Stories capture our imagination. Stories give us insight into the world–past, present and future–and stories allow us to explore new people, historical figures, places and issues.
Welcome to the 23rd Jewish Book Festival, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys, with generous donations and support from the surrounding Jewish community.
This annual Fall event helps bring to light fascinating stories researched and written by Jewish authors around the world. It is a place where people who love books, people who write books, and people who love stories come together. Where else can we sit in the comfort of our homes and have a captivating story told to us?
While 2020’s festival was entirely virtual, it also brought an exciting selection from new and established authors who used their unforeseen downtime to write their stories for 2021 debut. This year’s festival features a wonderful selection of historical fiction, narrative nonfiction, food and culture and books about Israel. Most sessions will be virtual.
As a first-year committee member and an avid book reader, I found this journey interesting and fun. Starting each May, the National Jewish Book Council in New York coordinates a conference for Jewish communities throughout the United States.
With a 2-inch binder by our sides, this year’s committee members spent three days on their computers (no trip to New York City this year!) watching and listening to almost 300 authors give two-minute pitches about their books. Then, our committee of 10 book lovers read, discussed and selected what has turned out to be an interesting and diverse program of 10 authors from across the country, the United Kingdom and Israel.
Here’s a sample of what’s to come in this year’s program:
• The Emmy award-winning producer of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” tells stories from independent roadside eateries across the nation
• From Israel, the retired head of Israel’s Shin Bet tells his personal story and thoughts about working with Palestinians
• For music lovers, experience the 1920s and ’30s New York Jazz Age through the love story of George Gershwin and composer Kay Swift
• For scientists and history lovers, a fictional story based on true events, of an Austrian Jewish woman nuclear physicist whose research led to the development of the atomic bomb at the end of WWII
• From the United Kingdom, a BBC editor and journalist tells us the true story of the 1980s exodus of Ethiopian Jews, with help from the Israeli Mossad, via a fake diving resort in Sudan.
• For art lovers, a fictional crime novel of the real life 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris.
• For “60 Minutes” lovers, get the inside scoop and hear stories from a 25-year veteran producer of the most popular and long-running TV news magazine.
• Come hear the perspective, part history, part lexicon, of the CEO of the New Israel Fund, addressing the polarizing questions about Israel’s ever-changing relationship with the Palestinians.
• In partnership with University of La Verne, learn about the secret Jewish commandos of WWII who were recruited to help defeat the Nazis.
• And for our young readers, a story about friendship told through the eyes of a very vocal, very precocious stuffed bear.
For more information and to register for specific programs, visit our website at www.jewishsgpv.org/jewish-book-festival.
Note that at the time of this writing, programs will be virtual only, with two planned events to be both in-person and online. In-person events will follow the most current federal, state and local health guidelines regarding vaccination, testing and masks. Please be aware that due to fast-changing COVID conditions, our two planned in-person/livestreaming author events may need to go virtual-only. We will send registered attendees the event link and post any updates on the Jewish Book Festival web page.
Denise Schaefer is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.