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Summer Salons with Sherith Israel Authors - Congregation Sherith Israel

Summer Salons with Sherith Israel Authors

Join us to hear from some of Sherith Israel's resident authors about their latest works, their process and how they approach the work of writing in interviews with Rabbi Jessica Graf and executive director Gordon Gladstone.

In person events. Wine, cheese, and great company provided.

Livestreaming not available. Video recordings of each event will be posted to our YouTube channel within a week.

Wednesdays, 7:30-8:45 pm

July 13: Erin Gordon presents Peeps, interviewed by Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf

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A coming-of-middle-age novel, Peeps is the story of Meg, a 51-year-old podcaster who’s spent her life afraid of “what ifs.” Single after an unexpected divorce, Meg might finally have the chance for what she calls a Big Life, but isn’t sure she can pull it off. After her mother’s death, Meg gathers the courage to seek answers about her disinterested and cruel mother from her uncle. To get to him, she moves out of her Santa Monica home and drives across the country in a new RV she nicknames Irv. Along the way, Meg conducts interviews for her podcast Peeps, in which she asks everyday people the same seven questions to “peep” into their lives and uncover shared humanity. Meg’s narrative is peppered with lively “transcripts” of her interviews with the ordinary yet fascinating people she meets. The podcast enables Meg to process the complicated grief and relief related to her mother’s death, her divorce, and her only child leaving home for college. Peeps is evocative of The Wizard of Oz and Wild. Like Dorothy and Cheryl – and many middle-aged women – Meg seeks to find her place in the world. Discerning readers will enjoy spotting the subtle references and symbols from both iconic stories. The latest novel from Erin Gordon, author of Cheer, Heads or Tails, and Beshert, PEEPS is a timely, thought-provoking twist on the theme of self-discovery.

About the Author: A big firm lawyer-turned-journalist-turned-novelist, Erin Gordon has published four books in the women’s fiction genre (Cheer, Heads or Tails, Beshert and PEEPS) and as well as romance novels under a pen name. A graduate of UC Berkeley with a master’s in journalism from Stanford University, Erin’s work has appeared in Parenting magazine, Writer’s Digest, California Lawyer magazine and on KQED, among many others. She’s taught writing, made book store appearances, and spoken to book clubs around the country.

July 20: David Perlstein presents Lola Flores, interviewed by Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf

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Lola Flores: 1930s Havana's hottest nightclub star hides two secrets: She is a Polish-born American Jew—and she has a penis. For a quarter of a century spanning the Depression, World War Two and the 1950s, Lola Flores navigates a world of political upheaval, gangsters and inner demons. The word "transgender" was unknown, Lola's gender identity unacceptable.

David Perlstein is the author of seven other novels. Kirkus Reviews named Slick! one of its "25 Best Indie Books of 2012." His short stories have appeared in literary reviews. David also wrote the non-fiction God’s Others: Non-Israelites’ Encounters with God in the Hebrew Bible​​​​​

July 27: Steven Wasserman presents Grasping at Straws: Letters from the Holocaust, interviewed by Gordon Gladstone

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When Germany’s National Socialists came to power, hundreds of thousands of Jews were desperate to emigrate. As it became more and more difficult to obtain visas to leave, many Jews were willing to try anything and seized upon even the most tenuous and unlikely opportunities in their efforts to get out.

Here, Steven Wasserman introduces the Ichenhäusers, a thoroughly assimilated Jewish-German family with roots in the Cologne area dating back hundreds of years. They led rich lives there, enjoying the city’s urban lifestyle and vibrant cultural life. In the early 20th century, three sons even served in the German army during the first world war. But when the Nazis arrived, they spared no Jews regardless of how long their families had lived in Germany and notwithstanding their service in the German military.

Grasping at Straws recounts the lives of the Ichenhäusers as they sought to escape. Their story is told mainly through letters written by family members before and during the war, as well as letters which family friends wrote of their efforts to escape. These documents portray the tragic decisions that determined their fates. Follow these captivating, heart-rending first-person accounts to history, made even more compelling by the photographic record that has been carefully preserved and presented in over 100 images.

By compiling their stories in this readable volume, Wasserman has done a service for his family, historians, and all compassionate readers.

About the Author: In addition to writing, Steve enjoys photography, reading, travel, gardening, art, and running. He also enjoys volunteering as a reading tutor and distributing food through the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank. He volunteers with his synagogue’s program providing prepared meals for two shelters in San Francisco and, along with his wife, sister, and brother-in-law, provides funds in memory of his mother to support art and music education in Israel.


Aug. 3: Susan Borkin presents When the Times Get Tough, the Tough Get Journaling: A 30-Day Journaling Workbook, interviewed by Gordon Gladstone

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This journal workbook will walk you through a process to help you during difficult times, whether you’re coping with a global crisis or other challenges in your life. This workbook will provide you with concrete and specific exercises to support you on your journey through tough times. As you go through the exercises, you’ll have opportunities to become more resilient, increase your ability for reflection, and become your own personal source of renewal. This book provides you with a series of journaling exercises that will allow you to change the narrative or story you tell yourself, and will support you when the times get tough.

