This week, the first Baltimore Festival of Jewish Literature launches Nov. 8 and will run through Nov. 18 with author talks and book signings, panel discussions and performances at a dozen area venues, including synagogues, theaters, libraries and book shops.
Topics focused on by authors and their books include women’s friendships, the afterlife, politics, historic movie palaces, Jewish history, comedy and entertainment. The festival will also include theatrical performances, children’s programs and panel discussions on culture, literature and theater.
Zina Segal, director of adult learning for the Louise D. & Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education said the organization is folding its On the Same Page community book readings and discussions program into the festival with an author event Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at Beth El Congregation.
Award-winning author Dara Horn will talk about her 2018 novel “Eternal Life,” about Rachel who, 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, made a deal to save her first son’s life. She’s still around, but would rather not be immortal anymore.
“The question at the heart of this wise and appealing novel is finally not how Rachel finds meaning in her eternal life. It is how we, despite our portions of sorrow, tedium and disaster, persist in finding meaning in ours,” wrote Joshua Max Feldman, in the New York Times Book Review.
On the Same Page encourages community-wide readings of books and participation through CJE’s page on the Book Crossings website, where readers can post and share thoughts about books. Meanwhile, CJE is also offering $150 micro-grants to Baltimore-area book clubs to offset the cost of books, bring speakers to their book clubs, or to buy or create materials for a book event.
“The initiative was created by our adult-learning committee and every year we choose a book and do a couple of events with it,” Segal said, about the choice of Horn’s “Eternal Life,” for this year’s program. “She’s a very interesting personality and she will be speaking about the book, why she decided to write it and why the topic is so important to her. So, both people who read the book and who haven’t would be interested.”
Other festival events include author Simcha Paull Raphael talking about his new book “Jewish Views of the Afterlife,” Saturday, Nov. 10, at 5:30 p.m. at Har Sinai Congregation; a morning discussion of Marc Dollinger’s “Black Power, Jewish Politics: Reinventing the Alliance in the 1960s,” on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 9:30 a.m. at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; photojournalist Amy Davis discussing her “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters,” Monday, Nov. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation; a panel discussion on “How Literature Can Connect Baltimore’s Diverse Communities: Bridging the Cultural Gap Through Fiction,” on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 2:30 p.m. at the Pikesville Library; and “The Jewish Variety Hour,” with music, magic and literature, Saturday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. at The Ivy Bookshop.
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit festivalofjewishliterature.org. Some events require registration.
For more information on CJE’s On the Same Page and book club grants, visit cjebaltimore.org/on-the-same-page.