A quick scan of the Judaica section at any local Barnes & Noble bookstore or a search of "Jewish" on Amazon.com will likely lead to books about Kabbalah, Jewish history or maybe even how to keep a Jewish home. But fiction by Jewish authors is mixed into the grand scheme of literature, and other works aren't necessarily labeled for their Jewish content.
But throughout the month of November, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Philadelphia will make the search a bit easier. As part of its 12th annual Jewish Book Festival, a cross-section of works will serve to highlight what's happening in the world of ethnic creativity.
The festival will feature an array of events for people of all ages – from a hands-on workshop for children to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity to a discussion led by best-selling author Myla Goldberg about her new book, Wickett's Remedy.
And, of course, there will be loads of books for sale.
Amy Krulik, director of marketing and public relations for the JCC of Greater Philadelphia and coordinator of the festival, spent the past year reviewing titles for books dealing with anything Jewish – by Jewish authors, with Jewish themes or values, or about Jewish topics. She and her team selected 1,200 to 1,400 titles to be sold at the three main JCC branches – the Gershman Y in Center City, the Kaiserman Branch in Wynnewood and the Klein Branch in Northeast Philadelphia.
"We are looking to let people know what's new out there," said Krulik, who also chose little trinkets and gifts to sell, either with Jewish content or manufactured by a Jewish company. "There's some books that may cause controversy and some good coffee-table books – real treasures."
The featured speaker this year is Steven Emerson, author of American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us. Sponsored by Old York Road Temple-Beth Am and the Center for Israel and Overseas of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Emerson – an internationally recognized expert on terrorism and national security – will discuss the terror network in the United States.
Also on the docket is a discussion led jointly by Samuel Freedman, author of Who She Was: My Search for My Mother's Life, an investigation into his mother's life, and Steven Roberts, husband of Cokie Roberts and author of My Fathers' Houses, an account of his immigrant grandfather and the generations that have followed.
Brew-Tasting & Speed-Dating
Krulik said that men – notoriously hard to attract to some book-festival presentations – may find interest in the Nov. 16 event featuring ESPN anchor and national correspondent Jeremy Schaap, author of Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History. While the author plans to discuss his book, which chronicles the true story of James J. Braddock, a Depression-era boxer whose story was also the subject of a major motion picture, attendees will have the opportunity to partake in a microbrew beer-tasting.
And for a different type of presentation, a new concept will be introduced this festival, namely, an open-mike night featuring 10 local Jewish authors who will have the opportunity to read from and discuss their books. Krulik lightheartedly called it "speed-dating, but for books," and said it gave the community an opportunity to cheer on and celebrate folks around town.
Though most events will take place at one of the three JCC branches in the area, events are also scheduled for area Barnes & Noble bookstores, synagogues and even one event for students at George Washington High in Northeast Philadelphia, though anyone can attend.
"Between the books and all of the events, there is something for everyone," announced Krulik. "You don't have to be Jewish; you just have to be interested in a topic."
For more information on book-festival dates, times and events, call 215-446-3011.