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Book Fest Tweaks Format to Provide a Lively Feel

November 16, 2006 By:
Rachel Silverman, JE Staff
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In what has become a long-running Philadelphia tradition, the 13th annual Jewish book festival will once again showcase some of the region's foremost Jewish wordsmiths.

But unlike previous years, in which events have been held at numerous venues over the course of several weeks, this year's festival will be a single-day affair.

That means that on Nov. 19, the Gershman Y will feature 16 authors -- journalists and politicos, rabbis and scholars, critics, columnists and pundits.

Sponsored by the Jewish Publication Society, Maurice Amado Foundation, Cabot Cheese, Borders and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the festival will also include a book sale, book-signings and a puppet show. This year's topics range from dog ownership to Norway, and include, among other things, jazz music, baseball, Christian support for Israel and Jewish social work.

According to Scott Isdaner, a longtime patron of the festival who is this year's chair, the format switch is designed to create a livelier feel.

"Consolidating everything into a single venue should really enhance the quality of the event and the participation of the community," he explained.

The day kicks off at 10 a.m. with a session featuring local Rabbi Howard Addison and Barbara Eve Breitman, as they discuss their book Jewish Spiritual Direction: An Innovative Guide From Traditional and Contemporary Sources.

David Brog, a former Capitol Hill insider, also headlines a session at that time. A former chief of staff to longtime Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, Brog's book, Standing With Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State, dissects the phenomenon of Christian Zionism.

An 11 a.m. workshop will allow Ron Blomberg, a former baseball player, to recount his years playing for the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox. These stories are chronicled in Designated Hebrew: The Ron Blomberg Story.

An 11:45 a.m. talk brings two former Jewish Exponent writers -- Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic -- to the fore. A new edition of their book, The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words, presents a comprehensive anthology of near-famous language and expressions.

Dr. Henri Parens is slated to draw on his experiences as both a psychiatry expert and a Holocaust survivor at a 2 p.m. session. His book is titled Renewal of Life: Healing From the Holocaust.

And in Ted Merwin's work -- In Their Own Image: New York Jews in Jazz Age Popular Culture -- the theater critic and Judaic-studies professor delves into the forces that shaped Jewish identity in the 1920s. He'll discuss this era from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

NPR commentator Marion Winik will take to the stage at 2:45 p.m. to read from her book of personal essays, Above Us Only Sky: Essays by Marion Winik.

Then, at 3:45 p.m., Slate.com advice columnist Emily Yoffe will round out the afternoon with What the Dog Did: Tales From a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner. In it, Yoffe provides a snarky, humorous look at the trials and tribulations of dog ownership.

The schedule also includes a two-hour-long "Philly Writes" component. Dubbed "SpeedDating for books," this 11:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. block will offer snippets from the works of Ellie Fisher, Leonard Getz, Bill Kent, Michael Kleiner, Allen Meyers and Rachel Pastan.

And, in an attempt to reach out to families, the Y will host a puppet show by the performance troupe Theatre Ariel.

For a complete schedule on the Jewish Book Festival, call 215-446-3012 or visit: www.gershmany.org.

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