WINNIPEG — The Rady JCC, which for many years organized the annual Jewish book fair here, expanded the format of the event last year, creating the first annual Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture.
Authors were still featured, and books and crafts were still on display, but new programs were added, including concerts by Israeli musicians and a tribute to the late Mordecai Richler. This year, Tarbut, to be held Nov. 12 to 20, is offering even more.
“Tarbut was very well received last year,” says Tamar Barr, the Rady JCC’s programming director. “Over 3,000 people attended and we received a lot of positive feedback. So we decided to enhance our programming with more events.”
This year’s program kicks off with a tribute to Bob Dylan. (The former Bob Zimmerman is almost a local boy having grown up just a little south of here in Hibbing, Minn.) The concert is being orchestrated by Glenn Buhr, who will also be performing accompanied by local musicians who make up the Broken Songs Band.
Jazz is the musical thread running through Tarbut this year. Other concerts include the Aaron Weinstein Jazz Duo performing the works of great Jewish jazz composers such as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Artie Shaw, and the Afro-Semitic Experience, a band co-founded by African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan, who play a mix of world beat, funk, jazz, cantorial, gospel, salsa, swing and soul.
The featured authors this year include Anita Diamant whose novel, The Red Tent, became an international best seller. Her latest novel, Day After Night, is set in 1945 Palestine and tells the story of four young Jewish women, all Holocaust survivors, who make their way to Israel and an uncertain future. Diamant has also written six non-fiction guides to contemporary Jewish life.
Coming back for a return engagement is former Winnipegger Rhea Tregebov, who will highlight her first novel, The Knife Sharpener’s Bell, which received the 2010 J.I. Segal Award for fiction on a Jewish theme, and was shortlisted for the ForeWord magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year awards in the fiction category. The book explores the fate of a Jewish family who moves from Winnipeg to the U.S.S.R. in the mid-1930s, based in part on family history. The University of British Columbia assistant professor of creative writing previously edited Arguing with the Storm, an anthology of works by Yiddish woman writers, and several other anthologies.
Alison Pick’s book Far to Go won the Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction and was on the 2010 Top 10 book lists at NOW magazine and the Toronto Star. The historical novel traces one family’s struggle to escape during the lead-up to the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Pick is from Toronto and has an earlier novel and two books of poetry to her credit.
Vancouver-based Roberta Rich’s new novel, The Midwife of Venice, is set in 16th-century Venice. Her heroine is Hannah Levi, who fights for the survival of the man she loves and their babies.
Tarbut will also feature two Holocaust-themed documentaries. Ahead of Time is the story of Ruth Gruber, a young American reporter covering the last days of the war, who helped escort 1,000 Jewish refugees to New York and whose photos, published around the world, helped change world opinion of the Jewish refugees and their quest for a Jewish state.
The film marks the directorial debut of noted cinematographer Bob Richman, and is based on a series of interviews with the 100-year-old Gruber.
The Rescuers is the latest film from Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Michael King. It highlights the largely unknown stories of 13 diplomats who, at tremendous personal cost, saved tens of thousands of Jews during World War II. The film follows Stephanie Nyombayire, a young Rwandan anti-genocide activist who lost 100 members of her family in the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s, and Sir Martin Gilbert, the renowned 20th-century and Holocaust historian, as they travel across 15 countries and three continents interviewing survivors and descendants of the diplomats.
King will be attendance to answer questions after the screening, Barr reports.
Tarbut ends with a tribute to the late Winnipeg Jewish artist, Leonard Marcoe, who died earlier this year. Marcoe was not only an artist, but also a mentor to other artists and a patron of the arts through his long-running Leonard Marcoe Studio Gallery. The Tarbut Festival will present a special exhibit of Leonard Marcoe’s work that will be on display throughout Tarbut week.