Ms. magazine co-founder and author of Shanda to speak at Jewish Book Festival

by | Nov 9, 2022 | What’s Happening

Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival

Thursday, November 17, 7:30 pm, Sandler Family Campus, free 

“What a shanda!” I remember the first time I heard that phrase—it came from Sally, one of the Sisterhood ladies who invited me to join their dinner table after Friday night services at my synagogue in Youngstown, Ohio. I had just started attending services and as a convert, I had a lot to learn. Sally and her friends taught me all of the Yiddishisms that I know.

I don’t recall exactly what story we were discussing when Sally first explained to me what shanda meant. Perhaps it was who wore red to services on Yom Kippur or whose daughter was getting a divorce, but sitting with a bunch of Jewish mothers and grandmothers, I heard my fair share of family secrets and scandals.

Shanda, Yiddish for shame or disgrace, is central to Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s newest book, Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy. In her book, Pogrebin, who is a co-founder of Ms. magazine and the author of 12 books, tells the story of three generations of her family, their desire to fit in and assimilate, and the secrets and shame they carried with them throughout their lives.

Mayim Bialik, actor, author, neuroscientist, and co-host of Jeopardy, says of the book, “The richness of Pogrebin’s stories, the complexity and beauty of her storytelling, and her devastatingly honest soul-baring make Shanda a powerfully stunning piece of life and art.”

Pogrebin’s story is universal, but the themes of trying to assimilate into American culture and appearing perfect in Ashkenazi Jewish circles make Shanda especially relevant for the Jewish community. So many people have carried family secrets or found out about long-held secrets after the passing of a relative. Everyone’s family harbors secrets, but Pogrebin’s story may make you question why some of those are secrets at all.

For more information or to register, visit For additional questions, contact Hunter Thomas, director of Arts + Ideas, at

The Lee and 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