Jewish Book Festival turns 30

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I remember a group of us sitting around a table at Grace Colton’s apartment while we listened to her new idea for a Jewish book event.

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With her co-chairman, Joy Melman, she proposed inviting some authors of recently published books — either by Jewish writers or on Jewish subjects — to speak at the Jewish Community Center (JCC).

That was 30 years ago, and today the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival has the largest attendance of all Jewish Book Festivals and fairs in the United States.

For the 30th anniversary festival, more than 30 authors will take the stage at the JCC, #2 Millstone Campus Drive starting Nov. 2 and continuing through Nov. 12, with two bonus author events on Nov. 17 and 18.

Keynoting the annual book lovers’ Festival will be Jerry Springer, the man that some folks seem to love to hate for his outrageously confrontational TV show.

Actually, Springer is a very interesting character who served as a City Councilman in Cincinnati and later as Mayor. Co-author with Laura Morton of his biography, Ringmaster, he tells the story of his life as an attorney, as an aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy, his broadcast career and of his experience as ringmaster of the TV talk show.

The son of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany who escaped the Holocaust in 1944, Springer was born in England in 1945 and emigrated with his parents to the United States as a child, growing up in Queens, New York.

He earned his B.A. in political science from Tulane University and his J.D. from Northwestern. At 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2 at the JCC, Springer will blast off the ten days of varied and unusual programming and afterwards will have a public autograph session. Then he will head over to the Festival’s Patron Gala Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Clayton.

Tickets for the Keynote Presentation are $35. For the Gala they are $185, which includes reserved preferred seating for opening night, cocktails, dinner and dancing to the music of Galaxy and entry to all Festival events.

Being a bit of a foodie, I have to tell you that the menu for dinner (kosher, of course) is mouthwatering, starting with hors d’oeuvres like sesame seared tuna to roasted pineapple cake with dark chocolate sauce.

Monies raised from the Festival benefit JCC special needs scholarships for Early Childhood Day Care, Senior Adult Day Care including Alzheimer’s programming, Senior Adult Nutrition, and programming for people living with disabilities.

For tickets call the Festival Hotline at 314-442-3299.

This year’s St. Louis Jewish Book Festival Chairs Darla Grossberg and Linda Kraus, with a big assist from their exceptional committee, have assembled some very special programs in addition to the lineup of authors.

For example, The Concert Event on Sunday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. will feature Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster David Halen and SLSO musicians performing at B’nai Amoona Congregation, 324 S. Mason Road.

Musical selections will be based on the best selling book, The Soloist, which is about a homeless man in Los Angeles who is an exceptional violinist.

Adam Crane, new SLSO Director of Communications and former Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will be the narrator.

Crane was intimately involved in the true story of the book, which has been made into a film by Steven Spielberg and will be released on Nov. 21.

On Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m., there will be a special one-night-only performance by the Steve Schankman Orchestra with vocalist Tom Heitman. Schankman will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Contemporary Productions and the release of the new book, Produced by Contemporary, which he wrote with former St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist and editor Dick Richmond. I am told that this coffee table-size, beautifully illustrated tome is filled with memories and backstage stories from one of America’s top entertainment companies.

Authors who will speak at the Jewish Book Festival range from Martin Fletcher, NBC News Israeli Bureau Chief, whose face is a familiar one to the British cooking sensations Fine and Tarn, authors of The Jewish Princess Cookbook (and I thought that Jewish Princesses made reservations).

Brochures will be inserted in the Oct. 8 issue of the Jewish Light, and will be available

at a variety of sites in the community on Nov. 1. listing all the many wonderful speakers, call the Festival Hotline at 314-442- 3299.

FORTY FIVE YEARS AGO THIS MONTH I signed a contract with the St Louis Jewish Light to write a column for what was then a bi-weekly publication. Would you believe, I never saw another contract nor did I ever ask for one?

My editors starting with Jeff Fisher and continuing through Bob Cohn, Andy Polin and now our new Publisher/CEO Larry Levin seem to have been satisfied with the fact that people read this column and believe what I have to say.

Your response has been more than gratifying and keeps me going. Like with the three-decade-old Jewish Book Festival, time truly flies when you are having fun.

OOPS — Attribute it to my old age, but I did make a big boo boo. The opening of Art in the City at Crepes in the City was mistakenly announced as Friday, September 17 — an error, as it opened on Wednesday of that week.

Sorry if any of you went downtown for wine and crepes and found only art.