By Rachel Gross
When the Dallas Jewish BookFest begins next week, the community will have the chance to celebrate the written word by meeting authors, learning their stories and having meaningful discussions.
The annual event, which is presented by the Aaron Family JCC, starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, with the Tycher Library Community Read. Author Pam Jenoff will discuss her newest book “The Winter Guest.” It will continue with five more events through Nov. 20, and then three additional ones in January, March and April, ending with the Tycher Library Spring Read with David Laskin.
“We want to have a variety of experiences for different types of readers and we think we have accomplished that with our lineup,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, director of Israel engagement and Jewish learning at the J and who runs BookFest. “If you are interested in history, we have something here, if you are interested in Israel, we have that and we have plenty of fiction for those who like that.”
Each year, Crane attends the Jewish book council conference in New York to scope out different Jewish authors and books with Jewish content to see what will be good for BookFest. All but one of the authors this year is Jewish, and all of the books have something to do with Judaism.
Some new things have been put in place for this year’s event as well. The Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Foundation is the title sponsor and there are more community partners than in years past.
The keynote event is also unique. On Nov. 4, best-selling author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin will discuss his book, “The Rebbe,” a biography of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who turned the Chabad-Lubavitch movement into what it is today.
“I have seen Joseph Telushkin before; he is amazing and it’s huge that he is coming for BookFest,” said Chair Liz Liener. “We have a good product and we just want to get more people in. Every year is so different and this is going to be a great season.”
In addition to the books and authors, one community agency is a beneficiary of the BookFest. This year, all proceeds raised at the event Jan. 14 will go to scholarships for students to go on March of the Living, an educational trip to Poland and Israel.
Partnering with different organizations makes BookFest even more significant because it shows that it’s truly an event for the entire community, Crane and Liener said.
Ann Rosenberg, the mother of the late Margot Rosenberg Pultizer, said it was important to her to sponsor BookFest because of its wide appeal and the impact it makes on people.
“I think BookFest is great for everyone and the JCC does such good work with it every year,” she said. “I like to sponsor different causes and knew this is good for the community. People enjoy reading and there is such a wide variety for everyone.”
The best part of BookFest is the fact that folks get to meet authors and hear unique stories, Crane said.
“People always come for the well-known authors, but sometimes there is a hidden gem that everyone misses,” Crane said. “We have a good mix of that this year and the books and authors are very interesting.”
“The authors talk about what inspired them to write these words that inspire us, and that’s really cool. We really get an inside view,” Liener added. “A lot of writers can write well and a lot can speak well, but often can’t do both. All of these authors can, which is really nice.”
Schedule for the 2014 Dallas Jewish BookFest
‘The Winter Guest’ by Pam Jenoff
Life is a constant struggle for impoverished 18-year-old Nowak twins Helena and Ruth as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. Their precarious situation worsens when Helena discovers Sam, a Jewish-American paratrooper wounded in the forest above their village and hides him in an abandoned chapel. As she nurses him back to health, she finds herself drawn into his covert mission and running from hidden dangers even closer to home.
Event is the annual Tycher Library Community Read.
‘The Harem Midwife’ by Roberta Rich
Hannah and Isaac Levi, Venetian Jews, embark on a new life in 16th century Constantinople. Isaac establishes a silk workshop, while midwife Hanna plies her in trade in the opulent palace of the Sultan Murat III tending to women. One night, she is summoned to the palace to examine Zofie, a poor Jewish peasant who was abducted and sold into the sultan’s harem. The sultan favors her as his next conquest and wants her to produce his heir, but Zofia longs to return to her village. Will Hannah risk her life and livelihood by lying to protect this young girl, or will she do her duty as a midwife to the Imperial Harem?
‘The Rebbe’ by Joseph Telushkin
In this biography, Telushkin offers a captivating portrait of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, a figure in Jewish history who defied conventional boundaries and turned his movement, Chabad-Lubavitch, into the most dynamic and widespread Jewish organization today. Readers will learn how the Rebbe became the world’s first ambassador for Judaism, influencing American-Israeli policies, leading clandestine operations to rescue Jews in the Soviet Union and pioneering Jewish outreach.
