As was the case with last year’s Mandel JCC Cleveland Jewish Book Festival – one of the premiere Jewish book festivals in the country – this year’s 22nd annual event has expanded to include three “chapters” that run for several weeks each between November and March 2022.
But unlike last year’s bookfest, which was exclusively virtual due to COVID-19 concerns, this year’s lineup of 21 nationally and internationally acclaimed authors, plus several authors with local ties, will be accessible through a range of formats. Some speakers will be in-person at the JCC, most will be offered via the Zoom platform to be experienced from the comfort of one’s home, and livestream events allow participants to come to the JCC and watch a live presentation on screen.
All presentations will be accompanied by question-and-answer sessions.
The keynote event, which is free and virtual, will be at 8:30 pm Nov. 4. It will feature two-time Peabody Award-winning writer and producer Ira Rosen, who authored the memoir “Ticking Clock.” He will reveal behind-the-scenes stories of his decades at America’s most iconic TV news show, “60 Minutes,” and its competitors, ABC’s “20/20” and “Primetime Live.”
“In a time when our work is dismissed as fake news,” said Rosen from his home in Westchester, N.Y., “my book takes you back to a time when we were heroes for righting the wrongs of society and TV anchors were celebrities.”
And while “Ticking Clock” showcases their talents, Rosen said it also puts on display the anchors’ “insecurities and, in some cases, abhorrent behavior.”
Among the seven featured writers for the first chapter, which runs from Nov. 4 to Dec. 5, is six-time Emmy- and Tony-nominated actress Tovah Feldshuh. According to the theater trade publication Broadway World, “From Golda to Ginsburg … Feldshuh has always played powerful women. But offstage, she struggled to fulfill the one role she never auditioned for – Lily Feldshuh’s only daughter.” In her new memoir, “Lilyville,” Feldshuh shares the highs and lows of a remarkable career and a complex mother/daughter relationship.
“The title of the book,” she noted during a telephone call from her Manhattan apartment, “is a metaphor that communicates how the third act of your life can be the crowning glory of your wit and wisdom and participation on this earth. Lily, who lived to be 102, set that example as she blossomed in the last part of her life.”
Her life plays as large a part in this memoir as does the author’s. Feldshuh’s talk via livestream at the JCC at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 is sponsored by Marc Benson & Sheila Reingold in memory of Leonard and Leeta Benson & Iris Bialosky Zahler.
From Jan. 5 to Feb. 6, 2022, during the bookfest’s second chapter, eight authors will be featured. Among them is Tel Aviv resident Iddo Gefen, whose collection of stories is titled “Jerusalem Beach.” Through a series of snapshots of contemporary life in Israel, Gefen – a neurocognitive researcher working with virtual and augmented reality – reveals a world that’s at once familiar yet pitches the reader headlong into absurdity.
According to The Times of Israel, when you read Gefen’s stories “with their diverse characters and cross-genre themes of memories and dreams, you never know what you’re going to get. But one thing you do know. Each story is going to be very enjoyable to read.”
When asked why he wrote a collection of stories rather than a novel, Gefen noted that “My publisher asked me the same thing. I felt I had a lot of stories I wanted to explore and worlds I wanted to build, and short stories were the best genre for that.”
His presentation, which will be done virtually on Jan. 12 at noon, is in partnership with the Cleveland Israel Arts Connection, a program of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
Among the five authors that will share their writing during the bookfest’s third chapter, which runs from March 3-20, 2022, will be Elyssa Friedland. In her latest novel “Last Summer at the Golden Hotel,” the Goldman and Weingold families remember the Catskills and the glamorous Golden Hotel during its heyday. Now that the Borscht Belt is well past its prime, the two founding families must decide whether they can save their beloved Golden amidst long-buried secrets, new dramas and financial scandals. According to Publishers Weekly, the novel is “a well-crafted family dramedy … that is breezy and charming.”
There is value in preserving tradition even as we modernize,” suggests the author from her residence in New York City when asked to identify the big takeaway from this novel. “And the good old-fashioned hokey fun in this Jewish vacation story can’t be beat.”
Friedland’s free and virtual presentation, which begins at 7:30 p.m. March 10, is in partnership with the National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland.
The festival’s authors and their books were selected from over 300 participants at a three-day Jewish Book Council Network showcase held virtually earlier in the year. The showcase attracts roughly 120 member organizations across North America, including JCCs, synagogues, hillels, Jewish federations and cultural centers.
For a full schedule of authors appearing at the Cleveland Jewish Book Festival, visit bit.ly/2ZsRX7I.