BEACHWOOD, Ohio — The Cleveland Jewish Book Festival annually allows readers to personally hear from and meet authors of new Jewish-themed books. That will again be the case in this, the festival’s 21st year, but as with seemingly all things in 2020, the event will look different this time around.
For one, book lovers will have the opportunity to meet and ask questions of authors, but will do so virtually. Another change is that, while in the past the event’s host, the Mandel Jewish Community Center, would bring about 20 authors to town during the course of the festival, sessions will now be divided into three “chapters” of author engagements set to take place from November through April.
“This one’s really different this year,” said JCC Director of Arts & Culture Deborah Bobrow. “We typically host lots of authors from all over the country who come to Cleveland and speak in front of a live audience, and we have a book signing and active Q&A, but due to physical distance restrictions we can’t do that. This year, we’re hosting all these different authors, but from all around the world. We can do that because we’re doing it virtually. It will be the same type of experience for the audience, it will just be over the screen instead of in person.”
The first chapter will take place from Nov. 8 to Dec. 6 and will feature six authors and a cooking demonstration. It all gets under way at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 with the authors of “The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between.” Those authors, Stephanie Butnick, Liel Leibovitz and Mark Oppenheimer, are hosts of the Tablet Magazine “Unorthodox” podcast.
“We had them in town a couple of years ago,” Bobrow said of the “Unorthodox” crew. “They’re really fun and we thought that it would be good to start with something fun in this year when everything has been so serious.”
Also, because the world has been a scary place for many this year, the festival will present, via Zoom, Dr. Abigail Gewirtz and her book, “When the World Feels Like a Scary Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids,” at 10 a.m. Nov. 15.
“All of the authors are special to us, or we wouldn’t be having them, but one event we’re looking forward to is Jennifer Rosner and her first novel ‘The Yellow Bird Sings,’” Bobrow said. “This will be moderated by the Beachwood Library Branch Manager Aimee Lurie, which makes it special for us. We like to work with local partners and this is the first time we’re working with (Lurie).” Rosner and Lurie will discuss “The Yellow Bird” at 7 p.m. Nov. 9.
An event that is sure to be fun for those who like to cook will be the cook-along centered on Rachel Levin’s new book, “Eat Something: A Wise Sons Cookbook for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews.” Bobrow said a moderator will lead the cook-along after the audience hears from Levin.
Other events that make up the first chapter include: “A Better Man: A (Mostly Serious) Letter to My Son,” by Michael Ian Black, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12; “Citizen 865: The Hunt for Hitler’s Hidden Soldiers in America,” by Debbie Cenziper, at 11 a.m. Nov. 16; and “Getting Good at Getting Older,” by Rabbi Laura Geller, at 1 p.m. Nov. 18.
There will be a cost to participate in some events, while others are free. A question-and-answer period will be included as part of each event.
The second chapter of author events will take place from Jan. 26 to Feb. 22, and the third, from March 2 to April 30.
Mac’s Backs Books on Coventry, 1820 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, is the festival’s official book provider. Each of the books discussed can be purchased through Mac’s, in person or online. Autographed copies will also be available. For information about purchasing festival books through Mac’s, visit here.
Among the sponsors for this year’s Cleveland Jewish Book Festival are the Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Humanities, the Green Family Foundation and The Friends of Jewish Lifelong Learning.
Bobrow said that those planning to participate in author events must first register. To register and get further information, including dates and times of all upcoming events, visit mandeljcc.org.