Lessans Family Literary Series

LESSANS FAMILY Literary Series 2022-2023

Love to read? Enjoy meaningful discussions?  Join us for one, or all, of the upcoming Lessans Family Literary Series discussions.


Roundabout By Elaine Durbach Norstein
October 14, 2022 | 10:30 AM

Nothing in Sally’s life has worked out as she intended.

When her beloved Felix dies suddenly, she feels he has betrayed her too. But as she goes through his possessions, in the seaside cottage outside Cape Town where they finally found happiness, each discovery unlocks more questions.

And each day brings new answers — about their love and what pushed them apart, and how she can build a fulfilling life for herself.

“The mystery is wrapped in beautiful prose, and revealed slowly, bit by juicy bit. I wanted to read it
over time, but found myself diving in, and devouring it over a weekend, because it is that kind of book.”
— Amazon Review


The Man Who Sold Air
in the Holy Land
Omer Friedlander
December 9, 2022
10:30 AM



A Death in Jerusalem
Jonathan Dunsky
January 23, 2023
12:30 PM



Beat The Devils by Josh Weiss
February 10, 2023
10:30 AM

USA, 1958. President Joseph McCarthy sits in the White House, elected on a wave of populist xenophobia and barely‑concealed anti‑Semitism. The country is in the firm grip of McCarthy’s Hueys, a secret police force evolved from the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hollywood’s sparkling vision of the American dream has been suppressed; its remaining talents forced to turn out endless anti‑communist propaganda.


The Latecomer by Jean Hanff Korelitz
February 16, 2023
11:00 AM

A complex novel that builds slowly and deliberately, The Latecomer touches on the topics of grief and guilt, generational trauma, privilege and race, traditions and religion, and family dynamics. It is a profound and witty family story from an accomplished author, known for the depth of her character studies, expertly woven storylines, and plot twists.



Meet the Hamantaschen
Alan Silberberg
March 9, 2023
4:30 PM



The Postmistress of Paris
Meg Waite Clayton
March 16, 2023
2:00 PM



Modern Jewish
Comfort Food
Shannon Sarna
September 12, 2023
7:00 PM



The House of Fragile Things
Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France

James McAuley
April 17, 2023
7:00 PM

In the dramatic years between 1870 and the end of World War II, a number of prominent French Jews—pillars of an embattled community—invested their fortunes in France’s cultural artifacts, sacrificed their sons to the country’s army, and were ultimately rewarded by seeing their collections plundered and their families deported to Nazi concentration camps.

In this rich, evocative account, James McAuley explores the central role that art and material culture played in the assimilation and identity of French Jews in thefin de siècle. Weaving together narratives of various figures, some familiar from the works of Marcel Proust and the diaries of Jules and Edmond Goncourt—the Camondos, the Rothschilds, the Ephrussis, the Cahens d’Anvers—McAuley shows how Jewish art collectors contended with a powerful strain of anti-Semitism: they were often accused of “invading” France’s cultural patrimony. The collections these families left behind—many ultimately donated to the French state—were their response, tragic attempts to celebrate a nation that later betrayed them.



Fighting Back
Jeffrey Weiss

Tuesday, April 25 | 7:00 PM | $15 | In Person

In commemoration of, Yom Hazikaron, Isreal’s Day of Remembrance, we are thrilled to welcome Jeffrey Weiss, co-author of Fighting Back.   Jeffrey will be in conversation with Bender JCC community member, Deborah Kalb.





The Most Likely Club
Elyssa Friedland
Friday, June 2, 2023 | ZOOM | FREE
11:00 AM

Eighteen Days in October Thursday, October 12th - 7:00 PM
Book Festival Wednesday, November 1st -

Eighteen Days in October

Thursday, October 12th
7:00 PM

Purchase Tickets

The Lessans Family Literary Series Presents:

Uri Kaufman, Eighteen Days in October: The Yom Kippur War and How It Created the Modern Middle East

Ticket: $18

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, The Lessans Family Literary Series is thrilled to welcome Uri Kaufman author of Eighteen Days in October.  Please join us for this meaningful program and discussion of Uri’s new book.

For more information, please contact Marcie Blackman at mblackman@benderjccgw.org or 301.348.3808.


October 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, a conflict that shaped the modern Middle East. The War was a trauma for Israel, a dangerous superpower showdown, and, following the oil embargo, a pivotal reordering of the global economic order. The Jewish State came shockingly close to defeat. A panicky cabinet meeting debated the use of nuclear weapons. After the war, Prime Minister Golda Meir resigned in disgrace, and a 9/11-style commission investigated the “debacle.”

