart, ed. Sue Levi Elwell and Nancy Fuchs Kreimer (2013)
  • “What Troubles You, Hagar: Writing Hagar’s Libretto” in The Bible Retold in Jewish Art, Literature, and Music, ed. Helen Leneman (2015)


  • Choosing To Be Chosen (Ktav, 1985)
  • George Washington and the Constitution (Bantam, 1987)
  • The Classic Tales: 4000 Years of Jewish Lore (Aronson, 1989)
  • The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols (Aronson, 1992)
  • Tell It Like It Is: Tough Choices for Today's Teens (Ktav, 1995)
  • The Five Books of Miriam (Putnam, 1996)
  • The Five Books of Miriam, paperback edition (Harper San Francisco, 1997)
  • The Jewish Spirit (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 1997)
  • The Illustrated Hebrew Bible (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang, 1999)
  • Midrash Miriam, Hebrew Edition (Am Oved, Israel, 2007)
  • The JPS Illustrated Children's Bible (Jewish Publication Society, 2009)

Work as Editor

  • Consulting Editor, Folktales of the Jews (2005--)
  • Consulting Editor, The Contemporary Torah (2007)
  • Co-editor, with Goldie Milgram, Mitzvah Stories (2011)
  • Consulting Editor, Chapters of the Heart, eds. Kreimer & Elwell (2013)
  • Consulting Editor, Three Testaments: Shalom, Salam, Peace, Brian Brown (play; premier 2015)
  • Co-editor, with Goldie Milgram, Family Mitzvah Stories (2014)

Musical Libretti

  • “Sarah,” “Miriam,” “Hannah” and “Ruth” for Women of Valor, music composed by Andrea Clearfield, premiered at UCLA, Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, May 2000
  • “The Golem Psalms,” music composed by Andrea Clearfield, premiered at University of Pennsylvania, Mendelssohn Club, Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra, Sanford Sylvan, soloist, May 2006; also performed at Haverford College by the Bryn Mawr/Haverford choir and orchestra, Indiana University, and in March 2010, at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, performed by the Temple University Choir and Orchestra
  • “Hagar,” choral work, movement of “Women of Valor Suite,” commissioned by Women's Sacred Music Project, Daylesford Abbey, Paoli, PA (September 2011)
  • Slaying the Dragon, opera, commissioned by Center City Opera Theater, world premiere, June 2012, Prince Music Theater and Academy of Vocal Arts, Philadelphia
  • “The Esther Diaries,” music composed by Haralabos Stafylakis, commissioned by Sharon Azrieli, soprano. World premiere, June 10, 2014, in Montreal, performed by McGill Chamber Orchestra
  • The Triangle Fire, chamber opera, music by Leonard Lehrman. Premiere, American Labor Museum, Haledon, NJ, and Puffin Cultural Forum, September 2016
  • “Mothers of Moses,” chamber piece for three voices and two instruments, music by Rene Orth, commissioned by the Women's Sacred Music Project. Premiere: October 2016


  1. ^ Susan Berrin, "Ellen Frankel", Jewish Women's Archive (accessed November 2, 2010).
  2. ^ "JPS CEO/Editor-in-Chief Ellen Frankel to Step Down", Jewish Publication Society, June 29, 2009 (accessed November 2, 2010).
  3. ^ Aaron Passman, "Pulpit to Publishing: A New Leader for JPS", Jewish Exponent, July 08, 2010.
  4. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2020-01-21.