2023 Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival

NOVEMBER 5-19, 2023

The Ann Arbor JCC is excited to bring a wide range of authors and their amazing books

to our community, through in-person, virtual, and hybrid events!

Click on each book cover to visit the the Ann Arbor JCC’s Virtual Bookstore!

*Not every book is on Bookshop.org




Sponsor Night with Benyamin Cohen | The Einstein Effect: How the World’s Favorite Genius Got into Our Cars, Our Bathrooms, and Our Minds

Sunday, November 5, 2023 @ the JCC | 5:30 pm Sponsors’ Dinner | 7 pm Public Program

Moderated by Tim Chupp, Professor of Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University of Michigan

Almost 70 years after his death, Albert Ein­stein’s genius con­tin­ues to define our every­day lives and his endur­ing lega­cy has shaped him into a mod­ern-day pop cul­ture icon. Albert Ein­stein’s face is still one of the most rec­og­niz­able in the world and he’s wide­ly con­sid­ered to be the first mod­ern-day celebri­ty. While many of his dis­cov­er­ies con­tin­ue to define our daily lives, it’s not just his genius that con­tin­ues to shape our world. Today, more peo­ple know Ein­stein as an icon rather than a the­o­rist — decades after his death, he’s a celebri­ty with a mas­sive online following.

The Ein­stein Effect shows all the ways his influ­ence is still with us today — in our sys­tems and our cul­ture. Inter­spersed between chap­ters on his long-last­ing sci­en­tif­ic lega­cy, author Benyamin Cohen (the mind behind Ein­stein’s Twit­ter account!) also tells the sto­ry of how Ein­stein became an unlike­ly social media fig­ure and pop cul­ture icon in the mod­ern age.

Benyamin Cohen man­ages the offi­cial social media accounts of Albert Ein­stein. He is the News Direc­tor of the For­ward. Cohen is also the author of My Jesus Year: A Rab­bi’s Son Wan­ders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith, named one of the best books of the year by Pub­lish­ers Week­ly and for which he received the Geor­gia Author of the Year award. He is based in Mor­gan­town, West Virginia.



Virtual Event with Rabbi Diana Fersko | We Need to Talk About Antisemitism 

Monday, November 6, 2023 | 7 pm over Zoom

Moderated by Jonathan Trobe, MD, Professor Emeritus, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

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A mil­len­ni­al rab­bi explores why we’re reluc­tant to dis­cuss anti­semitism — and empow­ers us to fight against it.

Anti­semitism is on the rise in Amer­i­ca, in cities and rur­al areas, in red states and blue states, and in guis­es both sub­tle and ter­ri­fy­ing­ly overt. Rab­bi Diana Fer­sko is used to hav­ing dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions with mem­bers of her con­gre­ga­tion about the issues they face — from the threat of vio­lence to microag­gres­sions and iden­ti­ty denial. In We Need to Talk About Anti­semitism, she gives all of us the ulti­mate guide to mod­ern anti­semitism in its many forms.

Explor­ing top­ics like vile myths about Jew­ish peo­ple and the inter­sec­tion of anti­semitism with oth­er forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion, We Need to Talk About Anti­semitism gives read­ers the tools they need to under­stand the state of anti­semitism today. Fer­sko shows Jews and non-Jews alike how to speak up and come togeth­er, spread­ing a mes­sage of sol­i­dar­i­ty and hope. This is a time­ly read for any­one pas­sion­ate about fight­ing for social justice.

Rabbi Diana Fer­sko is the Senior Rab­bi at the Vil­lage Tem­ple in Man­hat­tan. She is the nation­al vice pres­i­dent of the Wom­en’s Rab­binic Net­work and a mem­ber of the New York Board of Rab­bis. Fer­sko has been pro­filed in The New York­er and has been pub­lished in Huff­Post. She lives in New York City.