Uri Kaufman argues, from the perspective of a half century, the War can be seen as a pivotal victory for Israel. After nearly being routed, the Israeli Defense Force clawed its way back to threaten Cairo and Damascus. In the war’s aftermath both sides had to accept unwelcome truths: Israel could no longer take military superiority for granted—but the Arabs could no longer hope to wipe Israel off the map. A straight line leads from the battlefields of 1973 to the Camp David Accords of 1978 and all the treaties since. Like Michael Oren’s Six Days of War, this is the definitive account of a critical moment in history.


A graduate of New York University School of Law, Uri Kaufman is an award-winning real estate developer, specializing in adaptively restoring historic buildings. He has worked on this book for over twenty years, visiting the battlefields, speaking to participants, and reviewing literally thousands of pages of material. He lives with his family in Lawrence, New York.


We sat down with Uri Kaufman to discuss his book ahead of the event on October 12. In this brief interview, Kaufman discusses his own memories of the Yom Kippur War, why this book required twenty years to bring to life, the story’s relevance for modern Jewish audiences, and why the conflict is “a story for the ages.” Watch the interview below! A link to a full transcript can be found underneath the video.

View Full Transcript

Book Festival

Wednesday, November 1st

Purchase Tickets

Register in advance or purchase your tickets at the event!!
We are looking so forward to seeing you!!


Opening Night!

Mel Brooks: Disobedient Jew, by Jeremy Dauber

Wednesday, November 1 | 7:00 PM | In Person | $18
Pre-event reception begins at 6:15 PM


Mel Brooks, born Melvin Kaminsky in Brooklyn in 1926, is one of the great comic voices of the twentieth century. Having won almost every entertainment award there is, Brooks has straddled the line between outsider and insider, obedient and rebellious, throughout his career, making out-of-bounds comedy the American mainstream.

In his book Mel Brooks: Disobedient Jew, Jeremy Dauber argues that throughout Brooks’ extensive body of work—from Your Show of Shows to Blazing Saddles to Young Frankenstein to Spaceballs—the comedian has seen the most success when he found a balance between his unflagging, subversive, manic energy and the constraints imposed by comedic partners, the Hollywood system, and American cultural mores. Dauber also explores how Brooks’ American Jewish humor went from being solely for niche audiences to an essential part of the American mainstream, paving the way for generations of Jewish (and other) comedians to come.


Jere­my Dauber is a pro­fes­sor of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture and Amer­i­can stud­ies at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. His other books include Jew­ish Com­e­dy and The Worlds of Sholem Ale­ichem, both final­ists for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, and, most recent­ly, Amer­i­can Comics: A His­to­ry. He frequently lectures on topics related to American popular culture, Jewish literature, history, and humor at venues throughout the United States and internationally. He lives in New York City.

*Book will be available for purchase and the author will be signing after the event.


Speaking Yiddish to Chickens: Holocaust Survivors on South Jersey Poultry Farms, by Seth Stern

Thursday, November 2 | 7:00 PM | In Person | $18


Speaking Yiddish to Chickens is the first book to chronicle how roughly 1,000 Holocaust survivors – including the author’s grandparents – found an unlikely refuge and gateway to new lives as poultry farmers in southern New Jersey. This book relies on interviews with dozens of these refugee farmers and their children, as well as oral histories and archival records. This is their remarkable story of loss, renewal, and perseverance in the most unexpected of settings.


Seth Stern is a legal journalist and editor at Bloomberg Industry Group. He previously reported for Bloomberg News, Congressional Quarterly, and the Christian Science Monitor. He co-authored Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010). He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School, and Cornell University.

*Book will be available for purchase and the author will be signing after the event.


Kantika, by Elizabeth Graver

Friday, November 3 | 10:30 AM | $30*

*Ticket includes program and brunch. Catering provided by Shalom Kosher.


A kaleidoscopic portrait of one family’s displacement across four countries, Kantika―“song” in Ladino―follows the joys and losses of Rebecca Cohen, feisty daughter of the Sephardic elite of early 20th-century Istanbul. When the Cohens lose their wealth and are forced to move to Barcelona and start anew, Rebecca fashions a life and self from what comes her way―a failed marriage, the need to earn a living, but also passion, pleasure, and motherhood. Moving from Spain to Cuba to New York for an arranged second marriage, she faces her greatest challenge―her disabled stepdaughter, Luna, whose feistiness equals her own and whose challenges pit new family against old.

