by Mark Kirchhoff, Center for Jewish Life
The 42nd Annual Jewish Book Month began with a moving presentation by Israeli author Diana Bletter, about her latest book, A Remarkable Kindness, at The Bookworm on Wednesday evening, Nov. 4. Her novel traces the lives of four American women in their coastal village in Northern Israel who become part of the Chevrah Kadisha, the Jewish burial society, in their kibbutz. Bletter described the spirituality of the ritual and how through this common bond her characters came to share their own lives with one another – friendships, marriages, the sorrows and wonders of life, and the ultimate acceptance of death.
The following day Diana joined the members of the Dorothy Kaplan Book Discussion Group for a “box lunch luncheon” in the Kripke Jewish Federation Library. The group had chosen A Remarkable Kindness as its November book selection and was interested in hearing Diana discuss her work. Bletter shared with the group that when she began writing, she did not know her characters very well. As she continued to write, she came to know and understand each one of them more intimately. She shared that by the time she had reached the end of the book, she felt sadness in having to leave them. The book group members encouraged Diana to “keep the characters alive” by continuing to write about them.
During her time with the group, Diana shared that she had made a personal commitment to make aliyah when she was on a teen tour to Israel at the age of sixteen. She had heard stories of Israel through her father and other relatives and felt deep inside that Israel was her home. In 1991 she made aliyah. She shared that there were some “cultural shock” items when she first arrived, including an incident with a shoe box her son had left on a park bench that generated fears of it being a terroristic explosive device. Diana commented that one cannot dwell on the fear. “Life is as it is, and we must make the most of all we have,” she said.
On Friday morning Diana conducted a Writer’s Workshop with the Fifth and Sixth grade students at Friedel Jewish Academy. She remarked about what a great school Friedel is, as well as how enthusiastic and skilled the students are. It proved to be an uplifting way for her to conclude her visit to the Jewish Community Center of Omaha.
Thursday Nov. 12, the Center for Jewish Life welcomed author and current law school instructor at Rutgers University, Pam Jenoff, who shared her book, The Last Summer at Chelsea Beach, at a luncheon at the Jewish Community Center. Following the luncheon she held a book signing.
Jewish Book Month is funded in part by the Special Donor-Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation and is promoted by the Jewish Book Council. Omaha’s celebration is coordinated by the Center for Jewish Life whose mission it is to maximize involvement of Omaha’s Jewish community in imaginative, compelling and meaningful Jewish experiences. For additional information, please call 402.334.6463.