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Literatour Book Festival Announces 2021 – 2022 Lineup

SPRINGFIELD — Literatour, the Springfield Jewish Community Center’s celebration of Jewish books and authors, has announced its 2021 – 2022 lineup of authors. Literatour events will take place either in person at the J or online via Zoom, welcoming a robust list of novelists, memoirists, comedians, and artists. 

“This year’s Literatour line-up is quite diverse, and our authors’ books cover many different topics for a wide array of interests,” said Bev Nadler, the Springfield JCC’s director of Adult Life. “Whether you’re comfortable coming to the J for an in-person program or wish to participate in our virtual programs from the comfort of your home, all are welcome.”

Books featured during Literatour will be available for purchase and autograph at all in-person author events. All Literatour authors’ books can be purchased at the JCC.

Online events are free and open to the public. In-person events are free for JCC members and $10 per person for the general public. Reservations are required. 

Sponsors of this year’s Literatour festival include Life Lessons: The William & Margery Sadowsky Center for Adult Learning, A.W. Brown’s, Kehillah: the Springfield JCC’s Special Need Department, Springfield Museums, and the Jewish Book Council. Geneous funding is provided by the Posnick Family Endowment and the Norman and Frances Cohen Fund for Adult Arts and Education.

Upcoming Literatour Dates:

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog, Jenna Blum
Tuesday, Nov. 2, 6:30 p.m
Online Program (Zoom)

From best-selling author Jenna Blum comes a memoir that pays tribute to her black Lab, Woodrow. Known to many as “the George Clooney of dogs” for his good looks and charm, Woodrow and Blum are fixtures in their Boston neighborhood. But Woodrow is aging. As he begins to fail, the true nature of his extraordinary relationship with Blum is revealed. Over the last seven months of his life, Woodrow and Blum’s neighbors taught her new lessons about life and love, including the power of community to carry a person through troubled times. Free for JCC members, $10 general public. Co-sponsored by A.W. Brown’s

Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood, Mark Oppenheimer
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m.
In-Person Program at the J

On Oct. 27, 2018, a gunman killed eleven Jews who were worshipping at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill — the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history. Many neighborhoods would be understandably subsumed by despair after such an event, but not this one. By speaking with residents and nonresidents, Jews and gentiles, survivors and witnesses, teenagers and seniors, activists and historians, Oppenheimer provides a kaleidoscopic and nuanced account of collective grief, love, support, and revival.

Oppenheimer, a Springfield native, is the author of five books, including The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia. He is a former religion columnist for The New York Times, and a co-host of Tablet’s podcast Unorthodox. Oppenheimer directs the Yale Journalism Initiative. Free for JCC members, $10 general public. Co-sponsored by Temple Beth El

The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz
Tuesday, Dec. 7, 7 p.m
Online Program (Zoom)

Jake, once a promising young novelist, is now teaching a third-rate MFA program. When his most arrogant student announces that they don’t need his help, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as amateur narcissism. When he discovers that his student has died, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that – a story that absolutely needs to be told. In a few short years, Jake is the author enjoying the wave of success. But at the height of his glorious new life, an email arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels You Should Have Known (which aired on HBO as The Undoing), Admission, The Devil and Webster, The White Rose, The Sabbathday River and a Jury of Her Peers, as well as Interference Powder.

This program is free and open to the public.

An Observant Wife, Naomi Ragen
Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, 2 p.m.
Online Program (Zoom)

Yaakov and Leah are plunged into their new lives together as Yaakov leaves his beloved yeshiva to work in the city, and Leah confronts the restrictions imposed by religious laws that govern even their most intimate moments. Adding to their difficulties is the hostility of some who continue to view Leah as a dangerous interloper, questioning her sincerity and adherence to religious laws and spreading outrageous rumors. During their attempts to reach balance between their human needs and their spiritual obligations, the discovery of a forbidden relationship between troubled teenage daughter Shaindele and a local boy precipitates a maelstrom of life-changing consequences for all.

