Natan Sharansky headlines St. Louis Jewish Book Festival

Eric Berger, Associate Editor

Natan Sharansky, the human rights activist and former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, is returning to St. Louis as a keynote speaker for the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival in November.

Sharansky, who spent nine years in Soviet prison after trying to emigrate to Israel and became the leader of the global movement to free Soviet Jews, will speak with presidential historian Gil Troy, the co-author of Sharansky’s memoir, “Never Alone: Prison, Politics, and My People.”

The event, which serves as the opening night of the festival, is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m., at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex near Creve Coeur.

Sharansky visited St. Louis in 2010. Read the Light’s story about the visit here:

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After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the book festival to go virtual last year, the event is returning to an in-person format from Nov. 7-18. The festival is requiring attendees to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 48 hours of an event. Masks must also be worn by attendees at all times during the festival.

Other speakers include:

  • Patrick Radden Keefe, author of, “Empire of Pain,” a book on the Sackler family, a Jewish family whose drug company, Purdue Pharma, played a pivotal role in the opioid crisis.
  • Novelist Pam Jenoff with her new bestseller“The Woman with the Blue Star” about sacrifice and unlikely friendship during World War II.
  • Sportswriter Rich Cohen, who took takes a personal look into the world of competitive youth hockey in “Peewees: Confessions of a Hockey Parent”
  • Jean Hanff Korelitz whose mystery novel, “The Plot,” tells the story of a professor who steals his student’s book idea.
  • And Lisa Scottoline, who will appear virtually to discuss her novel about World War II-era Rome under Mussolini,“Eternal.”

The full festival schedule will be announced later this month.

The organization is offering its premier pass, which allows entry to all festival events through June 2022 for $110 plus processing fees. That pass will go on sale Sept. 27 and can be ordered by calling 314-442-3299 or visiting A ticket to opening night with Sharanksy is $45. Virtual-only programs are $10 each. Student tickets are free for any author event with a student ID.