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Jewish Book Festival Returns For 25th Year

The Mandell JCC's Jewish book festival will return for its 25th year, beginning Oct. 8.

The six-week festival, which features a variety of author talks, culminates on Nov. 18.

Jill Ziplow, the Mandell JCC cultural arts director and organizer of the book festival, said after several years of hosting year-round book events, they have decided this year to move the festival back to its normal fall schedule, which coincides with Jewish Book Month.

"We were trying to create the excitement for our 25th year," Ziplow said. "We have six weeks of 10 events and we want to get people out reading and talking and listening in a more confined format. We can build the excitement in the short time."

Ziplow, who in a calendar year while planning for this event might hear 200 authors speak, said the event supports continued education.

"I love learning about new authors and new topics and I get excited to bring them to my community," Ziplow said. "I get exactly what I'm hoping my audience gets out of it. I learn something new every time and I meet great authors and great people."

This year, Ziplow said, the event organizers have curated a diverse group of authors to speak to the West Hartford community. They include an actor, a chef, a broadway actress, a journalist, and a judge.

"This isn't just an opportunity to read books, it's an opportunity to learn and have meaningful conversations on a wide range of topics," Ziplow said. "We cover a wide range of topics so people can learn. We want it to appeal to men, women, young, and old. There's something for everyone in this festival."

The festival is kicking off with a visit from chef Joan Nathan, on Oct. 8.

"She is a world-renowned chef," Ziplow said. "That's a fun event to open the season. Because she is a chef, and this is celebrating her newest cookbook, we will be offering a lunch with the author. We will be featuring some of her recipes."

The festival will also feature the recognizable face of actor Stephen Tobolowsky, whose credits include the television shows Californication and Silicon Valley, and the film Groundhog Day. Tobolowsky will perform from his newest book, My Adventures with God, on Nov. 18.

In between those two opening and closing events are ones like the Oct. 23 date with Broadway actress Alexandra Silber at the Hartford Stage. Silber, who recently played the role of Tzeitel in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, wrote a book, called After Anatevka, about what might have happened to the character of Hodel after the story on stage is over. Silber will be in conversation with Darko Tresnjak, the artistic director of Hartford Stage.

Other events include a talk with Roxanne Coady, the owner of RJ Julia Booksellers, who along with insiders from Penguin Random House, will share what books are popular.

Ziplow said she's looking forward to seeing the diverse slate of authors and guests join the West Hartford and Mandell JCC communities.

"I am excited to bring this year's wide range of conversation," Ziplow said. "We are celebrating 25 years of words and wisdom, and that's exactly what we are bringing this year."

Ziplow said its suggested that tickets are purchased in advance to avoid missing out on a particular event. Tickets, and ticket packages, can be purchased online at the Mandell JCC website, mandelljcc.org.

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