JCC book fest people

Eliana LeVine, from left, Shelly Lewis, Laura Simon and Leah Avner are ready for the 19th annual Mandel Jewish Community Center Cleveland Jewish Book Festival from Nov. 4-19. LeVine, Lewis and Simon are co-chairs, while Avner is Mandel JCC Arts & Cultural Program Associate. 

The 19th annual Mandel Jewish Community Center Cleveland Jewish Book Festival, one of the premiere Jewish book festivals in the country, will feature a wide-ranging lineup of 11 nationally acclaimed authors and eight authors with local ties.  

“And this year, we’re offering seven free events at a variety of locations, including the Cleveland and Cuyahoga County Public Libraries, to make it easier and more convenient for attendees,” said Leah Avner, Mandel JCC Arts & Cultural Program Associate. However, due to demand, the event at the Beachwood library has been moved to the Mandel JCC, where most of the events take place.

The festival runs from Nov. 4-19.

Each year, the festival attempts to represent a variety of genres as well as recognizable headliners and upcoming authors. 

“We also look for good speakers,” said Laura Simon who, along with Eliana LeVine and Shelly Lewis, serve as book festival co-chairs.

The bookfest kicks off with a free event Nov. 4, featuring Sally Kohn, a CNN political commentator and former Fox News contributor. In her book, “The Opposite of Hate,” she talks to leading scientists and researchers about the evolutionary and cultural roots of that emotion.  

The keynote event Nov. 10 features Grammy-nominated international actress and singer, Alexandra Silber, author of “After Anatevka,” which picks up where “Fiddler on the Roof” left off. She will offer a unique hybrid of reading and musical performance.  

This year’s national authors include Steven Hartov, whose “The Soul of a Thief” captures the turbulent emotional rush of those caught behind the lines of occupied France, where one false step could spell death and every day brings a new struggle to survive. He will present Nov. 6.

On Nov. 7, geriatric psychiatrist Marc Agronin will discuss his new book, “The End of Old Age,” which presents a hopeful view of the aging process, casting it as a developmental force that brings unique strengths that includes wisdom, purpose and creativity. 

The award-winning author Rachel Kadish’s “The Weight of Ink” is the interwoven tale of a 17th-century migrant who works as a scribe for a blind rabbi and an ailing historian in the 21st century with a love of Jewish history. She will present Nov. 11.

Millennials are the largest living generation in the United States. Their size and influence have disrupted every status quo impacting the world around us.  Jeremy Balkin, author of “The Millennialization of Everything,” delves into this new phenomenon Nov. 13.

Rabbi John Rosove offers a common-sense guide for a new generation of young men and women who find Jewish orthodoxy, tradition, issues and beliefs impenetrable in 21st-century society in his book “Why Judaism Matters.”  He will present Nov. 14.

On Nov. 15, author Stuart Eizenstat will discuss his book, “President Carter: The White House Years,” which delves into the details of the Middle East peace process with interviews of participants from the U.S., Israel and Egypt. 

A community read discussion will take place Nov. 19, featuring Rebecca Erbelding’s “Rescue Board,” which reveals the untold story of America’s efforts to save the Jews in Europe in 1944.

On Nov. 18, eight Cleveland-area authors will be featured on a panel at the JCC and do a book signing. One is J.D. Blackrose, whose “The Soul Wars” is an attempt to answer the age-old question, “Why are some vampires evil and others sparkle?”  

“Participating in book festivals like the one at the JCC is critical to the success of local authors,” said Blackrose, which is the pen name used for Shaker Heights resident Joelle Reizes. “The festival provides an enormous public service by exposing our community to nationally known authors and authors who live right next door. I’m really honored to be a part of it.”

“Each year our goal is simply to bring the most interesting, acclaimed and fascinating authors to Cleveland audiences,” Avner said.

Mandel Jewish Community Center Jewish Book Festival Schedule


Bob Abelman covers professional theater and cultural arts for the Cleveland Jewish News. Follow Bob at Facebook.com/BobAbelman3 or visit cjn.org/Abelman. 2018 Ohio Media Editors best columnist.

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