All’s ‘fair’ in books at the J

By Deb Silverthorn
Once upon a time there was a community who read beautiful books, of varying interest and design, and they shared them. That community comes together beginning Oct. 25, celebrating Book Fair 2008 at the J, in cooperation with the Tycher Library.
“We have something for everyone, of every age, and we couldn’t be more excited,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, director of the JCC’s Melton Parent Education Program and Book Fair coordinator. “For a ‘People of the Book,’ these programs are going to be incredible.”
Saturday, Oct. 25, the series opens at 8:45 p.m. with a dessert and wine reception and “An Evening of Comedy with Alan Zweibel,” chaired by series co-chairs, Ann Zimmerman Gallant and Susan Kandell Wilkofsky. Zweibel, the author of “Clothing Optional: And Other Ways to Read These Stories,” an original writer for “Saturday Night Live,” co-created and wrote for television’s “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” and also wrote for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He collaborated with Billy Crystal on Broadway’s “700 Sundays” and with Martin Short on “Fame Becomes Me.” He is the winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor for “The Other Shulman.”
“The Book Fair, on hiatus since 2004, is something our community wanted, needed and is looking forward to,” said Kandell Wilkofsky, whose own nightstand holds 10 or more books “in progress.” “For me, reading has always been a given and a passion. Putting this together has been a joy. Each title stands on its own merit and the diverse selection is exhilarating.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 29, Marilynn Shaffer chairs when Ariel Sabar, author of “My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq,” speaks at 7 p.m. Sabar’s father, Yona, who was born in the mountains of Iraq and who, in the early 1950s, joined close to 120,000 Kurdish and Iraqi Jews who left for Israel, has spent a lifetime preserving the stories and language of the Jewish community of his past. Ariel Sabar is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Baltimore Sun, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, the Providence Journal and the Washington Post.
Sunday, Nov. 2, at 1 p.m., Marcy Helfand chairs as Dallas resident Dr. Joel Roffman speaks about “Coping with Adversity,” co-authored by Rabbi Gordon A. Fuller of Congregation Agudath Jacob in Waco. “Coping with Adversity” combines the medical experience of a cardiologist with the Judaic knowledge of a rabbi, bringing advice, inspiration and comfort from the vast stores of Judaic heritage to uplift the spirit and give encouragement to those facing illness, mental anguish and uncertainty. “Over the years I’ve found that so much of the practical counsel I give my patients comes from Jewish teachings. I’ve used stories from Scripture, from the writings of the Prophets and the Talmud,” Dr. Roffman said. “When my wife challenged me to bring it together, I asked my good friend Rabbi Fuller to join me, and together we’ve brought it to life.
“Patients come to me with conditions often brought on by stress — of aging, of life or of illness itself,” Dr. Roffman said. “The relief that Shabbat brings to the soul, the peace and quiet that time shares, is something that I suggest taking, even for a half-hour, each night. At home, it’s 6:30 p.m., turn off the TV, talk to each other, make it a daily sanctuary in time.”
Running concurrently with Dr. Roffman’s event is a telling of magical Jewish stories for children in grades one to four by Dallas native and former Solomon Schechter Academy (now Levine Academy) student and teacher, Jordan Hill. In synagogues, in schools and on his own CD recordings, Hill brings folktales to life.
Election eve, Nov. 4, will never be as exciting or educating as it will be at the J when NBC News Tel Aviv Bureau chief and journalist, Martin Fletcher, author of “Breaking News,” arrives. The evening will be chaired by Ynette Hogue and Jerome Stein. Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the J will serve Doozies from James’ Kitchen at the J.
Jewish Princesses and women with sequined spatulas are invited to participate at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 6, when Esther Donald chairs, as Georgie Tarn and Tracey Fine make their way “across the pond,” from the U.K., to share their book, “The Jewish Princess Cookbook: Having Your Cake and Eating It.”
“It is in our genes: We have always been Princesses, and our mothers are Queens. We wanted to re-brand the Jewish Princess for the 21st century and make her a Princess Positive, a woman who wants to have her cake and eat it but looks like she hasn’t,” Fine said. “We have known each other since the age of 9 and so we’ve had a lifetime of shared experiences and recipes. The book just rolled off our tongues.”
“A homemade cake was a must as was always looking lovely and being the role models for their Junior Princesses, us!” Tarn said. “We were brought up on a diet of Friday nights and huge family yom tovs.”
On Monday, Nov. 10, Elizabeth and Ron Bendalin chair as Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, author of “You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism,” will speak at 7 p.m. As part of a core group of settlers in the West Bank in the early 1980s, Rabbi Hirschfield was committed to reconstituting the Jewish state within its biblical borders. After changing his life path once he saw what extremism can do, he became an Orthodox rabbi, writing a tome that looks at how we can create a more peaceful world and honor our own faith while remaining a part of the broader society without sacrificing customs, cultures and traditions.
Benjamin Taylor, the featured author on Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., has had his work of fiction, “The Book of Getting Even,” endorsed by author Philip Roth as “among the most original novels I have read in recent years. The book is exuberant and charming and heartbroken by turns. Taylor has an ear for dialogue, a strong feel for place, and a highly developed dramatic sense and you begin to have an idea of this novelist’s exceptional gift.” The book follows the son of a rabbi from his youth to manhood in the 1970s. The evening will be chaired by Janet Baum.
On Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m., Dr. Mitch Moskowitz chairs as author Leonard Berry speaks about his “Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic” (co-authored with Kent Seltman). The book looks at how the Mayo Clinic fosters a culture that exceeds customer expectations and earns loyalty from both customers and employees.
The Tycher Library’s Second Community Read will unfold on Thursday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. as “One Community One Book: Reading Together” provides a discussion about “Not Me” with author Michael Lavigne. “This is an unbelievable book that appeals to men and women and ages from high school on up,” said Joan Gremont, librarian at the Tycher Library. “It’s not very long but I tell you, as I turned each page I couldn’t wait for the next one and I kept thinking ‘no, not possible, wait.’ There are so many twists and turns and I can’t wait for the whole community to be reading it, talking about it and coming to share it with the author.”
The Book Fair extends to the spring with a luncheon on Tuesday, March 3, at noon, co-sponsored by the Dallas Holocaust Museum–Center for Education and Tolerance and chaired by Tina Wasserman. Editor Joanne Caras shares the tastes and tales of the “Holocaust Survivor’s Cookbook,” a book of 129 miracles. Proceeds from this book, which includes recipes and amazing stories of heroism, survival and belief, are donated to the Carmel Ha’ir Soup Kitchen in Israel.
Many of the books which will be featured are available with a 10 percent advance purchase discount. Members of the Tycher Library advisory board will host a book sale on Sunday, Nov. 2, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with more than 100 titles of books including those being featured during the Book Fair as well as other Jewish titles and authors.
All events, except for the Nov. 6 program, will be held at the J at 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas. The Nov. 6 event will be held at the home of Melanie Rubin. For more information or to register for the Book Fair at the J, call 214-239-7149 or visit the J’s Web site at

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