Virtual Event with Jennifer Rosner | Once We Were Home

Tuesday, November 7, 2023 | 12 pm over Zoom

Moderated by Jenny Traig


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From Jennifer Rosner, National Jewish Book Award Finalist and author of The Yellow Bird Sings, comes a novel based on the true stories of children stolen in the wake of World War II.

Ana will never forget her mother’s face when she and her baby brother, Oskar, were sent out of their Polish ghetto and into the arms of a Christian friend. For Oskar, though, their new family is the only one he remembers. When a woman from a Jewish reclamation organization seizes them, believing she has their best interest at heart, Ana sees an opportunity to reconnect with her roots, while Oskar sees only the loss of the home he loves.

Roger grows up in a monastery in France, inventing stories and trading riddles with his best friend in a life of quiet concealment. When a relative seeks to retrieve him, the Church steals him across the Pyrenees before relinquishing him to family in Jerusalem.

Renata, a post-graduate student in archaeology, has spent her life unearthing secrets from the past–except for her own. After her mother’s death, Renata’s grief is entwined with all the questions her mother left unanswered, including why they fled Germany so quickly when Renata was a little girl.

Two decades later, they are each building lives for themselves, trying to move on from the trauma and loss that haunts them. But as their stories converge in Israel, in unexpected ways, they must each ask where and to whom they truly belong. Beautifully evocative and tender, filled with both luminosity and anguish, Once We Were Home reveals a little-known history. Based on the true stories of children stolen during wartime, this heart-wrenching novel raises questions of complicity and responsibility, belonging and identity, good intentions and unforeseen consequences, as it confronts what it really means to find home.

Jen­nifer Ros­ner is author of The Yel­low Bird Sings, a 2020 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award final­ist in Debut Fic­tion and Book Club. She also wrote the mem­oir If a Tree Falls: A Fam­i­ly’s Quest to Hear and be Heard, and the Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable pic­ture book, The Mit­ten String, about deaf­ness in her fam­i­ly, which she has traced back to Gali­cia in the 1800s. Jennifer’s books have been translated into a dozen languages. Her short writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Times of Israel, The Massachusetts Review, the Forward, and elsewhere. In addition to writing, Jennifer has taught philosophy. She earned her B.A. from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her family.


Virtual Event with Jeff Bender and A.J. Sass

Oh, I Just Didn’t Know: 11 Thoughtful Conversations for Grandparents and Grandchildren

Apparel Has No Gender: Thoughtful Commentary From a Dad Raising a Transgender Child

Camp Quiltbag

Tuesday, November 7, 2023 | 7 pm over Zoom

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Apparel Has No Gender

When Jeff Ben­der’s child Court­ney, who was assigned male at birth, asked for her first dress at one and a half years old, all Jeff saw was the smile and delight on his child’s face. Lit­tle did he know that he and his fam­i­ly were about to embark on a jour­ney of learn­ing, growth and accep­tance that would include issues sur­round­ing cloth­ing, bath­rooms, and sports teams.

Par­ent­ing in today’s world is chal­leng­ing, but par­ent­ing a gen­der-non­con­form­ing or gen­der-ques­tion­ing child can be con­fus­ing as well. Jeff opens up about his fam­i­ly’s expe­ri­ences with hon­esty and com­pas­sion, detail­ing the strug­gles and joys of par­ent­ing two gen­der-flu­id chil­dren. Along with his own sto­ry, Jeff shares the view­points of oth­er par­ents, grand­par­ents, and even his own wife.

Appar­el Has No Gen­der also pro­vides guid­ance for par­ents want­i­ng to learn more about gen­der iden­ti­ties and expres­sion. Any par­ent will ben­e­fit from Jef­f’s lessons on how to grow in under­stand­ing and par­ent with uncon­di­tion­al love and support.

Camp Quiltbag

Twelve-year-old Abi­gail (she/​her/​hers) is so excit­ed to spend her sum­mer at Camp Quilt­bag, an inclu­sive retreat for queer and trans kids. She can’t wait to find a com­mu­ni­ty where she can be her­self — and, she hopes, admit her crush on that one hot old­er actress to kids who will understand.

