Family, Sen. Boxer and 1,200 titles featured at Jewish Book Fair

Lectures, book signings, interactive programs and an on-site bookstore with the year’s newest releases will bring cutting-edge contemporary literature with a Jewish slant to La Jolla.

“We are a project of literature, of education,” said Jackie Gmach, program director at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center and director of the book fair.

The fair gets bigger and better every year, and this year is no exception. Best-selling authors from around the world will present lectures on a variety of topics. A grant from Target has also made it possible to offer a family day fair just for kids.

Attendees can shop the bookstore, where 1,200 titles will be for sale, in the Viterbi Family Galleria of the community center. They can also attend lectures and book signings, view displays, meet authors and mingle with other book lovers.

Generous sponsor donations have kept ticket prices low. They range from $6.50 to $16.50. In order to provide an opportunity for everyone to attend, some lectures are free.

The books and authors featured this year include works of fiction and non-fiction by Jewish and non-Jewish writers. Subject matter ranges from children’s stories to politics to classic whodunits. Spotlight authors are chosen based on whether their subjects relate to Jewish culture or are of interest to the Jewish population.

But that, by no means, makes the event of interest only to Jews, Gmach said. The fair’s mission is to bring awareness of current events and social trends through literature to all San Diego residents.

The lecture authors are representative of the diversity of genres and subjects offered at this year’s fair. They include Joseph Kanon, author of “The Good German,” soon to be released as a movie starring George Clooney; Sen. Barbara Boxer, author of “A Time to Run”; Jonathan Silin, author of “My Father’s Keeper: The Story of a Gay Son and His Aging Parents”; Jonathan Miller, author of “The Compassionate Community: Ten Values to Unite America”; Ruth Andrew Ellenson, author of “The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt”; and Robert Satloff, author of “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands.”

Harold Kushner, author of “Overcoming Life’s Disappointments,” was invited to speak simply becasue there is a need for his book, Gmach said.

“In the world of today, we know how many families are touched by disappointment,” she said. “We know the public needs to read this book.”

The family day, Book-A-Palooza, will be held Sunday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 5 p.m. Geared toward children ages 2 to 12, the event will include storytellers, crafts, theater, music and a performance of selected songs from “Brundibar” by the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center’s youth theater group, J. Company.

Children’s authors Barney Saltzbert, author of “Noisy Kisses, Goodnight Kisses”; Sid Fleischman, author of “Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini!”; and Erica Silverman, author of “Sholom Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer,” will read from their books. A parenting panel for adults will include authors James Keen, author of “Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family,” and Dylan Schaffer, author of “Life, Death & Bialys: A Father/Son Baking Story.” The children’s book store will offer merchandise for the younger set.

Occurring in conjunction with the book fair is the opening of “Davka, The Survival of A People,” an exhibition that, through photography and videotaped interviews, documents the story of 10 San Diego families that have been hurt by the Holocaust.

Gmach said “Davka” shows that, for any ethnicity that suffers a genocide, there is a way to survive and thrive.

The book fair is the culmination of months of preparation. A small army of volunteers put in thousands of hours to pull everything together. Book selection is one of the most critical functions.

“The emphasis is on this year’s releases,” said Sandra Silverstein, co-chair of the book selection committee. “We probably will have reviewed 1,500 titles.”

Volunteers attend the American Booksellers Association annual convention and work with the Jewish Book Council to identify new releases. They monitor publishing news and reviews, read preview copies and meet weekly to screen and select the books that will be sold at that year’s book fair.

After 12 years, the committee has developed a knack for finding what will be of interest to the community.

“We have learned how to do that for the success of the fair,” Silverstein said.

The first year the book fair was held, 12 authors were presented. This year’s event features more than 45 authors. Likewise, the number of attendees has increased annually. Fair planners anticipate some 8,500 visitors this year, a huge increase from the first book fair, which drew about 1,500 people.

“It’s a real community event,” Gmach said. “Last year was very successful. We’re hoping for the same success this year. If you like literature, if you’re interested in what the world has to offer today ... and if you want to have a role in what’s happening in the world, don’t miss the book fair.”

The San Diego Jewish Book Fair is one of 80 similar book fairs in the nation. It has become a model for other organizations and is considered one of the leading events in the country. November is National Jewish Book Month.

The 12th annual San Diego Jewish Book Fair will be held Nov. 2, Nov. 4 through 8, and Nov. 20.

For the schedule and calendar of events or to purchase tickets, call (858) 362-1348 or go to