MARBLEHEAD – As the leaves turn and the air becomes chilly, North Shore Jews have come to expect an enriching treat to take the sting out of the weather’s unpredictable tricks, and 2023 is no exception.
From now until Nov. 30, the 29th Annual Jewish Community Center of the North Shore Jewish Book Month Speaker Series will host in-person conversations in Marblehead with seven authors and a virtual interview with another. In addition, JBM and PJ Library will sponsor a free Family Shabbat with stories, activities, songs, and dinner on Oct. 20 at 4:30 p.m. at the JCC.
Book month cochairs Sylvia Belkin and Patti McWeeney and their committee have selected an irresistible group of mystery, fiction, comedy, nonfiction, and historical fiction authors. Sharon and Howard Rich continue as longstanding cultural benefactors. Discounted packages to all events are available at $155 for members and $165 for non-members. All live events include receptions and book signings.
“Bringing the community together for these intriguing and inspiring events is always a highlight of my year,” said Sara Ewing, director of adult programs at the JCCNS and the book month event coordinator.
Comedians Joel Chasnoff and Benji Lovitt will speak about their book, “Israel 201: Your Next-Level Guide to the Magic, Mystery and Chaos of Life in the Holy Land,” in which readers meet the real country that lives behind the headlines. Chasnoff, a Chicago native and former Israeli soldier, and Lovitt, a Texas native who immigrated to Israel, promise a laugh-filled evening that might examine such topics as: Shomer Shabbat car insurance policies; military slang; Sukkah-friendly apartment buildings; and medical clowns who travel to war zones overseas. The Oct. 16 event at 7 p.m. is $20.
On Oct. 29, JCCNS past president and book club moderator Izzi Abrams will interview Emily Franklin about her historical fiction book, “The Lioness of Boston,” a deeply evocative and imaginative portrayal of the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner. A daring visionary who created an inimitable legacy in American art and transformed the city of Boston, Gardner became the eccentric trailblazer who was painted by John Singer Sargent in daring décolletage and was fond of such stunts as walking a pair of lions in the Boston Public Garden. The interview will be held at 11 a.m. and admission is $30, including brunch.
Switching gears, Dr. Fayne Frey, a New York-based dermatologist for over 30 years, will answer the question, “What skincare products do I really need?” when she talks about her new book, “The SkinCare Hoax,” on Nov. 1 at Tedesco Country Club in Marblehead at 7 p.m. ($36).
On Nov. 8 at 1 p.m., the Jewish Book Council invites book month attendees to a free Jewish Book Month One Community Read event, a virtual interactive conversation with Dani Shapiro about the parallels between her two National Jewish Book Award-winning books, “Inheritance” and “Signal Fires” (register for Zoom link).
That same evening, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Debby Applegate and her latest biography, “Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age,” will introduce us to Polly “Pearl” Adler, a diminutive dynamo whose Manhattan brothels were more than oases of illicit sex during the Roaring Twenties. Polly’s pals – luminaries like Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra, Lucky Luciano, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker, Bugsy Siegel, and Desi Arnaz – made the Jazz Age roar. No one would have guessed that Pearl would become “the First Lady of the Underworld” when she arrived in America as a 13-year-old Russian Jewish immigrant. Join Applegate, who will be interviewed by this writer at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 at JCCNS ($20), when she unpacks this amazing, topsy- turvy Horatio Alger story. North Shore keyboardist Mark Arnold will entertain before the program, playing jazz music from the “Great American Songbook.”
Fans of World War II historical fiction will not want to miss Steven Hartov when he speaks about his page-turning book, “The Last of the Seven,” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 16 at JCCNS ($20). The author of espionage novels and military-themed nonfiction and the former editor of a professional military journal, the U.S.-born Hartov volunteered as a paratrooper and in a special operations branch of Israeli Military Intelligence and served more than 13 years as an IDF reservist. In his latest novel, he draws on meticulous research to tell the spine-tingling WWII story of a British-sponsored commando unit composed of German and Austrian Jews on a top-secret mission driven not by patriotism, but by vengeance.
Closing out the series is Jennifer Rosner, author of “Once We Were Home,” a novel that weaves together the fictional lives of four displaced children and has been called a “revelation” that animates WWII history readers never knew about. Hidden by a Polish farm family, a convent, and a German family during the Holocaust, these children and those who safeguarded them during the war must confront heart-wrenching realities once that war ends. Rosner will be in conversation with Jenna Blum, New York Times and internationally bestselling author and cofounder and CEO of A Mighty Blaze, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30 at JCCNS ($20). Θ
The Jewish Community Center of the North Shore is located at 4 Community Road, Marblehead. For more information and to buy tickets, go to jccns.org/jewish-book-month.