Thir­teen-year-old Kai (e/​em/​eir) is not as excit­ed. E just wants to hang out with eir best friend and eir park­our team. And e def­i­nite­ly does not want to think about the inci­dent that left eir arm in a sling — the inci­dent that also made Kai’s par­ents deter­mined to send em some­where e can feel like emself.

After a bit of a rocky start at camp, Abi­gail and Kai make a pact: If Kai helps Abi­gail make new friends, Abi­gail will help Kai’s cab­in with the all-camp com­pe­ti­tion. But as they nav­i­gate a sum­mer full of crush­es, queer iden­ti­ty explo­ration, and more, they learn what’s real­ly impor­tant. Camp Quilt­bag is a heart­felt sto­ry full of the joy that comes from being and lov­ing yourself.

About the Authors

Jeff Ben­der is the father to two of the most incred­i­ble kids in the world. He and his wife have been mar­ried since 2005 and reside in the St. Louis area. Jeff found­ed The Lion and The Owl, a com­pa­ny cre­at­ing a com­mu­ni­ty for LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe in while nor­mal­iz­ing the idea of gen­der-neu­tral cloth­ing. The Lion and the The Owl’s mis­sion is to sup­port and cel­e­brate inclu­siv­i­ty and diver­si­ty among our youth through appar­el, com­mu­ni­ty, and education.

 A. J. Sass is an author, edi­tor, and com­pet­i­tive fig­ure skater. He is the author of Ana on the Edge and Ellen Out­side the Lines as well as a con­trib­u­tor to This Is Our Rain­bow: 16 Sto­ries of Her, Him, Them, and Us anthol­o­gy. He cur­rent­ly lives in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area with his partner and their pets. 


In-Person Lunch & Learn with Martin Fletcher | Teachers: The Ones I Can’t Forget

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 @ the JCC | 12 pm

In Conversation with Efrat Lachter, University of Michigan Knight-Wallace Fellow and Correspondent, Channel 12 News




Sponsored By

Teachers are the people Martin Fletcher met throughout his work as a news correspondent, often on the worst day of their lives. He watched as they picked up the pieces following personal tragedy and discovered  the invaluable lesson of carrying on, no matter the circumstances.

Through intimate profiles, Martin Fletcher’s Teachers details the struggles of everyday people in extraordinary circumstances-war, revolution, natural disasters and yes, life. Fletcher’s writing is uplifting as he examines the truth of resilience despite hardship. These are the people he sought out in his international reporting, detailing their woes while celebrating their will to survive and recover.

Teachers offers a unique take on reporting, as it features a traveling photo exhibit that Fletcher created to accompany the book. Each chapter is paired with an extraordinary digital montage to illustrate the stories taken directly from his reporting from NBC news programs. At a time when news coverage is often dismissed as fake or biased, Teachers is a welcome reminder of the integrity, devotion and empathy that goes into true reporting of the world. As Tom Brokaw wrote, “Fletcher has a calling.”

Con­sid­ered for decades the ​“gold stan­dard of TV war cor­re­spon­dents” by Ander­son Coop­er, Mar­tin Fletch­er was an NBC News Cor­re­spon­dent and bureau chief in Tel Aviv for near­ly thir­ty years. Fletch­er has won five Emmys and a Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty DuPont Award — a Pulitzer for work in tele­vi­sion — as well as awards from the Over­seas Press Club and Roy­al Soci­ety of Tele­vi­sion. Today, Fletcher’s work as an author is rapid­ly gain­ing an equal­ly impres­sive rep­u­ta­tion. He cur­rent­ly lives in Mex­i­co and New York.

