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How Are JCCs Celebrating National Jewish Book Month?

By Jane E. Herman

November is National Jewish Book Month, and in the age of COVID-19, here’s a sampling of how some Jewish Community Centers are developing new ways to partner and deliver the richness of Jewish literature and the joy of reading to their communities. According to the Jewish Book Council, more than 1,200 events have already been scheduled, with new ones added every day. And, as you will read below, our JCCs are finding amazing ways to be stronger, together.

  1.  At the Louis S. Wolk JCC of Greater Rochester in Rochester, New York, home to Susan B. Anthony, the Festival will host a day-long celebration of the centennial anniversary of suffrage on October 28, and feature discussions with these and other authors: Laura Kumin, All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food, and the Battle for Women’s Right to Vote; Marlene Trestman, Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin; and Jennifer Steinhauer, The Firsts: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress.
  2. At Jewish Community Alliance in Jacksonville, Florida, online programming has given the JCA an opportunity to expand the “Discover Culture Jewish Festival”. An author event on November 2 will feature Ben Sheehan’s “OMG WTF Does the Constitution Actually Say?: A Non-Boring Guide to How Our Democracy is Supposed to Work.” On November 11, a parenting program will highlight Dr. Abigail Gewirtz’s “When the World Feels Like a Scary Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids,” offering practical advice to raise capable kids while bad things are happening in the world.
  3. Six Florida JCCs—Alper JCC in Miami, David Posnack JCC in Ft. Lauderdale, Galbut JCC in Miami Beach, Adolph and Rose Levis JCC in Boca Raton, The Roth Family JCC in Orlando, and Michael Ann Russell JCC in North Miami Beach—have partnered to create a Jewish Book Fest with Jewish Book Council authors, hosting more than 25 different authors this year. It’s being held in October so it won’t conflict with November’s Miami Book Fair.
  4. At the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Portland, Oregon, this year’s virtual author’s series has had higher attendance than in-person programs of the past! Myla Goldberg, author of “Feast Your Eyes,” will be a featured guest during Jewish Book Month.
  5. The Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos, California, will host a mid-November online visit with Israeli author Etgar Keret, winner of the Sapir Prize, Israel’s most prestigious literary award, for his book “A Glitch at the Edge of the Galaxy.”
  6. In an online event and as a tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, z”l, bestselling author Janice Kaplan will be the guest of JCC of Northern New Jersey in Paramus, New Jersey, to talk about her new book, “The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World.”
  7. Journalist Paul Alster will join The Joan and Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island in Staten Island, New York, online on Thursday, October 22, to discuss his debut novel, “Kin or Country.” Set in 2048, this political thriller takes place two weeks before an unprecedented referendum that proposes to split the State of Israel into two: one state for ultra-religious groups and one for the rest of Israeli society.
  8. The JCC of Greater Baltimore recently took over the Baltimore Festival of Jewish Literature. Among the authors and books to be featured in virtual events are Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy, authors of “Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People.”
  9. The Harrisburg JCC in Pennsylvania, a big fan of National Jewish Book Month, recently teamed up with two other Pennsylvania organizations, the York JCC and Harrisburg PJ Library to bring families a virtual PJ story each Friday for Tot Shabbat. In addition, members of the Women’s Philanthropy cohort are encouraged to attend monthly events in the ongoing Virtually Limitless author series with JFNA.
  10. In Long Beach, California, at the Barbara and Ray Alpert JCC, the early childhood education center is taking the lead on this year’s book fair, to be held from November 30 to December 4. Bedtime stories during each of the eight nights of Hanukkah will be shared on the Facebook pages of the ECE and the JCC, so community members can join.
  11. In partnership with JCC MetroWest and Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, will bring Stephanie Butnick, Mark Oppenheimer, and Liel Leibovitz, authors of the Newish Jewish Encyclopedia to the community on November 11.
  12. The Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia in Fairfax, Virginia, is partnering with the Weinstein JCC in Richmond, Virginia, Old Dominion University’s Institute of Jewish Understanding and Inclusion, and the Konikoff Center for Learning at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for “Wandering Dixie: Dispatches from the Lost Jewish South,” featuring author Sue Eisenfeld in conversation with Amy Milligan, assistant professor of Jewish studies and women’s studies at Old Dominion University.
  13. This year’s virtual book fair at the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, will include more than 40 author events. One special offering in partnership with the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan, will be a live virtual discussion with Debbie Cenziper about her new book, “Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America.”
  14. A new book group, the BYOB (Bring Your Own Book) Virtual Author Discussion Series was launched this fall at the Bender JCC of Greater Washington in Rockville, Maryland. The monthly program features a Jewish Book Council fiction author discussing his, her, or their newest book in lively conversation. To date, Alina Adams, author of “The Nesting Dolls,” and Rachel Beanland, author of “Florence Adams Swims Forever,” have been guests at BYOB.
  15. The Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, Ohio, will celebrate Jewish Book Month with events featuring Andrew Ridker, author of “The Altruists;” Jamie Bernstein, author of “Famous Father Girl;” and Naomi Nachman, author of “Perfect Flavors.”
  16. For nearly three decades, the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta has showcased some of the most exciting and talked-about authors, thought leaders, and innovators of the day. This year, as part of the MJCCA’s newly formed National JCC Literary Consortium, JCCs from throughout the country can participate in the MJCCA Book Festival, bringing high quality programming to their own communities. Among the JCCs that will be participating are the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos, California; the Aaron Family JCC in Dallas, Texas; Harrisburg JCC in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Stamford JCC in Stamford, Connecticut; JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains, New Jersey; Pozez JCC of Northern Virginia in Fairfax, Virginia; the Mittleman JCC in Portland, Oregon; the Mayerson JCC in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
  17. In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the Katz JCC also is offering some of its own book and author events during the Katz JCC Bank of America Festival of Arts, Books and Culture, held from November 8 to 19. Among the many authors who will be featured during the festival are: Steven Sater, Rabbi Laura Geller, Iris Krasnow, Samuel Shem, David E. Low, Hallie Ephron, Erica Katz, and Janice Kaplan.
  18. At the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus in La Jolla, California, blogger, influencer, and author of, “Peas, Love and Carrots,” Danielle Renov will visit online with the community on Thursday, November 12. In addition to discussing Sephardic culture and cuisine, Israeli food culture, and cuisines of the Middle East, she also will talk about the ways the cookbook inspires, informs, and ultimately connects us in the kitchen and at the table, as we prepare foods that bring us together.

Which of the many books to be featured during Jewish Book Month events have piqued your interest? How many have made it onto your “to-read” list? Leave a reply on this post below to let us know!

Jane E. Herman is the senior writer at JCC Association of North America. Email her at [email protected].

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