An All-of-a Kind Seminar on Jewish Story
In a four-part series, Sheila Lewis reports on her experiences at the recent Seminar on Jewish Story, sponsored by The Whole Megillah LLC, together with the Association of Jewish Libraries.
The final panel came just as my brain was reaching its saturation point. The breaks were filled with conversation, book buying, and a tour of Temple Emanu-El’s awesome library, but no chance to clear my mind. Fortunately, the fiction panelists perked me up. The versatile children’s and adult author, Yona Zeldis McDonough, fiction editor at Lilith, shared funny observations from “A Wedding In Great Neck,” and offered pearls of Lilith history. “We really welcome submissions.”
Nora Gold, editor of the online journal Jewishfiction.net, shared her two hats, one, as the “social worker or professor, the community-minded editor,” reading works of fellow writers with her [editorial] group, and the second as a writer, solitary, more internally focused. She wears both hats well though not always equally. Her recent book, Fields of Exile: Anti Israelism on Campus, has gained notoriety and attention, and promises to be a timely and engaging read.
When Erika Dreifus, poet, essayist, short story writer, and academic, asserted, “we write to make sense of experience, it need not be directly lived,” I was hooked. I wanted to understand what she meant. She explained that fragments of others’ stories have fueled her writing. Her grandfather was classified as an “enemy alien” before he received U.S. citizenship. He was a trained baker, but didn’t talk much. Erika relied on her grandmother, and on research about POWs in Iowa, to render his story. She’s written and published widely, including in Southern Indiana Review and an Anthology of Spiritual Writing. Her short story collection, Quiet Americans, offers a fascinating peek into the lives of others, not directly lived by the author.
The fiction panelists gave names of several publications to send Jewish-themed writing to, including Prism, the interdisciplinary Holocaust journal.
Barbara Krasner, who quietly and commendably moderated all the Seminar’s panels, gave each speaker equal time to present, read aloud, and answer audience questions. They offered tales of wisdom, bold truth, remembrance, deliverance, forgetting, humor, wonder, longing, spirituality, non-fiction stranger than fiction, imagination and creativity. I felt so blessed to spend the day at the Seminar on Jewish Story and to recharge mind and heart. Although I consider myself primarily a children’s writer, the Seminar opened doors in my thinking. And, I have a stack of fabulous books to read that promise to be worthy of distraction and discourse.
About Sheila Lewis
Sheila Lewis writes for children and has written educational curriculum for national organizations. She teaches meditation and related topics at the JCC in Manhattan, teaches in several Hebrew Schools, where she also runs Jewish children’s book clubs