The brave new world of JCC BookFest

Annual event has robust roster of virtual experiences

By Deb Silverthorn
The latest chapter for the JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest is underway, with a virtual lineup into 2021.
Online reviews and interviews are coming into homes and onto our devices connecting bestselling authors through panel discussions, book chats and other activities.
“We have dozens of events scheduled that meet BookFest’s mission to join as a community to celebrate Jewish authors and books of Jewish interest,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, director of Israel Engagement and Jewish Living at the JCC. “Even now, thousands of readers are connecting with bestselling authors and with each other.”
Upcoming engagements are “Get Lit for Lunch,” at noon Thursday, with authors Marian Keyes, Gigi Levangie and Laura Zigman. On Sunday, Aug. 30, at 7 p.m., Erin Brockavich will introduce “Superman’s Not Coming.”
Most years, Weiss Crane and Adina Weinberg, the J’s Jewish, Outreach and Cultural coordinator, travel to New York to a Jewish Book Council event where hundreds of authors present their newest work, and a dedicated committee helps to narrow the field for in-person events.
This year’s books and authors came from a JBC virtual symposium and a partnership with Jewish community centers in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boulder, Cherry Hill, Fort Lauderdale, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Miami, Memphis and Seattle.
Many BookFest events are free, some have minimal charges and others, by publisher requirement, have a book purchase with admission. Sponsorships are available and the J is offering a $136 pass, covering all BookFest events being added through May, except for book/ticket bundles.
“We’re able to interact with an expanded universe of book lovers and the programs have been excellent,” said event chair Marcy Helfand. Upcoming events include include appearances by Deepak Chopra, John Grisham, Joan Lunden, Nancy Grace, Jodi Picoult, Natan Sharansky and Gil Troy. “I miss seeing book lovers in person but, until that’s possible, I’m enjoying the refreshing lemonade we’ve made of pandemic lemons,” she said
On Thursday, Aug. 20, Keyes, Levangie and Zigman will share their books: “Grown Ups,” “Been There, Married That” and “Separation Anxiety,” and will be interviewed by CNN reporter Holly Firfer.

Levangie takes the tragedy and sorrow of life and loss, and turns heartbreak and depression into comedy.
Like many authors, Levangie has shifted how she introduces her work to readers. After releasing “Been There, Married That” in early February to a few book signings, traditional in-person appearances stopped.
“We’re all living like we have a thumb holding back the dam, and finding the ‘how’ to exist in this new world while still feeling accomplished is the goal,” said Levangie. Her book is a story of Hollywood divorce, drama, strong sisterhood and self-rediscovery. “I’m so excited to be ‘coming to Dallas’ this week, with these other authors who are incredible and funny and brilliant writers.”
Levangie said while not Jewish, she attended a Jewish nursery school, went to Hebrew school for a bit and had lots of Jewish friends. She has created characters who remember their roots. “I’ve always held high esteem for the appreciation of traditions, values and education those families shared and that, much like that of my immigrant grandparents, seeped into my life. Right now, we all have to realize what’s really important,” she said.
Later this fall, Andrea Peskind Katz of Dallas will facilitate a conversation at noon Nov. 10 with authors Rachel Beanland (“Florence Adler Swims Again”) and Kristin Harmel (“The Book of Lost Names”).

“People are reading more than ever and they are flocking to the arts and, as it always does, the J is making sure our community comes together,” said Peskind Katz, who hosts the website and Great Thoughts Great Readers Facebook page. “It’s vital that we support the authors, the bookstores and the J and BookFest allows us the opportunity to do that, and to ‘be’ with one another.”
Visit for full and updated calendar, registration and BookFest sponsorship details.

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