Like everything else on this season’s Jewish calendar, Jewish Book Month comes early this year. Tied as it is to the Chanukah gift-giving season, Jewish Book Month celebrates — and promotes — the still strong ties between Jews and books. Although the official start to Jewish Book Month is Oct. 26, we bring it up now because we will be celebrating it in our area even sooner.
The Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center’s Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival kicks off on Sunday, and runs through Oct. 16. The festival is a chance for readers to get out of their chairs and mingle with others of their own ilk. “The experience is different from solitary reading,” says Lili Kalish Gersch, director of literary, music and dance programs at the downtown center. “You’re experiencing literature together and having conversations with some of the brightest minds in the world.”
A book festival is also a place where the literary-minded can find their Jewish community. That holds true for writers as well as readers, as author Randy Susan Meyers wrote in the Huffington Post a couple of years ago. According to Meyers’ account, it was after being invited to appear at a Jewish book fair that she “finally felt the full impact of being welcomed into the larger Jewish community.”
Even though change is in the air, and there has been some significant movement from print to pixel, it seems that Jews have not given up on the allure of books and the majesty of the printed text. Moreover, at a time when power is shifting from bookstores to Amazon, and from the hard-copy printed word to the e-book reader, the remaining physical spaces where people can come together out of love of books have become more important. One such place is the annual Jewish book festival. See you there.