Bay Area taking a page from Jewish Book Month

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If you have some downtime in the weeks ahead, the collective will of organized American Jewry has a bit of advice: Read a book!

And while you’re at it, make it a Jewish book.

November is National Jewish Book Month, an annual celebration started years ago by the Jewish Book Council and other like-minded organizations. With each passing year, communities do more to honor Jewish literature and authors. Nowhere is that more true than here in the Bay Area.

This month, our community will turn up the volumes, trumpeting Jewish books, authors and literacy in a big way.

For starters, the San Francisco Jewish BookFest takes place Sunday, Nov. 5 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and will bring out a number of revered writers, including novelist E.L. Doctorow.

Not to be outdone, the 18th annual Contra Costa Jewish Book Festival also begins Nov. 5 and runs for 10 days. Featured authors there include Yiddish expert Michael Wex and novelist Elizabeth Rosner.

Next week, the annual Jewish literary supplement from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture will be inserted in j., and will include excerpts from fiction, memoirs and essays by major Jewish writers.

Then the Koret International Jewish Book Awards come to town Nov. 15, also at the JCCSF. They honor the year’s best in Jewish fiction and nonfiction, and will surely turn the eye of the Jewish literary world to our region.

This is not just a November thing. Groups like the Jewish Book Council, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and Jewish Family & Life!, as well as Web sites like JBooks and Nextbook, work year round to promote Jewish literacy and literature.

And as our cover story this week shows, this is not just a top-down movement. Jewish book clubs have been going strong for years all over the Bay Area, with new ones springing up all the time. Two words: join one!

So what does it all mean?

At a time when newspaper circulations are plummeting, when young people turn to Xboxes and iPods for entertainment, the Jewish community says loudly and clearly, “Open a Jewish book and you will open your mind.”

The cliché says we are the people of the book. Yet is there a mantle we wear more proudly? Is there an objective we hold more dearly?

We not only have our sacred texts to ponder week after week. The Jews have bequeathed to the world some of its greatest authors and works of fiction and nonfiction, past and present. There are few accomplishments about which the Jewish people can boast more loudly.

So get thee to a bookstore and start reading.