Susan Borkin, PhD is a licensed psychotherapist and speaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since 1978 she has specialized in the therapeutic use of journaling. A true pioneer, she was working in the field of writing therapy, before such a field even existed, and long before the word “journaling” became an internet buzzword. Susan is the author of Writing from the Inside Out (1995), When Your Heart Speaks, Take Good Notes (2000), and most recently, The Healing Power of Writing: A Therapist’s Guide to Using Journaling with Clients (W.W. Norton, 2014). Committed to helping creative people get unstuck with and through writing, she works with people interested in using writing as part of their healing, growth, and transformation. Susan’s work is informed by both the fields of positive psychology and every day creativity. She continues to hold a global vision of a world in which journaling is available to all and the pen is truly mightier than the sword,


Aug. 10: Rebecca Handler presents Edie Richter Is Not Alone and Daniel Handler presents Poison for Breakfast


Funny, acerbic Edie Richter is married, childless by choice, and moving from San Francisco to Perth, Australia. She leaves behind a sister and mother still mourning the recent death of her father. Before the move, Edie and her husband were content, if socially awkward—given her disinclination for small talk.

In Perth, Edie finds herself in a remarkably isolated but verdant corner of the world, but Edie has a secret: she committed an unthinkable act that she can barely admit to herself. In some ways, the landscape mirrors her own complicated inner life, and rather than escaping her past, Edie is increasingly forced to confront what she’s done. Everybody, from the wildlife to her new neighbors, is keen to engage, and Edie does her best to start fresh. But her relationship with her husband is fraying, and the beautiful memories of her father are heartbreaking, and impossible to stop. Something, in the end, has to give.

Written in clean spare prose that is nevertheless brimming with the richness and wry humor of the protagonist's observations and idiosyncrasies, Edie Richter is Not Alone is Rebecca Handler’s debut novel. It is both deeply shocking and entirely quotidian: a story about a woman's visceral confrontation with the fundamental meaning of humanity.

Rebecca Handler is a writer who lives and works in San Francisco. onewomanparty features her flash fiction and non-fiction essays. Rebecca’s stories have been published and awarded in several anthologies. Her debut novel, Edie Richter is Not Alone (Unnamed Press), was published on March 9th 2021.

Daniel Handler presents Poison for Breakfast.

This brief, stand-alone novel, written for all ages, is the “true” story of a single day in the life of Lemony Snicket, one that begins with a puzzling note under his door: You had poison for breakfast. Mr. Snicket spends the rest of the book following a winding trail of clues to solve the mystery of his own demise. The plot is tidy and compact, with a little twist at the end, but the digressions and asides—on subjects as wide-ranging as the proper way to prepare an egg, the amusing absurdity of Zeno’s Paradox, and the sublime pleasure of swimming in open water, among many others—are the real meat of the book. The narrator’s voice will be familiar to fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events—here is the same wry, clever, and somewhat jaundiced narrator of the bestselling series—but there are no children in this book. And while the prose is appropriate for young readers, this story is set firmly in the puzzling world of adults. These are Lemony Snicket’s grown up, even profound, philosophical musings, and they offer fascinating insights into the inner workings of his mind for the first time. 
Daniel Handler is the author of seven novels, including Why We Broke Up, All The Dirty Parts and Bottle Grove. As Lemony Snicket, he is the author of far too many books for children, including Poison for Breakfast, the four-volume All The Wrong Questions and the thirteen-volume A Series of Unfortunate Events, which has been adapted for screen and television. He lives in San Francisco with the illustrator Lisa Brown, to whom he is married, and their son.


Aug. 24: J.D. Douglas presents The Silence of Us, interviewed by Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf

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Local author J.D. Horn will discuss his latest book, his process and how he approaches the work of writing in interview with Rabbi Jessica Zimmerman Graf.

In person event. Wine, cheese, and great company provided. Livestreaming not available. A video recording of this event will be posted to YouTube within a week.

The Silence of Us: On the coldest night of the year, Jonah startles awake covered in blood, with no memory of why a dead body is lying yards away from the back door of his home...

Jonah Hillyer and Riley Griffin are the toast of Manhattan, covered by both Page Six and the NY Times society column. The handsome couple share a privileged life that encompasses both the Upper East Side and lower Manhattan, benefit of Jonah's grand trust fund. Jonah's party-boy, globe-trotting past combined with newly-out, ex-jock Riley's turn as a Wall Street rising star make them society fodder. But a check to Riley’s ambitions and a violent attack carried out by someone from Jonah’s past impel them to flee the city fishbowl and make a fresh start in quiet, picturesque Camden, Maine.

The newly married couple enjoy a bucolic life in the small community, making friends and social connections outside their normal circle. But Riley's growing obsession with a beautiful young man feeds Jonah's sense of insecurity, while revelations about a father figure who manages Jonah's family fortune threaten his sobriety. As jealousy takes hold of Jonah, his marriage to Riley disintegrates, and the thin line between gaslighting and doubt blur, until that cold night when Jonah awakes to blood and the body.

The Silence of Us is a sexy, surprising domestic thriller featuring LGBTQ leads.

Jack Douglas (J.D.) Horn is the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of the Witching Savannah series (The LineThe SourceThe Void, and Jilo), the Witches of New Orleans Trilogy (The King of Bones and AshesThe Book of the UnwindingThe Final Days of Magic), and the standalone Southern Gothic horror tale Shivaree. A (pre-COVID) world traveler and student of French and Russian literature, Horn also has an MBA in international business and formerly held a career as a senior financial analyst before turning his talent to crafting chilling stories and unforgettable characters. His novels have received global attention and have been translated into Turkish, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Italian, German, and French. Originally from Tennessee, he currently lives in California with his spouse, Rich, and their rescue Chihuahua, Kirby Seamus.

Wed, August 10 2022 13 Av 5782