Jewish literary world comes to DCJCC festival

Author Dan Savage was raised Catholic, but he “speaks to communities of faith,” according to Lili Kalish Gersch, the festival’s director.
Author Dan Savage was raised Catholic, but he “speaks to communities of faith,” according to Lili Kalish Gersch, the festival’s director.

People all over the Greater Washington D.C. area will get the chance to celebrate the Jewish literary world in a series of events and presentations next week, at the 10-day Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center’s Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival. Beginning Oct. 6, the DCJCC will host authors and events to discuss novels, books, current events and the meaning of love and marriage.

“The festival allows us to bring authors at the highest level in a condensed period of time,” said DCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky. She added that an additional bonus is how many of the authors come from nearby. “It’s incredible to live in a community like D.C. where you have so many local Jewish authors,” she said.

“We hope to represent as wide a range as possible at the festival,” said Lili Kalish Gersch, the festival’s director.

The literature celebration will include a special day just for children’s literature on Oct. 13.

“The experience of adults reading to children is a great way for children to get interested in reading,” Zawatsky said.

There will also be a screening of Tiger Eyes and a talk with Lawrence Blume, the director and son of Judy Blume, who wrote the original book, on Oct. 15.

The opening event of the festival, featuring author E.L. Doctorow, is especially exciting, Gersch explained, because he will read from his upcoming book Andrew’s Brain: A Novel, which is not yet on the shelves.

“It’s a great opportunity for audiences to hear a preview,” she said. “He’s a living legend.” “He’s truly one of the great writers of American fiction,” Zawatsky said.

The festival features almost exclusively Jewish authors, except for noted columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage. Savage’s writings on sex and love have sometimes made him a controversial figure. Although he was raised Catholic, his work makes him a good fit for the festival, Gersch said.

“Savage really speaks to communities of faith,” she said. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- Fla.) will help close out the festival on Oct. 16, speaking and promoting her new book For the Next Generation: A Wake-Up Call to Solving Our Nation’s Problems, which discusses possible solutions that everyone could get behind to solve problems in the country.

“She very much wanted to be a part of whatever we are doing,” Zawatsky said.

According to Zawatsky and Gersch, there may be more than 3,000 people attending the festival but tickets will continue to be sold throughout the 10 days. Previous festivals have proven so successful that Zawatsky said she expects the festival to develop even more in the future. “We’re continuing to grow this model,” she said.

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