I love Jewish Book Month, because it means I get to spend time at work doing one of my favorite pastimes—reading! So many fabulous books come across our desks at JUF News, and I’m sure my colleagues would agree that we only wish we had the time to read them all.
In preparation for Jewish Book Month, I’ve been lucky enough to have spent a lot of office time reading several books and had the opportunity to interview their respective authors. Let me tell you a little bit about each of them.
Hopefully you’ve heard about Spertus’s One Book | One Community initiative, a series of programs, (starting this weekend!) all related to A Day of Small Beginnings, a novel written by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum. This first-time author has a fascinating story of her own and is most certainly a gifted storyteller. You can read my interview with Rosenbaum here.
Last week I also read the new book, Sharon: The Life of a Leader. The book is written by Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who I had the opportunity to hear speak at the Highland Park Library. The book, like its subject, is considered somewhat controversial. (Look for my article on the book in the Dec. issue of JUF News.) What amazed me most about the whole thing was that Ariel Sharon kept (as written on the book’s inside cover) “a meticulous personal record of events and of the discussions he had with world leaders…” The book is filled with letters, transcripts, photos and more, all found in the former prime minister’s unbelievable archives. It seems he paved the path for his son to become his personal storyteller.
I also had the pleasure of reading Feed me Bubbe, a cookbook written by “America’s favorite online grandmother,” who I’ll be interviewing along with her co-star, her grandson Avrom, next week for our food issue. This one is near and dear to my heart, as I’ve been getting cooking lessons from my bubbes (though I call mine Nanas) recently. Bubbe tells her story, and in some ways the story of bubbes everywhere, through her food, recipes and wisdom.
All this reading has got me thinking about storytellers. What does it really mean to be a storyteller? Why do people want to tell their stories, whether fact or fiction? All three of these authors—though very different—were each effective storytellers. As a writer and blogger in this Jewish community, does this also make me a storyteller? I think so. And with that title, I think, comes certain responsibility, not just to inform, but to do so artfully, shedding light on topics that may otherwise be left in the dark.
Full disclosure, this isn’t the first time I’ve thought about the role of storytellers. For my master’s project, (I’m a proud graduate of the Master of Arts in Professional Jewish Studies program at Spertus) I hoped to tell the story of my elusive, often hard to define, generation of Jewish 20-and 30-somethings. So, I created a collection of personal essays and memoirs from Jewish 20- and 30-somethings across the country. To get started, I sent out a call for stories to my peers:
Are you a Jewish 20- or 30-something with a story to tell? Do you want to be part of a collection of voices that together tell the unique story of our generation?
I received close to 50 submissions—an overwhelming response—and it was then that I realized that every Jewish 20- or 30-something has an interesting story to tell—and here I was, creating an opportunity for them to tell it.
Amazingly enough, my project turned into a book, Living Jewishly: A snapshot of a generation, scheduled to be published by Academic Studies Press next year! As I currently work on the finishing touches of the book, I’ve been asked to submit my own personal story to the collection. Admittedly, I’ve been putting this off, just not sure where to begin—it’s a whole lot easier for me to tell other people’s stories, I’ve found. But I know deep down, I do want to add my voice to the mix. I hope I can find a way, like the contributors to my book, and authors like Bubbe, to become my own storyteller.