Programs Abound in Harrisburg During Jewish Book Month

By Adam Grobman

With temperatures cooling and COVID cases rising, many of us may find ourselves back at home more often through the month of November.

Luckily, Jewish Book Month is here, giving community members a chance to cozy up with a relevant book in their living rooms and get lost in an inspiring story or mysterious thriller.

Several area institutions are hosting and promoting book and author programs this month – there is something for everyone to choose from and plenty of opportunities to find that next great read!


Beth El Book Club’s Zoom with Authors Series
October 2020 – July 2021

Beth El Book Club has gone virtual for 2020-2021, with ongoing programming bringing authors and book discussions straight to your living room free of charge.

The Zoom with Authors series was organized by Beth El Book Club co-chairs Susan Cohen and Marcia Cohen and began in October with a conversation with Alina Adams, author of The Nesting Dolls.

“We wanted to design a series that would encompass Jewish interests and variety,” says Susan Cohen. “Books bring people together and at this particular time, a virtual series is the perfect resource for doing that.”

Both co-chairs note how much their attendees enjoy hearing the author’s thoughts on their own work. “We always learn so much from each author,” says Marcia Cohen. “It is so interesting to hear how they came up with the idea for the book, their writing process, and how they turned the idea that popped into their head into a full length novel or book.”

Beth El is a member of the Jewish Book Council (organizer of Jewish Book Month), which provides access to hundreds of new books covering Jewish topics or by Jewish authors each year. Events are free and open to the community.

Honorable mention to the November 4th program featuring Anita Abriel, author of The Light After the War. Upcoming program on Tuesday, December 1st will feature Nessa Rapoport, author of Evening. The ten-month series continues (usually) on the first Tuesday of each month through July. To register for a program, contact Patty at or 717-232-0556.


Rose – Symons Book Review: The Third Daughter with Talia Carner
Thursday, November 5 | 8pm | Zoom

Note: This program will take place prior to this edition’s print date

Temple Ohev Sholom Sisterhood brings together community members to hear from acclaimed author and social justice activist Talia Carner at this year’s Annual Book Review sponsored by the Symons/Rose families.

“For the past twenty-two years, the Ohev Sholom Sisterhood, with the generosity of the Symons-Rose families, has been providing the Harrisburg Jewish community with highly acclaimed books and authors every November to coincide with Jewish Book Month,” says Irith Harpster, one of the organizers of the program. “We have 90 participants signed up for the event this year and it is unlike any other year we’ve had.

Typically, the program takes place during the first week of November and includes a cocktail hour, elaborate dinner, author’s lecture, dessert reception, and the chance to meet the author and have books signed. This year’s, the program has gone online with no charge to participants.


Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster’s Writers in Residences* (Theirs and Ours) Series
September 2020 – April 2021
Sunday, November 8 | 7pm

The Jewish Community Alliance of Lancaster’s Writers in Residences* (Theirs and Ours) series brings scholars, authors, and community members together to discuss books of interest to the Jewish community via Zoom.

The next event in the series takes place on Sunday, November 8 at 7pm and features founding director and senior scholar of The Witness Institute Ariel Burger, discussing his book Witness, Lessons From Elie Wiesel’s Classroom.

For registration and more info on the ongoing series, visit


Congregation Beth Israel (Lebanon) Book Review: How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss
Wednesday, November 18 | 7:30pm

Congregation Beth Israel’s book club meets the third Wednesday of each month to discuss and share thoughts on interesting pieces of literature. The next program will feature a discussion of 2019’s How to Fight Anti-Semitism by Bari Weiss.

“Rabbi Sam Yolen suggested this book and will share his thoughts,” says Judith Clark, book club chair. “It is especially important at this time due to increasing episodes of anti-Semitism in the world, including QAnon influence.”

To register for the virtual program, email Judith at


Kesher Israel Saturday Night Programming: Educated by Tara Westover
Saturday, December 5 | 7pm

As the days get shorter and Shabbat ends earlier and earlier, Kesher Israel Congregation is beginning a series of Saturday night programs to help stave off cabin fever via Zoom.

While some programs will focus on yoga and other wellness activities, the group will also be reviewing the book Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover that explores the author’s childhood and growing up in a Mormon survivalist family.

“The book is outstanding, but it also resonates for this particular time,” says Jill Henig, one of the organizers of the program series. “Some of the things you read in this book are unbelievable.

The book was ranked as one of the Top 10 Books of 2018 by the New York Times and the review will be led by Kesher Israel member Ella Shaked.

For more info or registration, contact Jill at


Book Festival of the MJCCA
Fall/Winter 2020

The Jewish Federation/JCC have teamed up with the JCC Literary Consortium to bring dozens of the most popular and talented authors working today to your screens.

With authors like John Grisham, Michael Oren, and Michael J. Fox, you can hear straight from superstars and up-and-comers alike.

“The Book Festival of the MJCCA is one of the most respected Jewish book festivals in the country,” says Jenn Ross, President/CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg. “We are excited to be able to share these stories from so many literary celebrities with our community members.”

For more information on upcoming events, visit


PJ Library Teams up with Tot Shabbat

Last month, Harrisburg PJ Library teamed up with the York JCC to bring the Elliot and Sue Weinstein Tot Shabbat to the homes of children and families each Friday!

Each week just prior to Shabbat, a team member from PJ Library or York JCC will share a video featuring a Jewish book from PJ Library and other fun activities. Harrisburg’s next video will be posted on Friday, November 6th and explore the theme of mitzvot.

“Bringing families together to share experiences each week is a great way to connect to the larger Jewish community and mark each week with songs, stories, and activities,” says Lori Rubin, Director of Harrisburg PJ Library. “We are thrilled to be able to facilitate and bring new content to our community.”

To watch the videos, follow PJ Library – Harrisburg, PA on Facebook.


Virtually Limitless: Our Shared Shelf

Jewish Federation’s National Women’s Philanthropy is bringing together women from across North America to share and learn together throughout the coming months with its book-and-author series, Virtually Limitless: Our Shared Shelf.

Open to all women donors to the Federation’s Annual Campaign, the next event will feature Michelle Cameron, author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates: A Novel on November 18 at 8pm.

“This series from JFNA is designed to spark discussion and reflection among our Women’s Philanthropy members,” says Amanda Kohn, Director of Development at Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg. “There is a lot of inspiration to be found here.”

For more information on registering for this series, contact Amanda at