Marblehead book club plans next chapter

Poised to wrap up its 24th year, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of the North Shore Jewish Book Month Speaker Series draws on the talents of Sara Ewing, JCC adult program director, and Speaker Series committee members Sara Winer, Diane Knopf and Izzi Abrams. (Courtesy photo)

MARBLEHEAD — Sara Winer had her work cut out for her 16 years ago when she accepted responsibility to run the Jewish Community Center’s (JCC) Jewish Book Month Speaker Series with a close friend, the late Joan Finn.

“It meant vetting authors, setting up events, and we sent invitations out on brightly-colored pieces of heavy stock paper,” Winer recalled.

The series has come a long way since then with committee members, including Winer, finishing up their 24th year and making plans to highlight their 25th with a visit by Jamie Bernstein, who has written a book about her composer father.

This year’s series concludes Sunday, Dec. 16, 3 p.m., at the Peabody Essex Museum where Emmy award-winning former NBC News Bureau Chief Martin Fletcher talks about his novel, “Promised Land: A Novel of Israel.”

Set in Israel’s early years as a nation, the book underscores the JCC’s mission, in the words of Adult Program Director Sara Ewing, “to be a central place for Jewish life and learning on the North Shore.”

After Winer and Finn co-chaired it for 10 years, Diane Knopf took on the role of Book Series chairwoman.

“People have come to appreciate it. We get authors from all over the world,” Winer said.

In addition to Winer, committee members include Marci Alperin, Marjorie Detkin, Helaine Hazlett, Sheryl Levy, Karen Madorsky, Catherine Mazur-Jeffries, Ina Resnikoff, Sharon Rich, Susan Steigman and Jane Zeller.

This year’s literary lineup included Alexandra Silber, who wrote “After Anatevka, A Novel Inspired by Fiddler on the Roof.” The actress, singer and author spoke at Congregation Shirat Hayam on Sept. 26.

Susan Axe-Bronk read in September from her children’s book, “The Vanishing Gourds: A Sukkot Mystery” and Jenna Blum talked in October about “The Lost Family,” a novel about the reverberations of World War II across generations.

Other 2018 season authors included Ronald H. Balson and Ariel Burger who both wrote books with strong connections to World War II, and Phyllis Karas, author of “Women of Southie: Finding Resilience During Whitey Bulger’s Infamous Reign.”

Ewing said Karas discussed her book with three of the women featured in it — Anna Weeks, Karen Weeks Rakes, and Nancy Young — on Oct. 30.

“Her event happened to be the day Whitey was murdered,” said Ewing.

Boston Globe reporter and columnist Meredith Goldstein was the Book Series’ November headliner with Fletcher concluding the series for this year.

Tickets for this Sunday’s reading are $25 per person, including a reception and museum admission. There will be an opportunity to view Peabody Essex’ new Empresses of China’s Forbidden City exhibit.

Prices for Book Series presentations vary from author to author with a one-seat season ticket package available for $175.

Ewing said the Book Series helps raise money for the JCC and buttresses the intellectual facet of the organization’s mission that encompasses its film series.

“We are committed to being the central place for Jewish life and learning on the North Shore,” she said.

Winer, a Swampscott resident since 1987, said the Book Series has intersected with the social opportunities the JCC offers its 5,000 members. “Girls Night Out” reading discussions draw interest and community book reading invitations have attracted a broad cross section of JCC members.

“We have a lot to offer. We have a committee that is dedicated. We love being with each other,” she said.

Ewing has attended annual Jewish Book Council conventions in New York City to pick series authors.

“They bring in hundreds of authors who present in mid-May to organizations and synagogues,” she said.

Ewing brings recommendations back to the committee and members come to a consensus on author choices.

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