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Library Events

The Library's 2014 - 2015 Fall/Winter Program Catalog is available online.  CatCover

Click here to view the pdf. 

Printed copies will be mailed out in September.
If you are not on our mailing list and wish to receive a copy,  please contact us at 415.567.3327 x 703 or at l This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  with your mailing address. 


Library Art Exhibition


Collages by Mikhail Petrenko: Chagall and Russian Revolutionary Art
— NOVEMBER 23, 2014 

In the 1920s, avant-garde Russian art included two distinct movements: a severe geometric style known as Suprematism, and the poetic vision of artists such as Marc Chagall. Local artist and art critic Mikhail Petrenko explores these two contrasting movements in a series of collages incorporating both geometric and figurative elements. To learn more about Mikhail Petrenko, click here to visit his website.

Illustrated books in Hebrew and Yiddish from the private collection of Henry Hollander enlarge our understanding of this historic period.  For more information about Henry Hollander’s books and services, click here to visit his website.



The Mathematician’s Shiva
A presentation by Stuart RojstaczerStuart cover - Mathematicians Shiva
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 7 P.M.                        

Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch and his family would like to mourn the passing of his mother, Rachela, with modesty and dignity. But Rachela, a famous Polish émigré mathematician, is rumored to have solved the million-dollar Navier-Stokes Millennium Prize problem, and spitefully taken the solution to her grave. To Sasha’s chagrin, a motley group of socially challenged mathematicians arrives to crash the shiva, vowing to do whatever it takes to find the solution. With its delightfully quirky characters, Rojstaczer’s comic debut novel captures the American immigrant drive not just to survive, but to solve the impossible.

Stuart Rojstaczer , the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, is a writer, scientist, and musician. Educated in public schools and Hasidic day Stuart  Rojstaczerschools, he received degrees fromthe University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, and Stanford University, and was a professor of geophysics at Duke University. He has written for The New York Times , Washington Post, and various scientific journals.


 Drop-in Book Club at the Library

 Natasha and Other Stories by David Bezmozgis

Discussion led by Jim Van Buskirk

CLICK HERE for more information about the Library's Drop-in Book Club program.Natasha by David Bezmozgis

Bereft of money or English skills, the Bermans have departed Brezhnev-era Riga to settle in Toronto. Told in the restrained but slyly humorous voice of their son, Mark, these seven stories span two decades, recording the narrator’s growth and the family’s efforts to adjust to their new life and cope with its disappointments.


The Family:

Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth CenturyDavid Laskin - The Family

A presentation by David Laskin

Reception for members of the Friends of the Jewish Community Library at 6 pm

In this deeply personal and compelling narrative, David Laskin chronicles how the tide of history affected three branches of his mother’s family during the great Jewish upheavals of the twentieth century: mass immigration to America, the founding of the state of Israel, and the Holocaust.

Beginning in Russia in the mid-1800s with his great-grandfather Shimon Dov HaKohen, a Torah scribe, Laskin traces the movements of his family to the U.S. (where one relative, Ida Rosenthal, founded the Maidenform Bra company), to pre-State Israel, where members of another branch were idealistic pioneers, and to Eastern Europe, where an entire branch of the family perished.
David Laskin photo

David Laskin is the author of The Children’s Blizzard and other books of nonfiction, including The Long Way Home and Partisans. The Family was shortlisted for the 2014 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. 

Program made possible, in part, by Judy Baston
Co-presented by Lehrhaus Judaica and
the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society


A Tribute to My Teacher Rabbi Simon Krinsky:
His Poetry until 1936
A book launch with presentation by Rabbi Edward Zerin
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 1:30 P.M. with light refreshmentsRabbi Ed Zerin book cover

When Simon Krinsky published his book Faranene un Gevezene (Present and Past) in 1935, Edward Zerin was 15. But it was not until Zerin discovered a copy at the Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts 75 years later that he came to appreciate how much his teacher had influenced his life.Krinsky was born in Poland and ordained in Palestine. As a rabbi and Hebrew school principal in Wilmington, Delaware, Krinsky was the teacher who guided Zerin to the rabbinate. His writing reflects his sharp sense of social justice and his deep love of Torah.

Rabbi Zerin has translated sixty of the poems from Yiddish to English in a bilingual edition which has recently been released.His Rabbi Ed Zerinpresentation will include an audio recording of Rabbi Krinsky reading his poetry.

Rabbi Edward Zerin grew up in a Yiddish-speaking family in Delaware. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1946, received a doctorate in 1952 from the University of Southern California, and has worked as a college professor, licensed marriage and family therapist, congregational rabbi. Rabbi Zerin is the author of ten books, including Jewish San Francisco.