Efrat Lachter is an investigative correspondent for Israel’s Channel 12 News and the weekly newsmagazine “Friday Studio.” A recipient of the 2022 Shimon Peres Center for Peace Award, she has directed and produced more than 200 documentary segments on topics including human trafficking in Sudan and Israel, modern-day slavery in Malawi, orphans in Ukraine, internal political corruption in Israel, and a women-and-children-only village in the Kurd-controlled area of Syria. As the first female war correspondent in her newsroom, much of her work has illuminated the lives of women in conflict zones. Lachter studied political science and communications at Tel Aviv University and journalism at the Koteret School of Journalism in Tel Aviv. She previously worked as an investigative journalist for “Uvda,” Israel’s version of “60 Minutes.”


Virtual Event with Rebecca Clarren | The Cost of Free Land

Thursday, November 9, 2023 | 12 pm over Zoom

Moderated by Deborah Dash Moore, Professor of History, University of Michigan


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Rebec­ca Clar­ren only knew the major plot points of her immi­grant family’s ori­gins. Her great-great-grand­par­ents, the Sinykins, and their six chil­dren fled anti­semitism in Rus­sia and arrived in the Unit­ed States at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, ulti­mate­ly set­tling on a 160-acre home­stead in South Dako­ta. Over the next few decades, despite tough years on a mer­ci­less prairie and mul­ti­ple set­backs, the Sinykins became an Amer­i­can immi­grant suc­cess sto­ry. What none of Clarren’s ances­tors ever men­tioned was that their land, the foun­da­tion for much of their wealth, had been cru­el­ly tak­en from the Lako­ta by the Unit­ed States gov­ern­ment. Amer­i­ca had bro­ken hun­dreds of treaties with hun­dreds of Indige­nous nations across the con­ti­nent, and the land that had once been reserved for the sev­en bands of the Lako­ta had been dimin­ished, splin­tered, and hand­ed for free, or prac­ti­cal­ly free, to white set­tlers. In The Cost of Free Land, Clar­ren melds inves­tiga­tive report­ing with per­son­al fam­i­ly his­to­ry to reveal the inter­twined sto­ries of her fam­i­ly and the Lako­ta, and the dev­as­tat­ing cycle of loss of Indige­nous land, cul­ture, and resources that con­tin­ues today.

Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist Rebec­ca Clar­ren has been writ­ing about the Amer­i­can West for more than twen­ty years. Her mag­a­zine pieces, for which she has won the Hill­man Prize, appear in High Coun­try News, The Nation, and Indi­an Coun­try Today. Her debut nov­el, Kick­down, was short­list­ed for the PEN/​Bellwether Prize for Social­ly Engaged Fic­tion. An Amer­i­can Inher­i­tance, her work of cre­ative nonfic­tion, was award­ed a Whit­ing Non­fic­tion Award. Her work is reg­u­lar­ly sup­port­ed by the Fund for Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism. She lives in Port­land, Ore­gon with her hus­band and two kids.


Hybrid Lunch & Learn with Sylvie Bigar | Cassoulet Confessions: Food, France, Family, and the Stew That Saved My Soul

Friday, November 10, 2023 | 12 pm | Lunch at the JCC, Author Will Join Virtually

Moderated by Lonnie Sussman

When Sylvie accepted an apparently anodyne assignment on cassoulet, France’s ancestral bean and meat stew, she could not have known that she was about to jump into a rabbit hole that would lead her miles away from her upper-crust childhood in Switzerland and force her to reckon with her identity and her own dramatic family history. Cassoulet Confessions, a poignant gourmand memoir, vacillates between generational family drama and Sylvie’s gastronomic training as the reader is engulfed in the simmering smells of the French kitchen, then suddenly thrown in the terrifying front seat of the family car.

Award-win­ning food and trav­el writer Sylvie Bigar was born in Gene­va, Switzer­land, and is based in New York City. Her writ­ing has appeared wide­ly, includ­ing in The New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post, Food & Wine, Forbes​.com, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Edi­ble, Depar­tures, Trav­el + Leisure, and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Trav­el­er. Bigar co-authored chef Daniel Boulud’s defin­i­tive Daniel: My French Cui­sine, as well as Liv­ing Art: Style Your Home with Flow­ers, with flo­ral artist and design­er Olivi­er Giugni.

