"Non-Jewish authors are jealous of us because we still have the Jewish book fair in these times of declining interest in books," said the moderator of a panel of authors this week at one of the events of the Ann Arbor Jewish Book Festival. Simultaneously in November -- Jewish Book Month -- Jewish Community Centers all over North America hold book fairs like ours. New books and authors are featured, but many classics and general interest Jewish books are also normally for sale. A central organization offers an opportunity around 6 months earlier when volunteers and professionals from the local book fair committees can hear short sample talks, and select the authors who will travel a circuit of book fair events in November.
Jews love books. The most religious Jews spend their lives minutely studying the Torah, Talmud, and commentaries on them. The Israelis have a museum called "The Shrine of the Book," which is not a religious shrine, but a display of archaeological finds, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls. The least religious Jews, like me, preserve this tradition by a more general love of books, Jewish or not. Many attend these book fairs. Jewish life in a sense is a constant Jewish Book Fair.
Yesterday I attended a book talk by a professor of history on the subject of war, diplomacy, and intrigue during World War I as it affected the potential for a Jewish State in Palestine. My estimate: around 60 to 70 people were present, and they seemed fascinated by an erudite talk of over an hour in length. The panel of authors that I mentioned, a talk by Joan Nathan about Jewish food in France in her latest book, the author of a thriller about the Temple Mount, and many others have been attracting sizeable audiences for our two-week festival. Enough sponsors are available to allow all talks to be free to anyone who wants to attend.
Books are our thing! We Jews of all persuasions write them and we read them all the time. I think the author of a book is something of a hero to any Jewish person.