By Randy Ellen Lutterman
Jewish Book Month arrives on Nov. 16 and runs through Dec. 16 this year, and JCCs are getting ready to celebrate all things literary. During this time, many JCCs host their arts and culture or book festivals, featuring the best from the Jewish literary world.
To keep the momentum going throughout the year, JCC Association promotes JCC Reads, a signature program developed to support JCC book clubs. The JCC Reads Library is a curated collection of some of the very best in Jewish literature available throughout the year.
This year, at the JCCs of North America Biennial, many of us gathered together for a special Shabbat book club session. The novel, “The Submission” by Amy Waldman, set the stage for a provocative and engaging conversation with the writer about our obligations as citizens, our obligations to those we love, and to those we don’t know. Some of the most interesting pieces of our conversation that afternoon had to do with what makes a particular book “Jewish.” We decided: every book is Jewish when looked at with heart, with a critical eye, and within the context of our larger community — our humanity. “The Submission” was an important addition to the JCC Reads Library, and we wanted to make sure you knew there were more gems waiting for you on our virtual reading shelf.
JCC Reads gathers useful information that you can use to inspire and excite your local reading group, much as we did at Biennial, raising it to another level. There are as many different ways to enjoy book clubs as there are different kinds of readers. Some JCCs have structured events, complete with visiting authors, and prepared book presentations. Other JCCs gather informally, to read together and be together. JCC Reads programs are great low-barrier opportunities to engage new members of the community; and it can open doors to other great programs at the J.
Many local JCCs join other JCCs across the continent in reading from our JCC Reads recommended library, uniting JCC readers into one large reading group. Some people call this: One Book, One Community. We like to think of it as an easy way for you to gather and think about big and small ideas.
The JCC Movement Vision and Statement of Principles talks about “creating a vibrant and welcoming Jewish environment that encourages people to lead engaged lives of meaning and purpose.” In multiple ways, the JCC Reads initiative brings the Statement of Principles to life:
Jewish living and learning sit at the heart of the JCC. Book Clubs create opportunities to examine our way of life, our beliefs and our assumptions large and small — in a safe community space.
Respecting and supporting diverse Jewish opinions, beliefs, and practices are essential for strong and enduring Jewish communities. Gathering together in open and fluid groups to discuss eclectic literature expands our worldview.
Interaction between diverse groups of Jews is critical for the wellbeing and future of the Jewish people. JCC Reads selections reflect a wide range of styles and subject matter, attracting a varied group of people looking for choice, excellent and challenging literary experiences.
Strong Jewish communities benefit, and benefit from, their larger communities. JCC Reads invites individuals, authors, group leaders, staff, lay leaders, and others into a facilitated conversation using select literature as a jumping off place for ongoing conversation and examination of the larger world. Our authors come from around the world; their books take you to unexpected places. By looking at more than ourselves, we become more generous global citizens.
We update the JCC Reads Library throughout the year, and the new titles include “The Submission,” which was so well received at the Biennial. We love hearing about your experiences with the program, so tell us if there is a terrific book or author experience you have had at your JCC. Let us know about your most creative reading group ideas.
The JCC Reads Library and support materials are available on JCCA.me. Please share there your thoughts and ideas about the program.
New Library Selections Include:
Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English – by Natasha Solomons
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door – by Etgar Keret
The Imposter Bride – by Nancy Richler
The Interestings – by Meg Wolitzer
The Submission – by Amy Waldman
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank – by Nathan Englander
Randy Ellen Lutterman is JCC Association’s vice president for arts and culture.