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Children’s Event with Anita Fitch Pazner | The Topsy Turvy Bus 

Sunday, November 12, 2023 | 12:30 pm at the JCC

Sponsored By

Reuse, recycle, renew, and rethink! Climb aboard the Topsy-Turvy Bus with Maddy and Jake as it travels around the country teaching communities the importance of taking care of the earth and creating a better, cleaner, healthier world.

Based on a real Topsy-Turvy Bus created by Hazon, the largest Jewish environmental organization in North America.

Ani­ta earned an MFA in Writ­ing for Chil­dren and Young Adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts. She’s cre­at­ed pic­ture-book work­shops for kids of all ages, rang­ing from sec­ond graders to high school stu­dents. The Top­sy-Turvy Bus is her debut chil­dren’s book.



Children’s Event with Elyssa Friedland | The Museum of Lost Teeth

Monday, November 13, 2023 | 10 am at the JCC

Sponsored By

Toothy lives in Liam’s mouth next to his best friend Fang. He’s a good tooth — spark­ly and strong, and he loves doing the floss.

One day, Toothy notices that he is loose and pan­ics! Where will he go after he leaves his com­fy spot next to Fang? After a crunchy apple seals the deal, Toothy is tucked under Liam’s pil­low. When the Tooth Fairy appears, she takes Toothy to the Muse­um of Lost Teeth. It’s a more incred­i­ble place than Toothy could have ever imag­ined. It’s filled with new friends and fun activ­i­ties like Tooth or Dare! Toothy finds a new home on the Firsts Floor, where first baby teeth are proud­ly displayed.

In the tra­di­tion of School’s First Day of School, The Muse­um of Lost Teeth answers the ques­tion, ​“Where do all the lost teeth go?” in this unex­pect­ed and hilar­i­ous pic­ture book.

Elyssa Fried­land is the author of five adult nov­els and teach­es cre­ative writ­ing at Yale, from which she grad­u­at­ed. She also holds a J.D. from Colum­bia Law School. The Muse­um of Lost Teeth is her first pic­ture book. She lives in New York City with her hus­band and three children.


Virtual Event with Richard Hurowitz | In the Garden of the Righteous: The Heroes Who Risked Their Lives to Save Jews During the Holocaust

Monday, November 13, 2023 | 7 pm over Zoom

  Moderated by Rabbi Eli Mayerfeld, CEO, Zekelman Holocaust Center

Sponsored By

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The Second World War took the lives of more than fifty million, more than six million exterminated through crimes of such enormity, a new name to describe the horror was coined: the Holocaust. Yet amid such darkness there were glimmers of light. In the Garden of the Righteous chronicles extraordinary acts at a time when the moral choices were stark, the threat immense, and the passive apathy of millions predominated. Deeply researched and astonishingly moving, it focuses on ten remarkable stories, including that of the circus ringmaster Adolf Althoff and his wife Maria, the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Italian cycling champion Gino Bartali, the Polish social worker Irena Sendler, and the Japanese spy Chinue Sugihara, who provided hiding places, participated in underground networks, refused to betray their neighbors, and secured safe passage. They repeatedly defied authorities and risked their lives, their livelihoods, and their families to save the helpless and the persecuted. In the Garden of the Righteous is a testament to their kindness and courage.

Richard Hurowitz is a writer and the founder and pub­lish­er of the Octa­vian Report. His writ­ing has appeared in the New York Times, Finan­cial Times, Wall Street Jour­nal, Times (UK), Los Ange­les Times, Time, His­to­ry Today and the Jerusalem Post, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. Richard serves on the governing board of the Yale University Art Gallery and is a member of the Bretton Woods Committee and a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a co-founder and president of the Renew Democracy Initiative, an organization dedicated to defending liberal democracy.  He received his BA in history from Yale University, graduating in three years, magna cum laude and with distinction and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta. He earned a JD from Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and the editor-in-chief of the Columbia/VLA Journal of Law & the Arts.


