SEPTEMBER 20, 2018 – Alexandra Silber is a Jill of all creative trades. She is an internationally renowned Grammy-nominated American singer, writer, actress, composer and educator. She has performed on Broadway, in London’s West End, and on concert stages, including The Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and the 57th Grammy Awards.
On Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. she will add the stage at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott to her resumé. Opening night of the Jewish Book Month Speaker Series spotlights Silber reading from her début novel, “After Anatevka,” sprinkling the reading with seven musical performances that reflect the chapter’s dramatic climax.
The 45-minute musical program is, according to Silber, a “fully dramatized piece of literary theater. The concert is a Venn diagram of reading and cabaret.”
Her novel is historical fiction, inspired by Silber’s portrayal of Tevye’s daughter, Hodel, in the 2007 Olivier-nominated West End production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” She had recently lost her own father to a long battle with cancer. “Every day for two years, I spoke Hodel’s final words, ‘Papa, God alone knows when we shall see each other again …’ Each time as Hodel said ‘goodbye,’ so did I,” she said in an email.
Hodel disappears in the second act, following her true love, Perchik, to Siberia where he is imprisoned. Deeply haunted by her character’s courage, faith and fierce intellect, Silber felt compelled to chart the rest of Hodel’s mysterious passage. “I needed to know what happened to her. After Anatevka truly was a journey from stage to page,” she said.
Silber’s “spiritual autobiography” began in a largely secular household with a Catholic mother and a father whose lineage traced back to the Pale of Settlement. Although they exposed her to religious principles of theology, ethics and sociology, Silber was on her own to find her way regarding the concept of “God.”
Playing Hodel was a kind of “Judaism University” for Silber. “At 23 years old, I took the work more personally, and interpreted it more thoroughly than I had ever done before. It was a turning point, with everything thereafter being interpreted through the eyes of a woman of faith,” she explained.
Writing “After Anatevka” was “part obsession, part socio-political battle cry, part spiritual autobiography and, above all, a marrow-deep roar for an everlasting tapestry of hope and faith,” Silber added.
The JBM closing event promises to be every bit as exciting when Emmy award-winner and former NBC News Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher discusses his latest novel, “Promised Land.” The event will be held at the Peabody Essex Museum on Dec. 16 at 3 p.m., and includes a reception and an opportunity to visit the new “Empresses of China’s Forbidden City” exhibit.
In between, JBM Chairwoman Diane Knopf is proud of a lineup that offers “something for everyone.” The committee tries to arrange its schedule to avoid conflicts with events at fellow North Shore agencies and synagogues. “The authors we request are in high demand on the speaker circuit, so dovetailing our dates with theirs can be challenging,” said Knopf.
Long a JBM tradition, Kernwood Country Club will again host an evening of dinner and conversation. On Nov. 15 at 6 p.m., Boston Globe columnist Meredith Goldstein will talk about her “Love Letters” advice column and her latest book, “Can’t Help Myself: Lessons & Confessions.”
Novelists Janna Blum (“The Lost Family”) and Ronald H. Balson (“The Girl from Berlin”) will speak at the JCCNS on Oct.10 and Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.
Local author Phyllis Karas will discuss “Women of Southie,” her true account of the women behind the scene during crime boss Whitey Bulger’s hey day. Three women featured in the book will attend the Oct. 30 event at the JCCNS at 7 p.m.
Rounding out the roster is Ariel Burger, an author, teacher, artist and rabbi, who was also a lifelong student of Elie Wiesel. “Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom,” chronicles his intimate relationship with the legendary Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor. The event will be held at Temple Sinai on Oct. 21 at 9:30 a.m. and is part of the temple’s Scholar-in-Residence program.
JBM Speaker Series 2018-2019 is sponsored by cultural benefactors Sharon and Howard Rich. Visit jccns.org or call 781-476-9909.