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St. Louis Jewish Book Festival: An insider’s guide

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Three of the three dozen authors appearing at the 2018 St. Louis Jewish Book Festival: (from left) Martin Fletcher, Peter Sagal and Nell Scovell.

For many, autumn in St. Louis is a favorite time of year. The hot temperatures of summer give way to cooler days. The leaves of trees take on — in good years — beautiful red and yellow hues. Thanksgiving and Hanukkah aren’t too far off. 

For readers in St. Louis, autumn also brings a special treat: the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival at the Jewish Community Center. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the festival, which will welcome three dozen authors to the city Nov. 4-16. We asked members of the Jewish Book Festival’s planning committee which authors they are most looking forward to seeing. Here’s a sampling of what they said. 

At right, find a full schedule of festival events. And if you missed our interview with keynote speaker Peter Sagal of NPR’s  “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”, find it online at www.stljewishlight.com/JBF-18.


Carole Levin, Creve Coeur 

Jocelyn Dan Würzburg (author of “Jocie,” 1:30 p.m. Nov. 16) found herself battling against angry Memphis sanitation workers set for a strike in the heat of July 1969 as mountains of garbage piled up citywide. What was a nice Jewish girl doing in the midst of municipal employees venturing to end this mess? She was to become a brave, outspoken woman in the face of adversity. 

Jocelyn became an honored civil rights activist, often speaking out for women’s rights with former Democratic president Hillary Clinton. She was appointed to the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year 1976 by then-President Gerald Ford. Admirably, she achieved her law degree at age 39 from Memphis State University and practices law today in Memphis. 


Jim Bogart, Olivette

So many outstanding authors to hear, but the two I am most excited about are Rebecca Erbelding (author of “Rescue Board,” 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7). and Wendy Sherman (“Not For the Faint of Heart,” 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8). I am fascinated by the FDR Presidency, and Sherman’s memoir is a terrific read about her upbringing and high-profile negotiations with international leaders.


Beth Saltzman, University  City

Excited and looking forward to Nora Krug’s Kristallnacht Program as she discusses her memoir “Belonging” (7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14). Her story takes us on her journey to understand her family’s wartime past in Nazi Germany and how the past has shaped her life and history.  As a member of B’nai Amoona Sisterhood, the co-sponsor of the presentation and a history buff, I am looking forward to a fascinating and revealing evening.


Marilyn K. Brown, Manchester

Catherine Price, “How to Break Up With Your Phone” (10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8).

Even though I am not addicted to my cell phone (don’t we all say that?!), I become very annoyed when I see people on their phones when they’re in restaurants, with their children, etc.  Generally, I think it’s too bad we don’t spend more time conversing with people in person rather than texting, e-mailing and calling.  Maybe Price can offer some good tips on how to help.


Bonnie Solomon, Chesterfield

I’m excited to meet and hear Nell Scovell, author of “Just the Funny Parts.” As Chair of Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation 

of St. Louis and a sponsor of the Women’s Night, I will have the unique opportunity to meet her just prior to the event (6:30 p.m. reception, author program at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15). In light of the recent national events, I look forward to listening to and laughing with her as she takes us on her more than 30 year career in male-dominated Hollywood. She is bound to inspire all of us to use the “place at the table” whenever possible despite the lack of gender diversity. Who’s laughing now? I am sure we all will.


Myron Holtzman, Chesterfield 

As a sports enthusiast, I’ve always looked forward to Sports Night during the Jewish Book Festival. This year’s authors/books (7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6; RSVP required) are: 

Benjamin Hochman, sports columnist for the Post-Dispatch, brings his book, “The Big 50: St. Louis Cardinals.” The book takes a look at 50 men and moments that make the Cardinals what they have meant to St. Louis. 

The second book is “Alley-Oop to Aliya: African American Hoopsters in the Holy Land,” by David Goldstein, chronicling four decades of African Americans traveling to Israel to play professional basketball. More than 800 have made the journey, many of whom have fallen in love with the country and returned year after year—and some who have actually converted to Judaism.  


Marilen Pitler, Creve Coeur

Jamie Bernstein, “Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein” (1 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6). Having grown up listening each week to Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, developing my love of classical music through them, I am really looking forward to hearing the stories I hope his daughter will be telling.  I adored this charismatic maestro, and have played his recording of “Peter and The Wolf” to my grandchildren numerous times.


Marcia Lyons, Creve Coeur

I’m looking forward to seeing Dennis Turner’s presentation on his book “What Did You Do In The War Sister?” (10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13). This book portrays, albeit in a fictional manner, a picture of the bright spots in history’s darkest period. The nuns portrayed in the book are representative of those non-Jews who gave shelter to those being oppressed, and fighting against the Nazi regime. B’nai B’rith is proud to co-sponsor Turner’s presentation. 


Judi Scissors, Chesterfield

I’m looking forward to seeing Stephen Flatow, author of “A Father’s Story” (1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9). With all we read today in the media about terrorist attacks, in Israel and the rest of the world, this book holds much interest as we learn of one father’s determination to bring the terrorists responsible for his daughter’s death to justice. I look forward to learning more about his story and the strength he must have had to pursue his goals.


Judy Berger & Julie Frankel  

As former co-chairs of the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival the last three years, selecting our author lineup was always the most rewarding. This year, we had the pleasure of finding “Eat Like A Maisel: The Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This show is the prime-time Emmy award-winning comedy series for 2018. We are looking forward to taking this culinary trip with Anthony LeDonne (1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12) into the kitchens of 1950s Manhattan.


Barb Raznick, Creve Coeur

I have seen Ambassador Wendy Sherman (7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8) numerous times on MSNBC and have always found her to be a thoughtful and intelligent contributor to the conversation. Her book, “Not for the Faint of Heart,”  is fascinating — from her stories of her background, through her early career and to her negotiations with the State Department, often as the only woman in attendance.


Gloria Spitzer, Crystal Lake Park

Martin Fletcher (“Promised Land,” 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5), because I’ve enjoyed his other books, which were exciting and true. Also, “Just the Funny Parts,” by Nell Scovell (7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 15; reception at 6:30), because of her background writing for many TV shows and her book, “Lean In.”


Jean Margul, Festival Co-Chair, Frontenac

Samantha Harris, “Your Healthiest Healthy” (1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14). The last eight years, breast cancer has been front and center in my life.  My mom was diagnosed eight years ago and succumbed to it three years later.  This year I faced my own challenges with this disease. Harris’ book spoke to me.  I admire her honesty, fight, and take charge attitude that she embraced in order to beat her cancer.