Virtual Event with Jonathan Freedland | The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | 12 pm over Zoom

                                                 Moderated by Rita Benn


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In April 1944, Rudolf Vrba became one of the very first Jews to escape from Auschwitz and make his way to freedom—among only a tiny handful who ever pulled off that near-impossible feat. He did it to reveal the truth of the death camp to the world—and to warn the last Jews of Europe what fate awaited them. Against all odds, Vrba and his fellow escapee, Fred Wetzler, climbed mountains, crossed rivers, and narrowly missed German bullets until they had smuggled out the first full account of Auschwitz the world had ever seen—a forensically detailed report that eventually reached Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and the Pope.

And yet too few heeded the warning that Vrba had risked everything to deliver. Though Vrba helped save two hundred thousand Jewish lives, he never stopped believing it could have been so many more.

This is the story of a brilliant yet troubled man—a gifted “escape artist” who, even as a teenager, understood that the difference between truth and lies can be the difference between life and death. Rudolf Vrba deserves to take his place alongside Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler, and Primo Levi as one of the handful of individuals whose stories define our understanding of the Holocaust.

Jonathan Freed­land is a colum­nist for The Guardian in Lon­don. He presents BBC Radio 4’s con­tem­po­rary his­to­ry series, The Long View, as well as two pod­casts, Pol­i­tics Week­ly Amer­i­ca for The Guardian and Unholy, along­side the Israeli jour­nal­ist Yonit Levi. He is a past win­ner of an Orwell Prize for jour­nal­ism and has writ­ten 12 books includ­ing nine thrillers, most­ly as Sam Bourne. The Escape Artist is a 2023 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Win­ner for Biog­ra­phy and Holocaust.


Virtual Event with Andrew Lawler | Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | 7 pm over Zoom

Moderated by Yaron Eliav, Associate Professor of Rabbinic Literature and Jewish History of Late Antiquity, University of Michigan


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In 1863, a French senator arrived in Jerusalem hoping to unearth relics dating to biblical times. Digging deep underground, he discovered an ancient grave that, he claimed, belonged to an Old Testament queen. News of his find ricocheted around the world, evoking awe and envy alike, and inspiring others to explore Jerusalem’s storied past.

 In the century and a half since the Frenchman broke ground, Jerusalem has drawn a global cast of fortune seekers and missionaries, archaeologists and zealots, all of them eager to extract the biblical past from beneath the city’s streets and shrines. Their efforts have had profound effects, not only on our understanding of Jerusalem’s history, but on its hotly disputed present.  The quest to retrieve ancient Jewish heritage has sparked bloody riots and thwarted international peace agreements.  It has served as a cudgel, a way to stake a claim to the most contested city on the planet.  Today, the earth below Jerusalem remains a battleground in the struggle to control the city above.

Under Jerusalem takes readers into the tombs, tunnels, and trenches of the Holy City. It brings to life the indelible characters who have investigated this subterranean landscape. With clarity and verve, acclaimed journalist Andrew Lawler reveals how their pursuit has not only defined the conflict over modern Jerusalem, but could provide a map for two peoples and three faiths to peacefully coexist.

Andrew Lawler is author of three books, Under Jerusalem: The Buried History of the World’s Most Contested City, The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke, a national bestseller, and Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?: The Epic Saga of the Bird that Powers Civilization. As a journalist, he has written more than a thousand newspaper and magazine articles from more than two dozen countries. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and many others. He is contributing writer for Science and contributing editor for Archaeology. Andrew’s work has appeared several times in The Best of Science and Nature Writing.


