BookFest is back: in-person, online events

By Deb Silverthorn

The JCC’s book festival is back, and  so is Daniel Silva, with his newest page-turner, “The Cellist.” The book will headline the Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest as the 2021-2022 season begins at 7 p.m. on July 12. The Zoom event will feature an interview and audience question-and-answer session.

“This last year, despite being apart, was still a spectacular showing for our BookFest,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, producer of BookFest. “We ‘met’ world-renowned authors and talented moderators from many literary genres, providing something for book lovers of every age and stage.” BookFest is presented by the Aaron Family JCC and Central Market and in partnership with the Jewish Book Council and a consortium of JCCs around the country. 

“This year, our slate will continue to reflect our diverse audience featuring a range of themes from Jewish history to pop culture, cooking, Holocaust literature and family programming,” she said.

“The Cellist” is the latest in Silva’s action-packed espionage and suspense series that features art restorer and spy Gabriel Allon.

“While I’m hopeful to return to a time when I can be back on the road, as I miss shaking hands and signing books, I have enjoyed ‘seeing’ people around the country — really the world. Connecting to my readers is essential,” said Silva, who previously appeared at BookFest events in Dallas in 2016 and 2018. Dana Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent and co-anchor of “State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash,” will conduct the interview. 

“The routine and rhythm of publishing, like almost everything else, has been upside down and there was concern about if we’d even be able to print,” said Silva, a former CNN executive producer and journalist-turned-novelist. “Gabriel Allon is aging through my books in real time but he’s still going — I’m on the next book with notes down for two more.”

“The Cellist” features the hero’s journey across Europe and into the orbit of a musical virtuoso who may hold the key to the truth about the death of Russian billionaire Viktor Orlov, a friend of Allon’s. The most recent plot by the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author uncovers leads to secret channels of money and influence that go to the very heart of Western democracy and threaten the stability of the global order.

Many of the books featured in BookFest are sold at Interabang Books, which has been a partner of the event for many years. Tickets for the Daniel Silva event include a copy of the book that will be mailed the day after the event.

“Our relationship with the JCC and BookFest means the world to us. The J is a big part of our community, with wonderful people all around, who are truly gracious and kind,” said Brian Weiskopf, Interabang Books’ business manager. “We’re thrilled to support the program and to make available the marvelous titles that are presented.”

The Dallas Jewish BookFest allows thousands of readers to connect with bestselling authors and one another for book talks, panel discussions and other activities exploring relevant topics. More than 70 books were featured in the past year. 

The program will also incorporate in-person events as well as the online “In Your Living Room” series. “At home has been great but we’re so excited about having some events in-person,” said Marcy Helfand, program chair of Dallas Jewish BookFest. 

In-person events include Jori Epstein and Max Glauben’s presentation of “The Upstander” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 19; and Michael Ben-Zohar sharing “The Mossad Amazons: The Amazing Women in the Israeli Secret Service,” written with Nissim Mishal, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Upcoming “In Your Living Room” events, presented on Zoom, include Margaret Atwood’s “Two Scorched Men” (Aug. 12), Billie Jean King’s “All In: A Memoir” (Aug. 16), Daniel Levin’s “Proof of Life” (Aug. 18), Francine Prose’s “The Vixen: A Novel” (Aug. 23), Jake Cohen’s “Jew-ish: A Cookbook” (Aug. 26), David Rubenstein’s “How To Lead” (Oct. 3), Mindy Weisel’s “The Obligation of Beauty” (Oct. 13), David Grossman’s “More than I Love My Life,” (Oct. 20), Lucy Adlington’s “The Dressmakers of Auschwitz” and Mark Oppenheimer’s “Squirrel Hill” (both on Nov. 7) and Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking with Dorie” (Nov. 9). 

Leading the discussion for many of the online programs has been CNN’s Holly Firfer. She looks forward to her conversation with Margaret Atwood, author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” about her recent publication, “Two Scorched Men,” at 7 p.m. on Aug. 12, via Zoom.

“I read it all, three books in a week or more, and I absolutely loved it. The reading, the meeting authors and the connecting to the community. It’s been an incredible way to work through so much isolation,” said Firfer. “Our programs have really been reflective of what the world has looked like.”

Registration for Dallas Jewish BookFest’s individual events and yearlong passes is open at

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