2018-11-07 / Columns

More programs you won’t want to miss at this year’s Festival


In our last column, we tempted you with some highlights from the Bank of America Festival of Arts, Books, and Culture of the Katz JCC, Nov. 11-18. We met recently to discuss more programs you’ll want to attend, as well as books that will be for sale at the Festival.

IRENE: This month we’re still looking at historical fiction. New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons brings us an epic family saga about a headstrong Austrian heiress who is forced to choose between the family she’s made and the family that made her at the outbreak of World War I. “House of Gold” is a banking dynasty with branches in England, France, Germany, and Austria. The novel echoes the history of the Rothschild family. It delves into the world of extreme privilege and power, with the all-too-real politics of war and anti- Semitism. It begins in Austria of 1911, when Greta Goldbaum enters an arranged marriage to a distant English cousin. As the war looms, the English and French Houses of Goldbaum also face this conflict. The plot is full of history, family drama, war, and romance, and will appeal to enthusiasts of historical fiction. Buy it at the Festival!

MINNA: B.A. Shapiro, the author of “The Art Forger,” has a new novel set in both Paris and Philadelphia beginning in 1922. “The Collector’s Apprentice,” an historical thriller, also delves into the art world as it tells the story of a young Belgian woman with a shifting identity, accused of crimes from theft to murder. Look for appearances by actual historical figures, such as Gertrude Stein, Thornton Wilder, and Henri Matisse, when the title character, hired to build the collection of a new art museum, faces obsessions over art, money, love, and revenge. Local readers will recognize a fictionalized version of the Barnes Museum and its founder. This book will be available at the Festival.

AMY: In Janet Beard’s novel, “The Atomic City Girls,” June Walker, along with many other young women in the early 1940s, moves to Oak Ridge to work on a secret military project. She watches meters and controls dials all day and lives in shared housing. June meets and falls in love with Sam Cantor, a Jewish scientist who knows what the project is: They are working to create an atomic bomb in order to end World War II. Beard gives the story substance with details of daily life at the site: Long mealtime lines at the commissary, Spartan living conditions, and racial segregation. Purchase this great book at the Festival.

MINNA: Let’s look at some nonfiction by Festival authors. “A River Could Be a Tree” by Angela Himsel is classified as Christian literature because the Indiana-born author was raised in the evangelical Worldwide Church of God, but that’s only where her journey begins. After traveling to Israel as a teenager to study at Hebrew University, Angela relocated to New York already questioning the teachings of her church and drawing closer to the Jewish faith. This memoir details her spiritual journey as she converts to Judaism and finds another path for herself. This program will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 11 a.m.

AMY: When we think of Coney Island, we aren’t likely to think of neonatology, but there’s an important historic link, recounted in Dawn Raffel’s true story, “The Strange Case of Dr. Couney; How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies.” In the early 1900s, Martin Couney, who claimed to be a doctor (the claim was never verified), saved the lives of thousands of premature babies by placing them in incubators, which were an expensive novelty at the time. He then operated preemie exhibits: Audiences would pay to view the tiny babies he displayed at fairgrounds and other venues, and ultimately at a permanent facility in Coney Island. Though some saw him as a huckster and condemned his approach, he is considered a founder of American neonatology. Hear the incredible story on Sunday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m.

IRENE: “From Broken Glass: My Story of Finding Hope in Hitler’s Death Camps to Inspire a New Generation” by Steve Ross is a moving memoir that is sure to leave the reader with a great sense of strength and optimism. Though the story of this survivor of 10 Nazi concentration camps tells of inconceivable brutalities, we are witness to the ability of the human spirit to rise above even the bleakest circumstances. The book moves between the period of Steve’s young life surviving the Holocaust to his life in America where he becomes a highly esteemed psychologist for at-risk youth and founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial. This program, the community-wide Kristallnacht Observance, on Sunday, Nov. 11, 11:30 a.m., is in conjunction with the JCRC’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum and Goodwin Education Center.

For more information, contact us: Irene Afek at the Sanders Memorial Library of the Katz JCC (iafek@jfedsnj.org) and Cong. M’kor Shalom (library@mkorshalom.org); Minna Siegel at Temple Beth Sholom (msiegel@tbsonline.org); and Amy Kaplan at Cong. Beth El (akaplan@bethelsnj.org). 

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