In 1951, the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit created the first Jewish Book Fair. On November 2, 2017, the JCC opens the 66th Annual Jewish Book Fair, distinguishing Detroit as not just the original, but also the largest Jewish Book Fair in North America. Over the years, the Book Fair has changed, but what remains constant is the lineup of outstanding authors and the great selection of books available for browsing and purchase.

The three leading forces behind this year’s Book Fair – Terry Hollander (Book Fair Chair), Wren Hack (Director of Book Fair) and Judy Loebl (JCC’s Assistant Executive Director) –  got together to talk about what’s new and exciting at the 66th Annual Jewish Book Fair.

Judy: Terry, you’ve been involved in the Book Fair for several years, what’s new in 2017?

Terry:  We literally and figuratively are stepping outside the box. This year you will see a fresh new look. We want Book Fair to be inclusive so, except for a few events that have food, all of our other speakers are free and open to the public.

Judy: Such a diverse group of authors. Who are you most excited to see?

Terry: That’s a tough question. There is not one person I could single out since they are all great. But, one of my favorite books is Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish (Monday, November 6). l loved the writing. Dirty Wars and Polished Silver, by Lynda Schuster (Monday, November 6) is a fabulous story and I’m very excited about our Patron Night author, Nathan Englander, presenting his book, Dinner at the Center at the Earth (Tuesday, November 7).  It’s not fair to ask about favorite authors,  since I think they all will be great and I want to hear all of them.

Wren: I’m excited about our local authors’ event (Sunday, November 5). We have an incredible bevy of local authors that are great writers. Since I haven’t read all the books, I’m looking forward to the “Sneak Peek” (Thursday, November 2). We have a panel of reviewers who have read all of our speaker books who will give you a tidbit of information to draw you in and make you want to hear the author and maybe buy the book.

Wren: Judy, who are you looking forward to hearing?

Judy: Barry Holtz on his book about Rabbi Akiva (Sunday, November 12). I know it’s not for everyone, but for those interested in a scholarly book, I highly recommend it. Another author I’m looking forward to hearing is Laurie Frankel, This is How it Always Is (Sunday, November 12) about a transgender child. A very touching and insightful book.

Terry: This year we are extremely lucky to have our new Sherrill Berman Family/Children’s Program sponsored by PJ Library (Sunday, November 12). They are bringing Sammy Spider to Book Fair! It’s going to be a great treat for children and parents.

Wren: For all parents who worry about food allergies we have April Peveteaux, Bake Sales Are My B*tch (Thursday, November 9). Her book helps parents keep kids safe with recipes and helpful tips. We are not only bringing in the author, but we will have resources to make the community aware of food alternatives.

Terry: What are your hopes for this year’s Book Fair?

Judy: I was advocating for a Book Fair at no cost. So, by eliminating the fees, I’m hoping this is an opportunity for the community to come out and to be able to hear these outstanding authors, and to take part in an exciting event.  I also hope people will browse the stacks and pick up a book or two.  This is truly a festival of authors, books and reading.

Judy:  Any names we would recognize?

Terry: We have Jeff Rossen (Saturday, November 4) from NBC’s TODAY. He is our Opening Night speaker and will be giving us tips and sharing personal anecdotes from his book “Rossen to the Rescue.” He’s adorable and it’s free! Talk about timely, we are thrilled to bring in Alexandra Zapruder (Wednesday, November 8), the granddaughter of Abraham Zapruder who took the 26-second home movie of President Kennedy’s assassination. We are seeing the footage on the news every night, now you can hear the backstory.

Wren: We also have Alex Berenson speaking about his newest book, The Prisoner (Sunday, November 5). Many compare him to Daniel Silva in terms of writing styles.

Terry: We are highlighting Detroit (Monday, November 6) with Barbara Cohn on her book on The Detroit Public Library and Michael Smith’s book, Designing Detroit. Also Joel Stone is speaking on Detroit 1967 (Sunday, November 5).

Judy: A Michigan connection and an author I’m exciting about seeing is Howard Markel who writes about The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek (Sunday, November 5).

Terry: Our Closing Night speaker, Adam Greenberg, (Sunday, November 12) has a great story. He’s the Jewish baseball player who was hit in the head on his first pitch in the Major Leagues. His story is heart breaking and he has written an inspiration story in Get Up: The Art of Perseverance.

Judy: Book Fair always remembers Kristallnacht (Thursday, November 9) by highlighting important new books on the Holocaust. What is planned for this year?

Terry: We are having Bruce Henderson speak on his book, Sons and Soldiers. He writes about the Richie Boys and one of our very own, Dr. Guy Stern, one of the Richie Boys, is featured in the book.

Wren: We also are showing the movie Casablanca followed by Noah Isenberg’s talk about his book We’ll Always Have Casablanca (Thursday, November 9) on the film industry, the making of the movie and the number of Jews involved in the production of Casablanca.

Terry: Our annual Comedy Night (Saturday, November 11) features Susan Silver and Alan Zweibel.  Silver wrote for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Bob Newhart Show and Alan Zweibel wrote for Saturday Night Live and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  It should be a night of fun and laughs.

Judy: I think it is one of the best line-ups.

Terry: So, why it is hard to just pick one favorite book?  With over 30 authors, there is something for everyone.

The JCC’s 66th Annual Jewish Annual Book Fair runs from November 2-12 and is held at the Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Road, in West Bloomfield. For information jccdet.org or 248-661-1000.

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