Jewish Book Fair promises authors, actors and debates


The San Diego Jewish Book Fair

  • Oct. 31 and Nov. 6-13
  • Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, Jacobs Family Campus
  • 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla
  • 858-362-1348


By Dan Robbins


As temperatures dip, the thought of curling up on the couch under a blanket with a good book begins to look attractive again. Readers looking for new material can peruse through mountains of books at the San Diego Jewish Book Fair (SDJBF), scheduled to begin Oct. 31.

Approximately 1,800 titles will be available for purchase at the upcoming event, according to Jackie Gmach, SDJBF program director.

She acknowledged that the event has a distinct cultural focus.

“We do carry books with Jewish content,” Gmach said, “however, we do have Jewish issues which cover the world in general. If you are talking about faith, if you are talking about religion, if you are talking about poetry - it’s not necessarily a book which has to be read only be a Jewish person.”

More than 40 best-selling authors, journalists and commentators are scheduled to speak during the event. Lecture topics range from current world events to family relations. Speakers will sign copies of their books following the presentations.

“The book selection is run by a committee of 20 people,” Gmach said. “They meet for seven months during the year and they are all volunteers.”

Linda Daniels, who lives in Del Mar, is co-chair of this year’s book selection committee.

“We have carefully selected a broad array of books dealing with political, social and cultural issues,” Daniels said. “Hundreds of new titles in fiction and books for children will also be available.”

Daniels called the speakers scheduled for this year’s fair “diverse and extraordinary.”

Henry Winkler is one of the “extraordinary” authors scheduled to speak. Winkler originally gained fame for his portrayal of “the Fonz” in the long-running TV sitcom “Happy Days” and more recently has co-starred in movies such as “The Waterboy” and “Holes.”

Winkler co-authored, with Lin Oliver, a series of 14 books featuring a learning-challenged hero, fourth-grader Hank Zipzer.

Zipzer is based on Winkler’s own experiences growing up with undiagnosed dyslexia.

“No one knew what learning challenges were,” Winkler said, “so I was called ‘stupid’ and ‘lazy.’ Teachers told me I wasn’t living up to my potential.”

Winkler said his motivation for writing children’s books is to convince youths who may be going through challenges similar to his own that they are still capable of success.

“I’m in the bottom 3 percent of the country academically.” Winkler said. “But I am successful. That’s the overall message of Hank: There is greatness in you, no matter how you learn.”

Winkler will speak at the SDJBF on Nov. 9.

For the adult readers in attendance, the highlight of the event may well be the debate between noted atheist and societal curmudgeon Christopher Hitchens (“God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”) and Rabbi David Wolpe (“Why Faith Matters: a Personal Faith Journey and a Response to the New Atheists”). The meeting between these two men promises to throw sparks and is scheduled for Nov. 13.