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David Laskin’s ‘The Family’ selected for Chicago Jewish community ‘One Book’ initiative

 "The Family" [is]...a memoir that follows the author's ancestors across the tumultuous sweep of the 20th century. 

Book the Family image

For the fourth consecutive year, Spertus Institute  for Jewish Learning and Leadership spearheads One Book | One Community, the Chicago Jewish Community's celebration of Jewish Book Month. A single book is selected as the focus of a series of programs and events in Chicago and the suburbs. Free resources are provided for book groups, educators, and those reading on their own. 

This year, the award-winning book is The Family by David Laskin, a memoir that follows the author's ancestors across the tumultuous sweep of the 20th century. Characters range from a Torah scribe on the fringe of the Russian empire to the brilliant woman who founded Maidenform bras to a pair of young risk-taking pioneers building a foundation for the State of Israel. The Family was chosen a Best Book of the Year by the Seattle TimesKirkus Review, and the New York Public Library and was selected an Amazon Best Book of the Month.

Jewish Book Month is commemorated during the month preceding Chanukah, thus the date changes each year. This year, Chanukah begins at sundown on Dec. 16 and events celebrating Jewish literature will take place across North America in November and December. The Chicago area's One Book | One Community events start  in November with a special Kick-Off Program and culminate in December with two Author Events, one in Chicago and one in Lombard. 

The Family is author David Laskin's 11th book. The Children's Blizzard from 2004 won the Washington State Book Award and Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award for nonfiction. Mr. Laskin, who is a graduate of Harvard University and New College, Oxford, also writes for The New York Times and The Washington Post. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in Great Neck, New York. He and his wife, the parents of three grown daughters, live in Seattle.

"David Laskin's The Family is a story of courage in the face of adversity and innovation in times of necessity," said Beth Schenker, Spertus Assistant Dean for Jewish Studies and a member of the team that selected  this year's book. "Laskin reveals how knowledge about the past can help us understand and appreciate the present." 

This year's events include:

Old Land, New Land, Holy Land

Sunday, November 9 at 2 pm at Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

This year our One Book programming kicks off with music and food from three continents, along with related readings from The Family by WFMT's Steve Robinson. Music will be performed by Stuart Rosenberg  with  A Bissele Shmaltz. Tickets are $25 for the general public and $18 for Spertus members.

Introduction to Jewish Genealogy

Sunday, November 16 at 2 pm at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, 1175 Sheridan Road, Highland Park

In his research for The Family, David Laskin dug deep into his family's past. For those inspired to research their own family's past, genealogy expert Mike Karsen will share what information is most beneficial to seek and the factors that make Jewish genealogy unique. This program is free.

Lecture and Book Discussion

Thursday, November 20 at 6:30 pm at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie

Northwestern University professor Phyllis Lassner is an expert on historical memoirs and literature about the Holocaust. Readers will be able to join her for an exploration of The Family's characters and themes, as well as how David Laskin uses language to bring intertwining stories to life. Tickets are $10. 

Book Discussion

Tuesday, December 2 at 7 pm at Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Avenue in Chicago

With expert book group facilitator Rachel Kamin, director of the Gray Cultural & Learning Center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, this informal discussion is perfect for those who have read the book, plan to read the book, or just want to learn more. This program is free.

Author Events

Sunday, December 7 at 10 am at Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago and
Sunday, December 7 at 2 pm at Congregation Etz Chaim, 1710 S. Highland Avenue, Lombard

The author events are free.

Program tickets can be purchased online at or by phone at (312) 322-1773. For free programs, online reservations are requested. They can be made at 

The Family is currently available in hard cover, soft cover, and ebook formats. The book will be for sale at all One Book programs and David Laskin will be signing books at the Author Events.

For those programs taking place at Spertus, discount parking is available for $11 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, two blocks south of Spertus. 

A specially prepared Readers' Guide will explore the themes and characters in The Family. The guide is a perfect conversation starter for book groups and an illuminating study companion for educators and those reading on their own. It will be available for download from   beginning Nov. 1. 

In conjunction with One Book | One Community, Spertus Institute is holding a Jewish Ancestry contest to win one of two year-long subscriptions to Those interested should visit  to sign up for information.  

One Book | One Community is supported in part by the Robert & Toni Bader Charitable Foundation. 

Spertus Institute is a partner in serving the community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. JUF News is the media sponsor of One Book | One Community.

Brian Zimmerman is the former Marketing & Communications Associate for the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

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