Program made possible, in part, by Tricia Hellman Gibbs
Co-sponsored by KlezCalifornia and the Workmen’s Circle of Northern California


The Man Who Put the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz:
A Tribute to Lyricist Yip Harburg
A presentation by Bonnie Weiss
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1 – 3 P.M.  Yip Harburg stampimage

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the beloved film The Wizard of Oz, Bonnie Weiss presents the life and work of lyricist Yip Harburg. In addition to his famous “Over the Rainbow,” Harburg wrote the lyrics to such classics as “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,”“It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “April in Paris,” and the Broadway hit musical Finian’s Rainbow. His childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan influenced his fight for social justice, as expressed in his lyrics.Weiss will introduce vintage film clips that include renditions of Harbug’s songs by Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Groucho Marx, Audra McDonald, and Harburg himself.

Bonnie Weiss is a theatre educator, writer, and radio and cabaret producer. She teaches musical theatre appreciation at San Francisco Bonnie WeissState University, Dominican University of California, and Santa Clara University. Weiss also writes feature stories for The Sondheim Review and Stage Directions, a national magazine for theatre educators.

Program made possible, in part, by Paul and Shirley Kadden
Co-sponsored by Lehrhaus Judaica
Co-presented by 42nd Street Moon and the 30th Jewish Music Festival


U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum presents 3 minutes in Poland work
Rescuing the Evidence: Three Minutes in Poland
A presentation with archival film clips, by Glenn Kurtz and Leslie Swift

Reception and  book signing will follow the program
Program is free, but RSVP appreciated. To register, click here for the USHMM website.

Traveling in Europe in August 1938, one year before the outbreak of World War II,  David Kurtz, a Jewish immigrant to the U.S., captured on 16 mm color film three minutes of ordinary life in Nasielsk, a small, predominantly Jewish town in Poland. Through the brutal twists of history, these few minutes of home-movie footage became the sole surviving moving images of this town. Seventy-five years later, as part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's permanent collection, the film serves as a memorial to an entire community that was annihilated in the Holocaust.

Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Home Movie, a book by Glenn Kurtz, traces the author's four-year journey to identify the people in his grandfather’s haunting images. Rarely seen archival footage will be shown during the conversation between the author and Museum film researcher Leslie Swift.

Glenn Kurtz holds a PhD from Stanford University in German studies and comparative literature. He is the author of Practicing: A Musician's Return to Music and Three Minutes in Poland. He is currently on the faculty of New York University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Leslie Swift has worked at theUnited States Holocaust Memorial Museum since 1997 as a reference archivist in the photo archives and presently as film researcher in the film and video archive. She has a Master’s Degree in American studies from George Washington University.

Co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Library and Lehrhaus Judaica
Co-presented by KlezCalifornia, the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, and Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center


Exploring Piyut: The World of Sacred Hebrew Song
A presentation and performance by Yair Harel
Yair Harl 1

Piyutim (Hebrew liturgical poems), chanted for centuries across the Diaspora, have been adapted to different melodies, evolving into a form of “Jewish world music” in Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. This singing tradition, a core component of synagogue practice, has also entered secular life in Israel through public performances, workshops, and arts festivals. Yair Harel, active in the revival and contemporary interpretation of the ancient art of liturgical Hebrew poetry, will perform and teach a selection of these piyutim.

Yair Harel is an Israeli performance artist, artistic director, and community organizer based in Jerusalem. He is an artist in residence at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, University of California, Berkeley, during the fallof 2014. His residency is supported by the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program of the Israel Institute.

Program made possible, in part, by Anne Germanacos
Co-presented by the 30th Jewish Music Festival, KlezCalifornia, Congregation Beth Sholom, the Israel Center, and the Israel Education Initiative (IEI) and Integration of the Arts programs of Jewish LearningWorks


TributeAnne Germanacos - Tribute cover web
A presentation by Anne Germanacos

In her new novel, Tribute, Anne Germanacos employs an unusual structure to tell the story of a woman tending to her dying mother. Stripped to bare essentials in its experimental style, the novel grapples with issues of mortality and desire as it tells the story of the narrator in relationship with her mother, lovers, sisters, and children. Tribute weaves together fiction and non fiction and explores the lines between novel, essay, and narrative. Click here to listen to the Michael Krasny interview with Anne Germanacos on KQED.

Anne Germanacos is the author of the short story collection In the Time of Girls. Her work has appeared in dozens of literary journals and anthologies. Together with her husband, Nick, she ran the Ithaka Anne Germanacos photoCultural Studies Program on the islands of Kalymnos and Crete, and has taught writing, literature, and modern Greek. She now runs the Germanacos Foundation in San Francisco.

Co-presented by the JCCSF and The Kitchen


Understanding the Psalms

Presentation and text study with Robert Alter

Free, but RSVP requested.

To RSVP or for more information, contact  415.567.3327 x 703 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

The book of Psalms, which plays a crucial role in this year's One Bay One Book selection, The Betrayers, has been a source of solace and inspiration for more than two thousand years. Robert Alter’s 2007 translation of the book of Psalms restores the remarkable eloquence of these ancient poems, while his insightful commentary illuminates the obscurities of the text. In his presentation, Professor Alter will discuss the Psalms and lead a study of selected texts.