Hybrid Lunch & Learn with Debby Applegate | Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | 12 pm | Lunch at the JCC, Author Will Join Virtually

In Conversation with Chuck Newman

Sponsored By


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In Roaring Twenties New York City, when the nightclubs closed down, the in-crowd didn’t go home.  Everyone went to Polly’s place, the “speakeasy with a harem” run by “The Female Al Capone,” as the newspapers dubbed her. Polly “Pearl” Adler (1900-1962) was a diminutive dynamo whose Manhattan brothels were more than oases of illicit sex, where men paid top-dollar for the company of her girls, they were also swinging salons where the culturati and high society partied with the elite of showbiz, politics and organized crime.  Polly’s pals — luminaries like Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra, Lucky Luciano, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker, Bugsy Siegel and Desi Arnaz – made the Jazz Age roar.

No one would’ve guessed that Pearl would become “the First Lady of the Underworld” when she arrived in America as a 13-year old Russian Jewish immigrant. But Polly’s life became a topsy-turvy Horatio Alger tale – a childhood that could be a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, a wild ghetto adolescence out of a Henry Roth novel, blossoming into a glittering epic of parties and power worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Then Polly wrote her own ending, penning a memoir that shocked the squares of the 1950s and sold over two million copies. 

Applegate immerses the reader in Polly’s world and uses her rip-roaring life to unpack what made this era so corrupt, so glamorous and so transformational, showing how this riotous collision of high and low gave birth to modern American culture.

Deb­by Apple­gate is a his­to­ri­an whose first book, The Most Famous Man in Amer­i­ca: The Biog­ra­phy of Hen­ry Ward Beech­er, won the Pulitzer Prize for Biog­ra­phy and was a final­ist for the Los Ange­les Book Prize and the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award. She was a Sterling Fellow in American Studies at Yale University, where she earned her Ph.D., and now lives in New Haven, Connecticut where she continues to haunt the stacks of the Yale Library. 

Debby is also the author of numerous book chapters and articles and has written for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal among other publications.  She has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan University, and Marymount College; served on the boards of organizations including the Yale Summer Cabaret, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and the New Haven Review; and is the chair of Biographers International Advisory Council.


Virtual Event with Martin Sneider | Shelf Life: A Novel

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 | 7 pm over Zoom

In Conversation with Robin Pollak


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A Jew­ish Amer­i­can fam­i­ly saga set in St. Louis about the rise of its fash­ion retail­ing empire, and how it splits and ulti­mate­ly dev­as­tates the family.

As the son of Max Feld­man, the bril­liant founder of the Fratel­li Mas­si­mo chain, Josh Feld­man has always known his destiny…working along­side his father dur­ing the last half of the 20th cen­tu­ry and one day succeeding him, as promised by his father.

But as he comes of age, starts a fam­i­ly of his own, and works his way up in the busi­ness, Josh slow­ly begins to under­stand his father’s pen­chant for treach­ery. With Max’s ruth­less ambi­tion and his dri­ve to be cel­e­brat­ed for his suc­cess, will Josh ever be allowed to suc­ceed him?

When the fam­i­ly becomes divid­ed over the future of the busi­ness, Josh faces the fact that even the deep­est fam­i­ly bonds and his father’s promis­es may have a shelf life.

Mar­tin Snei­der was born in New York, grew up in the Mid­west, and edu­cat­ed at Har­vard, Uni­ver­sity of Mis­souri, and Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­sity of St. Louis. He was mar­ried for 55 years and recent­ly wid­owed. He has two mar­ried chil­dren, four grand­daugh­ters, and three careers. He was a ready-to-wear and fash­ion shoe mer­chant for 25 years and co-CEO of a 3,000-store chain. Snei­der is an adjunct pro­fes­sor at Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty, an author, for­mer chair­man of St. Louis Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and the Board of Direc­tors of Har­vard Busi­ness School, and a for­mer board mem­ber of Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter Asso­ci­a­tion. He is a 40-year mem­ber of Shaare Emeth Tem­ple in St. Louis.


Virtual Event with Liel Leibovitz | How the Talmud Can Change Your Life: Surprisingly Modern Advice from a Very Old Book

Thursday, November 16, 2023 | 7 pm over Zoom

Moderated by Lisa Molnar, Research Associate Professor, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute


Click HERE to view the recording!

