2010 St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

Hollywood producer Jerry Weintraub will give the Book Festival’s keynote talk Nov. 7. Photo: Norman Jean Roy

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Light

A big-time Hollywood producer, an octogenarian whose poems about aging turn it into a humorous adventure and “the” authority on politeness and good behavior are among the more than 30 authors appearing over 12 days at the 32nd annual St. Louis Jewish Book Festival.

The festival, which is the largest in the country, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 7 with movie producer Jerry Weintraub as keynote speaker. His memoir, “When I Stop Talking You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories from a Persuasive Man,” written with Rich Cohen, traces Weintraub’s youth in the Bronx, to his early career producing concerts for Elvis and Frank Sinatra, to his more recent accomplishments as a major movie producer and pal to stars such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

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“He is fascinating, his stories are just remarkable, unbelievable old Hollywood stories,” said Gail Feldstein, festival co-chair (with Kitty Gross). “He’ll have lots of stories to tell and apparently some of his stories have a St. Louis connection, so we are excited to find out what those are.”

How, exactly, did festival director Marcia Evers Levy manage to land him as keynote speaker?

“With a lot of persistence. I just wouldn’t go away,” Levy said.

A gala patron dinner follows the keynote event. However, the festival actually begins a few days earlier, with a couple of pre-festival events, including a presentation and question-and-answer session with Rabbi Harold Kushner at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 and a Kristallnacht program, in partnership with the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4. “We have authors (Tom Segev and Eric Metaxas) coming with books about Simon Wiesenthal and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a righteous Gentile. So we’re excited about that,” Feldstein added.

Kushner’s book “Conquering Fear: Living Boldly in an Uncertain World” has been the focus of several Big Community Read events already.There is also the post-festival Family Mitzvah event, Sunday, Nov. 21, with children’s author Kate Feiffer, daughter of cartoonist Jules Feiffer.

“We really try to offer a wide variety for people. If you like fiction, if you like non-fiction, world affairs, health, cooking,” Levy said.

Several festival favorites are back this year, including the national director of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman; NBC News correspondent Martin Fletcher; humorist author and poet Judith Viorst and Miss Manners herself, Judith Martin. The program includes fiction and non-fiction, the serious and the not-so-serious, added Feldstein.

“We have some fun the first opening night with National Lampoon, and who doesn’t love National Lampoon. We have a lot of comedy and fun things, with Jake Ehrenreich and ‘A Jew Grows In Brooklyn.’ And, of course, our ‘Who Made You The Expert’ panel, which is a group of comedians turned author,” Levy said. “It is going to be a fun, fun program.”

“Then there’s. . .Matthew Aaron Goodman, a new fiction writer,” she said. “He has been picked by a number of critics and book stores and magazines… as one of the hot new young writers. A great, very moving book ‘Hold Love Strong.’

“Our concert event for the last several years has included (Saint Louis Symphony) concertmaster David Halen and members of the symphony. This year we are just beside ourselves because we have Orli Shaham coming to perform. She’s an Israeli pianist, world-renowned. I can’t wait to hear her.” Feldstein said.

Other highlights include:

• Yale Strom, an international klezmer performer. “He is talking about the biography he has written on Dave Tarras, the king of klezmer. So you can come in the morning, hear a little history, get a performance, all in one,” Levy said.

Len Berman. “He is our sports guy this year, with a book ‘The 25 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.’ I am sure that will cause controversy, when people say, ‘why isn’t this player on the list?'” Feldstein said.

Feldstein and Evers also noted that there are several books about food on the festival menu. Author Joan Nathan’s book, “Quiches, Kugels & Couscous” travels the kitchens and markets of Paris and Dr. Howard M. Shapiro and Chef Franklin Becker’s book, “Eat & Beat Diabetes with Picture Perfect Weight Loss” tells how to enjoy simple and sophisticated recipes while eating healthy and losing weight. “The cooking programs do have food samples because everybody likes to have a little nosh,” Levy said.

Feldstein called the festival’s Series ticket “the bargain of the century.” The Series ticket allows access to all the festival events for $70. Most individual events are either $15 or $18, with the keynote at $36. The new Series PLUS ticket covers the whole festival, plus the pre-fest and post-fest events. It includes author events up through August 2011 and is $95.

Additional information is available at www.stljewishbookfestival.org. Tickets can also be charged by phone at -314-442-3299.


St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

WHEN: November 7-18, with pre-festival events Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 and a post-festival event Nov. 21

WHERE: Where: JCC Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur

HOW MUCH: Prices vary depending on event, with most either $15 or $18 a session. Special Series tickets can be purchased for access to all events, including the keynote speaker, for $70 and $95. The keynote event is $36, with patron gala tickets starting at $195.

MORE INFO: For a full schedule, go to www.stljewishbookfestival.org or call 314-442-3299