Robert Alter is the Class of 1937 Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. A distinguised literary scholar, he has published many works on the Bible, literary modernism and contemporary Hebrew literature. His more than twenty published books include prize-winning volumes on biblical narrative and poetry and the biblical translations The David Story, The Five Books of Moses, The Book of Psalms, The Wisdom Books, and Ancient Israel: The Former Prophets.

Program made possible, in part, by Larry Burgheimer, Jane and Michael Rice, and by Carla Ruff in memory of Robert T. Mendle, MD
Co-presented by Lehrhaus Judaica and Congregation Beth Sholom


 I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen
A musical presentation by Sylvie Simmons

Canadian singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen attributed the source of his music to Jewish liturgy, “the sound of the Jewish voice raised in prayer or adoration or praise. Those are the kinds of modes that touched me and informed me.” In writing her authorized biography of Cohen, journalist Sylvie Simmons interviewed more than one hundred of those closest to him, including his bar mitzvah teacher, his current rabbi, his fellow monks at the Mount Baldy Zen Center where he was ordained a Buddhist monk, as well as the mother of his children, musicians, record producers, literary editors, and Cohen himself. NPR's All Things Considered named I’m Your Man the best biography of the year in 2012.

Born in London, Sylvie Simmons is an award-winning writer and rock journalist. Her previous books include the cult short story collection Too Weird for Ziggy, as well as biographies of Neil Young and French Jewish singer Serge Gainsbourg. Sylvie is also a singer, songwriter, and recording artist. She tours the world reading from her book, talking about Cohen and singing his songs, accompanying herself on ukulele.

Program made possible, in part, by Bonnie and Martin Lindauer, and by Rebekah and Chen Sapirstein, in memory of Harry Jackson
Co-presented by the 30th Jewish Music Festival 


Stories from the Shtetl
Featuring Bay Area storytellers Michael Kaye, Barbara Rhine, Joshua Safran, and  Fred Werner

Reception with light refreshments following the program

We are pleased to be the first San Francisco venue for this popular series. A suggested donation of $15 to Stories from the Shtetl is requested (payable at the door), but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

If you like The Moth Radio Hour and This American Life, this is the night of stories for you! We’ll be presenting a night of killer storytellers telling true tales from their own lives (well, pretty true…). These are not the stories your Zeydie told you, but are guaranteed to imbue yourHanukkah with light, sweetness, meaning, and laughter.

Michael Kaye is the founder of Stories from the Shtetl. He has performed for The Moth and his writing has been produced at the Knitting Factory, Joe’s Pub, Gotham Comedy Club and other New York and San Francisco venues. He is the author of Mastering the Narrative and Transverse City: The History of L.A. Rock’n’roll and the Development of the L.A. Sound.

Barbara Rhine is a lawyer, activist and writer. She is the author of The Lowest Form of Animal Life  and Tell no Lies (October 2014).She blogs on books and politics at barbararhine.wordpress.com.

Joshua Safran is an attorney, speaker, author, and occasional rabbi. He is the author of a memoir, Free Spirit: Growing Up On the Road and Off the Grid, and was featured in the award-winning documentary film Crime after Crime.

Fred Werner accidentally ended up on the mic at a story-telling event last year and since then has been featured  at The SHOUT in Oakland, and TMI Storytelling in Berkeley. He teaches Sustainable Design and Architecture for high school students.

Program made possible, in part, by Richard Krieg, in honor of David Medlin


Winter Library Art Exhibitions

SNAC- Ash Tree      The Social Network Art Competition (SNAC-expo):
       Thirty Award-winning Contemporary Israeli Artists
       ON DISPLAY: DECEMBER 2   21, 2014

Opening Night Reception: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 6:30 — 9 P.M.
7 P.M. Remarks by Guy Clement Cohen, SNAC-expo founder    Selected from thousands of world-wide online submissions, this exhibition showcases the work of thirty contemporary Israeli artists. SNAC-expo unites artists and art communities through a free, online, curated competition that culminates in an international gallery tour. Each show transcends the narrow boundaries of language and geography. For more information about SNAC-expo click here to visit their website.

reCOVER: Book Bindings by Sasha MosalovSasha Mosalov 1

reCOVER, Sasha Mosalov’s first solo exhibition, illustrates Mosalov’s dedication to the craft of bookmaking and his long-term interest in Jewish imagery and symbolism. They find expression in the unique albums, book covers, and other objects he creates. To learn more about Sasha Mosalov, click here to visit his webiste.


All Library events are

  • Open to everyone

  • FREE, unless noted otherwise

  • Held in the Main Library, unless noted otherwise

The Jewish Community Library is located at 1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, 94115; between Scott and Pierce on the campus of the Jewish Community High School. Free garage parking; entrance on Pierce Street between Ellis and Eddy.

Programs are made possible by the Friends of the Jewish Community Library.