From Arab-Jewish relations to rabbis who surf, medieval history to Yentl’s revenge, the Talmud to God-optional Judaism, Jewish Book Month has something for everyone and is open to all.
Nationally, the month preceding Hanukkah is known as Jewish Book Month. Jewish community centers and synagogues across the country sponsor book fairs and author events. Thanks to several local organizations, Seattle has its own celebration filled with events. Tree of Life Judaica & Books, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, The Samis Foundation, and 15 other organizations set out to create a local celebration of Jewish literary life and diversity.
The local festival kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29, at Temple Beth Am with Harold S. Kushner, best-selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, who will discuss the newly published Living a Life That Matters: Resolving the Conflict Between Conscience and Success.
From Kushner until Dec. 12, community members are invited to avail themselves of novelists (local author Mary Potter Engel’s debut, A Woman of Salt), learned scholars (Islamic history expert Reuven Firestone), journalists, stand-up comedians, instructors (Carole L. Glickfeld, author of Swimming Toward the Ocean) and more. Except for educational workshops (the proceeds of which support the instructors), all events are free.
November events include the following:
• Mary Potter Engel reads from her novel, A Woman of Salt, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Congregation Beth Shalom.
• Lois Shenker discusses Welcome to the Family, her new book designed to help those unfamiliar with the Jewish religion, culture and customs feel comfortable in Jewish settings, on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. at Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
• Rabbi Reuven Firestone, author of Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims, a publication of the American Jewish Committee, speaks at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue.
• Ben Kaplan, author of How to Go to College Almost for Free, lectures to parents and students on his techniques for finding and obtaining scholarships and grants on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island.
• Marc Maron, author of The Jerusalem Syndrome, is a stand-up comedian who will speak at the JCC on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7:30 p.m.
• Judith Seid, author of God-Optional Judaism, a how-to book that offers alternative, nontheistic ways to celebrate every Jewish holiday and lifecycle event, will speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at Tree of Life Judaica & Books.
• Rabbi Nachum Shifren will share his autobiography, The Surfing Rabbi: A Kabbalistic Quest for Soul, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, at Tree of Life Judaica & Books.
• Two writing workshops on Nov. 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Temple Beth Am. The cost of each workshop is $50. David Klinghoffer will teach a course on Jewish journalism. He is the author of The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy and was literary editor of The National Review for eight years and also a movie and TV reviewer. Esther Altshul Helfgott will teach a course on “Poetry, Exile and the Jewish Self.” Beginning, intermediate and experienced poets will critique each other’s poems in a supportive and non-threatening environment.
Jewish Book Month is co-sponsored by Tree of Life Judaica & Books, The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, The Samis Foundation, American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Congregation Beth Shalom, Congregation Eitz Or, Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle, Jewish Family Service, Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, The Jewish Transcript, Leah’s Bakery & Catering, Seattle Chapter Hadassah, Stroum Jewish Community Center, Temple Beth Am, Temple B’nai Torah and Temple De Hirsch Sinai
For more information, visit the Tree of Life Web site at www.treeoflifejudaica.com or call the store, 206-527-1130.