Password: WsK@0@$&


An extra­or­di­nary work of Jew­ish ethics, law, and tra­di­tion, the Tal­mud com­pels read­ers to engage with its abun­dance of ideas on how to live a good life. Full of folk leg­ends, bawdy tales, and rab­bini­cal back-and-forth over cen­turies, it is inspir­ing, demand­ing, con­found­ing, and thou­sands of pages long. As Lei­bovitz enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly explores in his new book, the Tal­mud is also humanity’s first self-help book, offer­ing sage advice on an unpar­al­leled scope of top­ics, includ­ing on how to deal with grief, how to choose your friends, and how to suc­cess­ful­ly com­mu­ni­cate with your partner.

Weav­ing togeth­er psy­chol­o­gy, phi­los­o­phy, and his­to­ry with a wide array of mod­ern exam­ples touch­ing on every­thing from the cre­ation of Weight Watch­ers to the lives of Bil­lie Hol­i­day and Aris­to­tle, Lei­bovitz makes the Talmud’s insights rever­ber­ate for our mod­ern age. Each chap­ter is focused on a fun­da­men­tal human expe­ri­ence and illu­mi­nates how the Tal­mud speaks to dai­ly exis­tence. Giv­ing read­ers an enter­tain­ing crash course in Jew­ish his­to­ry and phi­los­o­phy, Lei­bovitz shows how one of the world’s old­est books can, indeed, change your life.

Liel Lei­bovitz is the edi­tor at large for Tablet Mag­a­zine and the host of sev­er­al of its pop­u­lar pod­casts, includ­ing Unortho­dox and Take One. He’s the author of sev­er­al works of nonfic­tion, and a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to pub­li­ca­tions like The Wall Street Jour­nal, The New York Times, and oth­ers. A ninth-gen­er­a­tion Israeli, he now lives in New York with his family.


Virtual Event with Anna Salton Eisen | The 23rd Psalm: A Holocaust Memoir

Friday, November 17, 2023 | 11 am over Zoom

Moderated by Shirlee Wyman Harris


Click HERE to view the recording!

Password: r.w&5Qc=


This new anniver­sary edi­tion of the Holo­caust mem­oir of George Salton (then Luc­jan Salz­man), gives read­ers a per­son­al and pow­er­ful account of his sur­vival through one of the dark­est peri­ods in human and Jew­ish his­to­ry. With his daugh­ter and co-author Anna Salton Eisen, George shares a grip­ping nar­ra­tive of his trans­for­ma­tion from a Jew­ish eleven-year-old boy liv­ing hap­pi­ly in Tyczyn, Poland, with his fam­i­ly, to his expe­ri­ences as a teenage vic­tim of grow­ing per­se­cu­tion, bru­tal­i­ty, and impris­on­ment as the Nazis pur­sued the Final Solu­tion.

Alone at age 14, George begins a three-year hor­ror-filled odyssey as part of a Jew­ish slave labor group that will take him through ten con­cen­tra­tion camps in Poland, Ger­many, and France. The authors recall not only the painful details of his sur­vival, but also the tales of his fel­low pris­on­ers, a small group who became more than friends as they shared their mea­ger rations, their frag­ile strength, and their wan­ing hope. The mem­oir moves us as we behold the life-sus­tain­ing pow­ers of friend­ship among this band of young prisoners.

Anna Salton Eisen was the founder of Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Israel in Col­leyville, Texas, the site of the anti­se­mit­ic syn­a­gogue hostage cri­sis in Jan­u­ary 2022. She is the author of two Holo­caust mem­oirs and exec­u­tive pro­duc­er of an upcom­ing doc­u­men­tary film based on both books. A licensed social work­er, Salton Eisen for­mer­ly prac­ticed as a ther­a­pist, spe­cial­iz­ing in men­tal health and trauma.





Sunday, November 19 | 11 am at the JCC

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