TORONTO — When Toronto’s 33rd annual Jewish Book Fair opens, it will not be with a hot book and author as in past years. Rather, the opener is Taibele and Her Demon, a musical performance involving klezmer, jazz, spoken-word storytelling and visual interpretation of a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, featuring a bevy of musicians and compositions by Lorie Wolf.
Along with the requisite books that have always been part of its tradition, the upcoming book fair (Oct. 24 to Nov 1) is also presenting a new play, a movie, and several cooking demonstrations in the culinary arts studios of the revitalized Lipa Green Conference Centre at 4600 Bathurst St. All of these events are tied to books, but books are not necessarily the primary focus any more.
“We just want to freshen the look of the book fair,” said director Helen Redner, who in the past 29 years has welcomed the likes of Mordecai Richler, Chaim Potok, Eli Wiesel, Isaac B. Singer and, last year, Alan Dershowitz. But such big names are the exception rather than the rule. “An Alan Dershowitz comes once every 15 years or so,” she said.
Adam Seelig’s play Talking Masks, which fuses the Greek tragedy of Oedipus with the ancient Hebrew tale of Isaac and Ishmael, is the inspiration behind Ancient Text, New Art, the presentation hosted by Koffler Arts Salon on Oct. 25. And Amos Oz’s novel Panther in the Basement is the basis of the Israeli film Little Traitor, being screened on Oct. 31.
Besides the cooking demonstrations by author Aviva Allen and celebrity chef Howard Dubrovsky on Oct. 25 – admission is $30 for each – the theme of food seems pervasive at the fair. A preview event at Caplansky’s Deli (at 356 College St.) on Oct. 22 features David Sax, author of Save the Deli, a book about the glorious past, diminished present and questionable future of the delicatessen. From Couscous to Kasha is the title of a memoir by Jewish communal worker Dr. Seymour Epstein that actually has little to do with food.
Noah Alper, who sold his bagel company for $100 million or so about a decade ago, is scheduled to discuss his book, Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur. And Karen Fisman, author of the Chanukah story An Adventure in Latkaland, is making several presentations during which children may make puppets.
Those with a hunger for more literary fare may feast on presentations by the likes of David G. Roskies, author of the award-winning memoir Yiddishlands (Oct. 25); Lily Poritz Miller, author of the novel In a Pale Blue Light about a Jewish family in South Africa (Oct. 26); and authors Lauren Kirshner (Where We Have To Go), Cary Fagan (Valentine’s Fall), Sidura Ludwig (Holding My Breath) and Adam Sol (Jeremiah, Ohio) who are participating in a New Jewish Fiction and Poetry session on Nov. 1.
Two intriguing new Canadian memoirs are being spotlighted on Oct. 28. Marc Stevens, author of Escape, Evasion and Revenge, shares his father’s story as a German-Jewish RAF pilot who later moved to Canada and never revealed his Jewish heritage. And Fred Kaufman, author of Searching For Justice, discusses his roots in a Jewish family in Vienna and being interned as an “enemy alien” in Canada before becoming a lawyer and judge.
On Oct. 29, author Michael Wex discusses his new book How to Be a Mentsh (Not a Shmuck) and acclaimed American scholar Dr. Lawrence Schiffman discusses his new book about his specialty, the Dead Sea Scrolls. On Oct. 30, Rabbi Erwin Schild discusses his memoir, And Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Six Walks With a Day of Rest. Author Nava Semel is the focus of two events (Oct. 26 and 27), revolving around her Holocaust-themed book And the Rat Laughed, which has been made into an opera.
Also included in the book fair are a workshop in writing memoirs and family stories, a book review of Nancy Huston’s Fault Lines by Cathy Tile, a session on The Zen of Jewish Knitting by Rosanne Bernard, a session on Whispers from the Camps by Kathy Kacer and Sharon McKay, and a children’s presentation by Kathy Clark, author of Guardian Angel House.
Some events are free, some require paid tickets. No longer in the Leah Posluns Theatre (which closed in June), the book fair is being held in the newly built and renovated Lipa Green Conference Centre. “We’re in a new venue – and it’s gorgeous,” said Helen Redner.
For admissions and schedule, visit www.kofflerarts.org.
For a review of Noah Alper’s Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur, please click here.