Wide range of topics highlights 33rd annual Jewish Book Festival

Imam Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier.

Imam Shamsi Ali and Rabbi Marc Schneier.

Insightful discussions ranging from the subjects of congressional gridlock, Hezbollah and Islamophobia to the fantasy world of golems and super heroes, reveal the diversity and thought-provoking topics explored at the 33rd annual Alper JCC Berrin Family Jewish Book Festival.

Marcy Levitt, Alper JCC director of Literary and Performing Arts, has brought together the Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at UM, numerous local synagogues and community agencies along with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs to present what is considered to be one of the most prestigious Jewish Book Festivals in the country.

History buffs and politicos can hear the latest writings by those who hold high-ranking positions at think tanks, universities and in our legislature. Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, Drs. Jonathan Sarna, Gary Zola and Pamela Nadell, all renowned scholars, form a panel to address decisions by General Ulysses Grant and President Abraham Lincoln that greatly affected American Jews during the Civil War.

Focusing on another period in American history, Dr. Allan Lichtman examines the contentious debate that still lingers over whether Franklin Delano Roosevelt turned his back on the Jews of Hitler’s Europe.

For current issues, Congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz shares her concerns over legislative gridlock, and its impact on future generations. Her message is a call to action urging all to engage in a dialogue that fosters change.

Matthew Levitt, director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, examines Hezbollah’s beginnings, its first violent forays in Lebanon, and then its terrorist activities and criminal enterprises worldwide.

Despite the anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic prejudices that Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali were exposed to in their youth, these two members of the clergy forged a lasting friendship in the tumultuous decade following the attacks of 9/11. They share their vision of how Jews and Muslims can work to find common ground, and why Jews should be concerned about Islamophobia and why Muslims should care about anti-Semitism.

Women’s Day Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 7, features the much-admired social justice activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author, journalist and a founding editor of Ms. Magazine. In “How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick,” Pogrebin has compiled stories of friendship and adds her personal experiences filled with sensitivity, warmth, and humor. Her book is an invaluable guide for anyone hoping to rise to the challenges of this most important and demanding passage of friendship.

Fans of fiction can hear Amazon bestselling authors of 2013 — Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni, and Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings, discuss their acclaimed novels. Israeli screenwriter and filmmaker, Shemi Zarhin (Avivia My Love, Noodles) presents his debut novel, Some Day, along with the screening of his award-winning film, The World Is Funny.

Jessica Soffer’s first novel, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, is a compelling story about accepting the people we have to love and the people we choose to love.

Marcia Clark, former LA prosecutor, who is inextricably linked with the name O. J. Simpson, has become a critically successful mystery writer and shares her latest work, Killer Ambition.

Returning to the Jewish Book Festival are two highly acclaimed authors.

Dara Horn’s newest release is a spellbinding tale, A Guide for the Perplexed, that intertwines stories from Genesis, medieval philosophy, and the digital frontier.

Naomi Ragen has written nine international bestsellers, and continues her groundbreaking exploration of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world in The Sisters Weiss as she follows two siblings and how each responds to the community’s strictures.

The ever popular stories of Superman brings author Marc Tyler Nobleman, whose book Boys of Steel addresses the Superman/Moses parallel, Superman’s Hebraic-sounding Kryptonian name, and the truth about whether or not Hitler himself personally banned Superman comics because he considered the character to be a Jew.

The intriguing and diverse 33rd annual Alper JCC Berrin Family Jewish Book Festival runs through Thursday, Dec. 5. Presentations take place at the Alper JCC and at locations throughout South Florida. For a complete schedule of author appearances call 305-271-9000, ext. 268, or log on to <www.alperjcc.org>.

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