From Shylock to kreplach

‘Tis autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The frost is on the gloaming and the Canada goose has thither flown south. Time to curl up in front of the fire with a good Jewish book.

Or, better yet, hang with the 16th annual Contra Costa Jewish Book Festival in Walnut Creek, which begins Tuesday, Nov. 9. Held at the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center, the 13-day event brings together a diverse line-up of authors and challenging new works.

From Shylock to kreplach, from Israel’s raid on an Iraqi nuclear reactor to the art of Jewish storytelling, this year’s book festival spans a wide swath of the Jewish universe. The festival not only features writers, but performers, crafts and children’s entertainers as well.

Among the authors this year is Rodger Claire, whose “Raid on the Sun” recounts Israel’s daring 1981 strike on Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Osirak. Claire’s book is a detailed examination of that momentous attack.

Also on deck is noted business writer Alex Frankel, who will read from his new book, “Word Craft: The Art of Turning Words into Big Business.” In it, he dissects how corporations take a newly coined brand name and turn it into a household term.

Popular local Jewish storyteller Joel ben Izzy, reading from his book “The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness,” will be on hand. So will Michael Berenbaum, who will discuss the ideas presented in his book “Old Symbols, New Messages: Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century.”

Other guests include: Jonathan Sarna (“American Judaism: A History”), Fred Rosenbaum (“Taking Risks: A Jewish Youth in the Soviet Partisans and His Unlikely Life in California”), Andree Aelion Brooks (“Russian Dance: A True Story of Intrigue and Passion in Stalinist Moscow”), Marthe Cohn author of (Behind Enemy Lines), Mark Dollinger (“California Jews”) and Cindy Stein Gershen (“Healthy Jewish Cooking”).

Keeping with the literary vibe of the event, Professor Tyrone Guller will analyze Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” and its controversial character Shylock. A screening of Laurence Olivier’s 1973 screen version will follow. New this year, “Mystery Night” (Nov. 17), at which suspense writers Rochelle Krich and Sheldon Siegel discuss the genre.

To entertainer festivalgoers, the Jerusalem Lyric Trio will be in concert Nov. 13 to perform music inspired by biblical texts as well as Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino poetry. The concert will be held at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Walnut Creek.

For the younger set, Kidz Corner returns, featuring plenty of arts and crafts, puppetry, magic and storytelling.

Lafayette Bookstore will set up shop on site, offering the featured authors’ works and hundreds of other titles, including holiday and children’s books, as well as books on tape and CD.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.