Face to Face, 2.0

The past few years have challenged all of us to rethink how we connect with each other and maintain a vibrant, active Jewish community. This year, the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Book Festival is taking that challenge to the next level. As the community and the region keep expanding, the festival has expanded, too.
    The 2022 Festival will feature more author events than ever, 13 in all, including two adventures for children and families. The award-winning authors will take people on an exploration of Jewish life, history, food, and diverse cultures in the US and around the globe. The festival opens Sunday, October 23 at Temple Sholom of Ontario and will conclude on Saturday, December 10 at Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center, with more authors coming to our area in-person and new ways for book lovers to participate.
    • A high-level U.S. diplomat interviews Henry Kissinger and reexamines how the U.S. came to take a leading role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
    • The daughter of a refusenik reveals her daily life as a child in the USSR of the 1970s and her mother’s struggles to get the family out.
    • A basketball pro considers how the sport helped his immigrant father and family of Holocaust survivors find new roots in America.
    • A Smithsonian and National Geographic explorer takes us under Jerusalem for a look at how archaeological excavations have affected political and civilian life above-ground.
    • A Hollywood insider shows what it takes to help celebrities withstand boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS)pressure and smear campaigns.
    • A young Italian food blogger will give us a taste of her country’s diverse Jewish communities with a live cooking demonstration.
    • A renowned cartoonist for The New Yorker looks back at his awkward childhood and how growing up among a family of characters in the age of Sputnik and JFK shaped his career.
    Most of the Jewish Book Festival events will be held live at our synagogues, the University of La Verne and other partner venues, complete with bagel breakfasts and receptions, luncheon with a New York Times bestselling novelist, a Saturday evening gala with live music, book signings and more.
    For Linda Mazur, the chair of the Jewish Book Festival committee, the best part is the chance to gather with book lovers from across our Jewish Federation’s region. “We’re really looking forward to meeting the community again face to face,” she says.
    For those who are interested in attending in-person, it is the committee’s hope that it will feel liike a return to normal, but better, because of how important it is for the organization to continue livestreaming its events in a way that lets online audience member participate.
    Although the past two years required cutting back on the in-person events, the decision to present authors online brought in many people who otherwise might not have been able to attend because of the distance. With a little time-juggling, past Jewish Book Festivals have been able to present leading authors from Israel and the UK, and just as importantly, attendees have listened in and posted questions not only locally but from as far as San Francisco and Michigan.
    Going virtual meant many people in our communities invited friends and family from across the country to sign up for our events as well. Against the odds and all the health restrictions, the last two Jewish Book Festivals have grown and reached more people than ever.
    Last year as things started to open up cautiously, the Jewish Book Festival held two successful hybrid in-person/webinar events. Now that more of the community’s synagogues and organizations have the capacity, most of this year’s events will be hybrid.
    So for those who can’t get to events in person, you don’t have to miss out. You can hear the author, see slides and video presentations, enjoy the music, and post your questions in the Q&A section along with everyone else. And the Jewish Book Festival will still have a few virtual-only events so no one will have to miss out on important authors. The only thing the Jewish Book Festival committee has not figured out is how to Zoom virtual bagels and lox (but they are working on it).
    To top it off, the Jewish Federation is launching a new program, One Book, One Community. Starting this fall, the Jewish Federation will select one standout work each year from the upcoming Jewish Book Festival lineup for a community-wide read.
    Rebecca Russell, Jewish Federation’s Program and Community Outreach Director, says the idea to do a Jewish community version of the familiar “One City, One Story” library projects actually began from a suggestion by members of the Jewish Federation’s Board of Governors.
    “There were communities that still felt as though they hadn’t quite been reached and were looking for a greater sense of connection and engagement,” Russell said. “Shortly after the survey results came back, a couple of our board members suggested to Jason (Moss) that maybe we could do a “One Book, One Community” event like some cities do through their libraries – as a way for people to connect with each other in a way that they may not have been able to before.”
    After contacting the local synagogue book clubs to coordinate this year’s program, Russell says, “I was listening out at the Jewish Book Council conference in May for books that could bring something new to our larger community and that our community can benefit from.”
    This year’s One Book, One Community choice is Jai Chakrabarti’s National Jewish Book Award-winning debut novel, “A Play for the End of the World.” Synagogue and Jewish organization book clubs throughout the community will be reading it together and leading local discussions ahead of meeting Chakrabarti in December at the Festival for a community-wide conversation.
    But you don’t have to belong to a book club to participate. The Jewish Federation can help with book orders, connect you with a Jewish book group in your area, or even help you start a new group for the program.
    For more information on One Book, One Community, Jewish Book Festival event registration and book purchases, contact Rebecca Russell at the Jewish Federation office, rrussell@jewishsgpv.org or 626.445.0810 x 304.  


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