Jewish Book Festival wraps up First Half of Season

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Other News

Four engaging authors presenting on a variety of topics were featured in the first half of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival in November and December.

Italian cookbook author Benedetta Jasmine Guetta spoke of the surprising Jewish history behind some of Italy’s most cherished dishes and ingredients and taught online viewers how to cook two of the recipes from her cookbook, Cooking Alla Guidia. The first recipe, hraimi, is a stewed fish dish first brought to Rome by Libyan-Jewish immigrants in the 1960s. The spicy tomato-sauce-based meal is now a mainstay of Shabbat tables, both in the houses of Libyan Jews and those of Italian-born Jewish families.

Guetta’s second recipe was amaretti, a soft, merengue-based almond cookie traditionally made by Sephardic families for Passover. A couple of Tidewater households hosted watch parties and cook-alongs for Guetta’s program, including Patty Shelanski, who hosted members of Congregation Beth-El’s Sisterhood, and Judy Rosenblatt, who invited members of UJFT’s Women’s Cabinet.

Novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman spoke about the research and writing process behind her book, The Matchmaker’s Gift. Loigman was the second author to be featured in the Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival’s Arts + Ideas Book of the Month series. Attendees of the online program were able to ask Loigman questions about her characters, the extensive historical research behind her novel, and more.

Researcher, journalist, and author Jessica Nordell visited the Sandler Family Campus to discuss her book, The End of Bias: A Beginning, (page 8), with Jonathan Zur, president of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

Former Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies spoke to a lunch crowd about her experience becoming a mother many times over, and shared stories of her Jewish background, her work as a congressional representative, and her son’s marriage to Chelsea Clinton.

“Interviewing Marjorie was like curling up on the couch with a great book, sipping hot chocolate by the fire,” says Anne Fleder. “She was so refreshingly honest, funny, relaxed, engaging, and, most importantly, relatable. I now understand the kind of superwoman it takes to adopt two children as a single mom in the 1960s, marry a man with four daughters and still have two more children together, all while running for and serving in Congress. I hope she writes another book just so we can invite her back!”

The festival continues with many more events in 2023. Register at For more information, contact Hunter Thomas, director of Arts + Ideas, at

The Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival is held in coordination with the Jewish Book Council, the longest-running organization devoted exclusively to the support and celebration of Jewish literature.

-Hunter Thomas