London Jewish Book Week, which ran from February 27 through March 7, was unlike any previous event held in its 69-year history. The festival, which in previous years has been a bustling affair held in a packed venue, with thousands of people meeting and participating, listening to speakers, and purchasing books, was held entirely online.
Despite the unusual nature of this year’s event, Claudia Rubenstein, Director of Jewish Book Week, said that more than 25,000 tickets were sold to live-streamed events, compared to the 15,000 tickets that were sold at last year’s in-person Book Week. Viewers from 41 different countries across six continents participated in events, including India, Kenya, Mexico, and Croatia, among many others, and speakers hailed from nine different countries. Rubenstein noted that this year’s Jewish Book Week, with the live captioning for all events, as well as a daily free event broadcast on Zoom and Facebook, was the most accessible festival to date.
This year’s Jewish Book Week featured fifty-four live-streamed presentations and panels on a wide variety of subjects, including modern Jewish literature, antisemitism, the modern Middle East, Jewish culture, Jewish travel through the ages, and many more. Each year, Jewish Book Week brings together writers and speakers — from the most eminent to the first-time published — from the worlds of history, journalism, philosophy, science, art, music, poetry, and fiction in a celebration of ideas. The festival features Jewish themes and writers, and discussions on the most important issues of the day. Summing up the festival, Rubenstein said, “Our incredible speakers and audience, with their ever-excellent questions, have made it one of our most successful festivals ever. We are thrilled that offering our festival online has enabled people to join us from all over the world.”
The international sponsor of the event was Eduard Shyfrin, author of Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind, the popular children’s book that received the Independent Press Award Distinguished Favorite for juvenile fiction. Shyfrin discussed his book in a special online event on Thursday, February 18. Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind book follows the adventures of young Aaron and Stella, siblings transported to the Land of the Mind, a fantasy kingdom based on mathematical principles and quantum physics. Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind introduces children to positive values such as hope and courage and helps them deal with fear, indifference, and pride. The event, held in cooperation with The Jerusalem Post, took place shortly before the opening of Jewish Book Week.