Ragen is an award-winning novelist, journalist, and playwright. Her first book, Jephte’s Daughter, was listed among the top 100 most important Jewish books of all time. 

This program is free and open to the public.

A Better Life for Their Children: Julius Rosenwald, Booker T. Washington, and the 4,978 Schools that Changed America, Andrew Feiler
Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 7 p.m.
Online Program (Zoom)

Born to Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald rose to lead Sears, Roebuck & Company and turned it into the world’s largest retailer. Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington became the founding principal of Tuskegee Institute. In 1912 the two men launched a program to partner with Southern Black communities to build public schools for African American children. This collaboration drove dramatic improvement in African American educational attainment and fostered the generation who became the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement. 

Feiler grew up Jewish in Savannah and has created numerous community initiatives, serves on multiple not-for-profit boards, and is an active advisor to political leaders. His art is an extension of his civic values.

This program is free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by Temple Beth El and the Springfield Museum.

Hannah’s War, Jan Eliasberg
Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at 7 p.m.
In-Person Program at the J

In 1938 physicist Dr. Hannah Weiss was on the verge of the greatest discovery of the 20th Century: splitting the atom. As a Jewish woman living under the rule of the Third Reich, her research is belittled, overlooked, and eventually stolen by her German colleagues. In 1945 Major Jack Delaney, wounded from the liberation of Paris, returned to the New Mexican desert with a mission: to catch a spy. Someone in the top-secret nuclear lab at Los Alamos has been leaking encoded equations to Hitler’s scientists. Chief among Jack’s suspects is Hannah Weiss. All signs point to Hannah as the traitor, but over three days of interrogation, Jack will realize that they have more in common than either one bargained for.

Eliasberg is an award-winning writer and director whose career includes dramatic pilots for Miami Vice and Wiseguy, and episodes of TV series including Bull, Nashville, Parenthood, and Blue Bloods.

Free for JCC members, $10 general public

I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust: A Memoir of Autism and Hope, Valerie Gilpeer
Thursday, April 7, 2022, 7 p.m.
Online Program (Zoom)

“I have been buried under years of dust and now I have so much to say.” These were the first words 25-year-old Emily Gordon ever wrote. Born with nonverbal autism, Emily’s only means of communicating had been one-word responses or physical gestures. This miraculous breakthrough allowed Emily to finally provide insight into the life, frustrations, and joys of a person with autism.

Gilpeer, Emily Gordon’s mother, worked together with Emily to bring this remarkable memoir to life. 

This program is free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by Kehillah, the JCC’s Special Needs Department

Laugh Lines: Helping Funny People Be Funnier, Alan Zweibel
Thursday, May 12, 2022, at 7 p.m
In-Person Program at the J (Zoom)

Alan Zweibel caught the attention of Lorne Michaels becoming one of the first writers at Saturday Night Live, where he penned classic material for Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and all of the original Not Ready for Prime-Time Players. Zweibel weaves together his own stories and interviews with his friends and contemporaries, including Richard Lewis, Eric Idle, Bob Saget, Mike Birbiglia, Sarah Silverman, Judd Apatow, Dave Barry, Carl Reiner, and more. 

Zweibel has won multiple Emmys and Writers Guild awards for his work in television.

Free for JCC members, $10 general public

HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act at a Time, Brad Aronson
Wednesday, June 1, 2022, at 7 p.m.
Online Program (Zoom)

Brad Aronson’s life changed in an instant when his wife, Mia, was diagnosed with leukemia. Amid the stress and despair of waiting for the treatment to work, Brad and Mia were met by an outpouring of kindness from friends, family, and even complete strangers. Inspired by the many demonstrations of “humankindness” that supported their family through Mia’s recovery, Brad began writing about the people who rescued his family from that dark time, often with the smallest of gestures.

This program is free and open to the public.

For more information or to register for Literatour, visit SpringfieldJCC.org, call (413) 739-4715, or email Arts@SpringfieldJCC.org.

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