Exploring identity, place, and exile, Kantika also reveals how the female body―in work, art, and love―serves as a site of both suffering and joy. A haunting, inspiring meditation on the tenacity of women, this lush, lyrical novel from Elizabeth Graver celebrates the insistence on seizing beauty and grabbing hold of one’s one and only life.


Elizabeth Graver’s fifth novel, Kantika, was inspired by the migration story of her Turkish Sephardic grandmother, whose journey took her from Turkey to Spain, Cuba and New York. Turkish, German, and audio editions are forthcoming. Her novel The End of the Point was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Award and selected as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her other novels are Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling. Her story collection, Have You Seen Me? won the 1991 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, and Prize Stories, the O. Henry Awards. She teaches at Boston College.


Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments, by Joe Posnanski

Sunday, November 5 | 10:30 AM | $18


Why We Love Base­ball is a love let­ter to base­ball, a fresh and heart­felt look at the game’s great­est moments and how they con­tin­ue to grab at our hearts. Whether it’s Willie Mays’ over-the-shoul­der catch, Babe Ruth’s called shot, Shohei Ohtani’s exploits as both a pitch­er and a hit­ter, or Josh Gib­son or Sandy Koufax’s per­fect game, these time­less and mag­i­cal moments take us to the heart of why we love base­ball after almost 150 years.

Base­ball has always drawn Jew­ish atten­tion, whether it was play­ers like Hank Green­berg and Sandy Koufax, broad­cast­ers like Mel Allen, Gary Cohen, and Al Michaels, writ­ers like Roger Kahn, Lawrence Rit­ter and Don­ald Honig, exec­u­tives like Theo Epstein and Bud Selig. The Jew­ish love of base­ball is pow­er­ful and enduring.


Joe Pos­nan­s­ki is the #1 New York Times best­selling author of six books, includ­ing The Base­ball 100, Pater­no, and The Secret of Golf.  Joe has been named Nation­al Sports­writer of the Year by five dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions. He writes at Joe​Pos​nan​s​ki​.com and cur­rent­ly lives in Char­lotte, North Car­oli­na, with his family.

*Book will be available for purchase and the author will be signing after the event.


A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness: Stories, by Jai Chakrabarti

Sunday, November 5 | 7:00 PM | In Person | $18


In the fifteen masterful stories that make up this collection, Jai Chakrabarti crosses continents and cultures to explore what it means to cultivate a family today, across borders, religions, and race. Throughout, the characters’ most vulnerable desires shape life-altering decisions as they seek to balance their needs against those of the people they hold closest. The stories in A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness capture men and women struggling with transformation and familial bonds; they traverse the intersections of countries and cultures to illuminate what it means to love in uncertain times; and they showcase the skill of a storyteller who dazzles with the breadth of his vision.


Jai Chakrabarti is the author of the novel A Play for the End of the World (Knopf ’21), which won a National Jewish Book Award, was the Association of Jewish Libraries Honor Book, was short-listed for the Rabindranath Tagore Prize, and was long-listed for the PEN/Faulkner Award.  A Small Sacrifice for an Enormous Happiness was a Good Housekeeping Book of the Month and was recommended by the New Yorker and the NYTimes. His short fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, One Story, Electric Literature, A Public Space, Conjunctions, and elsewhere and has been anthologized in The O. Henry Prize Stories, The Best American Short Stories, and awarded a Pushcart Prize and performed on Selected Shorts by Symphony Space. His nonfiction has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Writer’s Digest, Berfrois, and LitHub. He was an Emerging Writer Fellow with A Public Space and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College and is a trained computer scientist. Born in Kolkata, India, he now lives in New York with his family.

*Book will be available for purchase and the author will be signing after the event.


In Judgment and Mercy, by Martin J. Siegel

Monday, November 6 | 7:00 PM | In Person | $18


70 years ago, Judge Irving Kaufman presided over the atomic espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and sentenced them to death. Meant to propel him to “the Jewish seat” on the Supreme Court, the case haunted him to the end. In Judgment and Mercy brings to life the complexities of this man and reveals the intramural Jewish battles over assimilation, class, and patriotism.


Martin J. Siegel clerked for Judge Kaufman on the Second Circuit after graduating from Harvard Law School. He then served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York and a staffer on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. He now practices law in Houston and teaches American Legal History at the University of Houston Law Center, where he also directs the Appellate Civil Rights Clinic.

Siegel’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Houston Chronicle, and various legal journals and law reviews.

*Book will be available for purchase and the author will be signing after the event.