Co-sponsored with Chabad of North Texas
‘In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist’ by Ruchama King Feuerman
Isaac, a haberdasher for the Lower East Side, moves to Israel to repair his broken heart and becomes the assistant to an elderly kabbalist. There, Isaac meets Tamar, a newly-religious young American hipster on a mission to live a spiritual life with a spiritual man. Into both of their lives comes Mustafa, deformed at birth, a janitor who works on the Temple Mount. When Mustafa finds an ancient relic that may date back to the First Temple, he shares it with Isaac. That gesture sets in motion a series of events that lands Isaac in the company of Israel’s worst criminal riff raff, puts Mustafa in danger and leaves Tamar struggling to save them both.
‘The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street’ by Susan Jane Gilman
This book follows narrator, Lillian Dunkle, a conniving and profane millionaire ice cream maker who immigrated to the Lower East Side as a child and toiled for every penny she earned. Lillian’s rise to fame and fortune spans 70 years and is inextricably linked to the course of Jewish immigration and American history itself, from prohibition, to World War II, to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is a complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. When her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.
‘The Harness Makers Dream’ by Nick Kotz
This is the story of Ukrainian immigrant Nathan Kallison’s journey to the United States in search of a brighter future. At the turn of the 20th century, over 2 million Jews emigrated from Czarist Russia and Eastern Europe to escape anti-Semitic law. Seventeen-year-old Kallison and his brothers were among those who escaped persecution by leaving their homeland in 1890. Faced with the challenges of learning English and earning wages as a harness maker, Kallison struggles to adapt to his new environment. He moves to San Antonio, where he finds success by founding one of the largest farm and ranch supply businesses in South Texas and eventually running one of the region’s most innovative ranches.
Co-sponsored with the Dallas Jewish Historical Society
‘Measure of a Man’ by Martin Greenfield
7 p.m. at the Schultz-Rosenberg Campus, 12324 Merit Drive, Dallas
For the first time, Holocaust survivor Martin Greenfield tells his incredible life story. Taken from his Czechoslovakian home at the age of 15, arrested for being a Jew and transported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz with his family, Greenfield came face to face with “Angel of Death” Dr. Joseph Mengele and was divided forever from his family. After arriving in the U.S. and sweeping floors at a New York clothing factory, Greenfield founded America’s premier custom suit company. Still working at his Brooklyn factory, Greenfield continues to dress A-listers of Washington D.C. and Hollywood.
Co-sponsored with the March of the Living
‘The Green Bubbie’ by Ruth Pinkenson Feldman
A Green Bubbie is an energy-efficient model of grand parenting. The secret is to know how to nurture those who are growing right in front of you. And if you’re lucky enough to meet a Green Bubbie, she will become the “accidental relative you meet on the road to finding yourself.”
Co-sponsored with the Sherry and Ken Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center
‘The Family’ by David Laskin
In tracing the roots of his family, Laskin captures the epic sweep of the 20th century. This is a personal, dramatic and emotional account of people caught in a cataclysmic time in world history. A century and a half ago, a Torah scribe and his wife raised six children in a yeshiva town at the western fringe of the Russian empire. Bound by their customs and ancient faith, the pious couple expected their sons and daughter to carry family traditions into future generations. But the social and political crises of our time decreed otherwise.
Event is the annual Tycher Library Spring Read.
All events take place at the Aaron Family JCC, 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas, unless otherwise noted. Registration is required for each event and most are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. The Community Read and Spring Read, along with the evening of Nov. 20, are all free. The cost for Rabbi Telushkin is $18 in advance or $20 at the door, or $10 with a student ID, for the event only if purchased by Nov. 3. The advance package event and book cost is $36 by Oct. 26 and the book only is $25. For more information and to register, visit www.jccdallas.org or contact Rachelle Weiss Crane at 214-239-7128, or firstname.lastname@example.org.