Jewish Pen - Poem by gershon hepner
A Jew writes with a Jewish pen
and sees with Jewish eyes,
until he intermarries when
the Jewish spirit dies.
Yet lots of Jews would like to think
a Jew will always be
a Jew, regardless of his link
to lifestyles that are free.
Most sadly, this is hardly true,
for once homogenized,
the Jew no longer is a Jew
except when fictionalized,
described by someone who is trying
to find a pintel Yid
in those whose Jewishness is dying,
extinguished, God forbid.
Rachel Donadio (“Star Search, ” NYT, June 24,2007) writes about tours organized by the Jewish Book Council:
The auditions and centralized tours were the brainchild of Carolyn Starman Hessel, who has become a formidable power in the publishing industry in her 13 years as the director of the Jewish Book Council, which runs the Jewish Book Network. Not only does Hessel persuade authors to “fly from Minneapolis to Houston to Miami in a day and a half, ” as the novelist Dara Horn put it, but her tours have also helped kick-start the careers of promising young novelists including Nathan Englander, Myla Goldberg, Nicole Krauss and Jonathan Safran Foer. Hessel has an “uncanny ability” to get people enthusiastic about Jewish books, said Krauss, who first went on a Jewish Book Network tour to promote her 2002 novel, “Man Walks Into a Room.” “If ‘Finnegans Wake’ were even a little Jewish, Carolyn could convince thousands of people in J.C.C.’s across the country to read it.” A diminutive woman with a strong Long Island accent, big hair and exceedingly long, pink-lacquered fingernails, Hessel looks more like a lady who lunches than an important literary arbiter. But when she talks, publishers listen. “It’s a little too easy to be amused by” and dismissive of Hessel and her colleagues, said Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for Random House. “I wish we had a thousand more like them.” In 2005, the Jewish Book Council held its annual conference at the headquarters of Random House, whose chief executive, Peter Olson, delivered opening remarks.Though connecting with “communities of interest” (Civil War buffs, fly-fishing enthusiasts, poodle owners) has been a marketing strategy for some time, publishers are hard pressed to name another ethnic or interest group with a semi-centralized organization that coordinates book fairs. Hessel said one Catholic book society had asked her for advice. “Publishers have told me that the big reading groups, the Irish and the Italians, they wish they had some central address to go to the way they go to us, ” she said. Now in their fourth year, the auditions replaced a more haphazard system in which Hessel would meet informally with writers during BookExpo America, the annual publishing convention. The auditions, which authors pay to attend, help programmers gauge which speakers may be right for their audience. Some “need a sophisticated academic author, other communities need fluff, ” Hessel said. After the auditions, programmers send Hessel a wish list and dates, and the council tries to schedule a tour. The auditions aren’t limited to Jewish authors or even to books with overtly Jewish themes. “My feeling is, a Jewish author writes with a Jewish pen and sees the world through Jewish eyes, and those values come through in the writing, ” Hessel said. “We’re very democratic, ” she said. “We say no to nobody, unless it’s an anti-Jewish book.”
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