Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation


This spring, join Jewish Book Council and the Jewish Museum for the fifth season of an exciting event series featuring incredible authors in a beautiful venue.

Hosted at the Jewish Museum in New York City (1109 5th Avenue), Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation brings together some of the finest writers of the day for conversations around contemporary Jewish life and identity. This event is FREE with pay-what-you-want admission and includes wine and refreshments, a book sale and signing, and the opportunity to visit the Jewish Museum galleries on the day of the program; however, space is limited and guests must register in advance (see free ticket links below each event).**

The doors will open at 6:30PM for each program and the conversation will begin at 7:00PM. The fifth season of Unpacking the Book is moderated by Stephanie Butnick, deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of "Unorthodox," its weekly podcast.

The Art of Understanding - February 21, 2019 | 7:00-8:30PM
Nora Krug | Ayelet Tsabari | Moderator: Stephanie Butnick | Register

What We Talk About When We Talk About Loss - March 28, 2019 | 7:00 – 8:30PM
Nathan Englander | Rebecca Soffer | Moderator: Stephanie Butnick | Register

How Should a (Jewish) Person Be? - May 9, 2019 | 7:00-8:30PM
Sheila Heti | Dani Shapiro | Moderator: Stephanie Butnick | Register

A special thank you to the following sponsors for their support:

Additional upcoming Jewish Book Council event: 

March 12, 2019 | Center for Jewish History | Matti Friedman in conversation with Lucette Lagnado. Reserve your ticket here.

2019 Unpacking the Book Events

The Art of Understanding

Nora Krug & Ayelet Tsabari in conversation with Stephanie Butnick

February 21, 2019 | 7:00 – 8:30PM

In their new memoirs, Nora Krug and Ayelet Tsabari both tackle larger issues of nationality, identity, and heritage. Growing up, both felt that there was a stigma connected to their respective backgrounds. As adults, both moved away from your countries of birth. But, as their memoirs discuss, ultimately Krug and Tsabari delve back into family history and reconnect with family members—and in doing so, come to better understand the nuances of their backgrounds and heritages.

Nora Krug is a German American author and illustrator whose drawings and visual narratives have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde diplomatique, and A Public Space, and in anthologies published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon and Schuster, and Chronicle Books. Her visual memoir Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home (foreign edition title Heimat), about WWII and her own German family history, was chosen as a New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2018, as one of The Guardian’s 50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018 and Best Books of 2018, as an NPR Book of the Year 2018, as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Memoirs of 2018, and as one of Time Magazine’s 8 Must-Read Books you May Have Missed in 2018. Krug is an associate professor in the Illustration Program at the Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Ayelet Tsabari's debut story collection, The Best Place on Earth, won Jewish Book Council’s Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award. The book was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and was a Kirkus Reviews Best Book, was nominated for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and has been published internationally. Excerpts from The Art of Leaving have won a National Magazine Award, a Western Magazine Award and an Edna Staebler Award. She is the recipient of a Chalmers Arts Fellowship and a graduate of both the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph. Tsabari teaches creative writing at the University of King’s College MFA in Creative Nonfiction, at the University of Tel Aviv, and the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education.


What We Talk About When We Talk About Loss

Nathan Englander & Rebecca Soffer in conversation with Stephanie Butnick

March 28, 2019 | 7:00 – 8:30PM

In their latest works Nathan Englander and Rebecca Soffer explore Jewish ritual, loss, technology, and how we mourn.  

Nathan Englander is the author of the novels Kaddish.com, Dinner at the Center of the Earth and The Ministry of Special Cases, and the story collections For the Relief of Unbearable Urges and What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His short fiction has been widely anthologized, most recently in 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. His play The Twenty-Seventh Man premiered at The Public Theater in 2012. He also translated the New American Haggadah and co-translated Etgar Keret’s Suddenly a Knock on the Door. He is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at New York University and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter.

Rebecca Soffer is the cofounder and CEO of Modern Loss and the coauthor of Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome. She is a former producer for The Colbert Report, and a former National Network Coordinator for Reboot. She is a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumna and contributes to books, magazines, and other media. Rebecca lives in Manhattan and the Berkshires with her husband and two children.


How Should a (Jewish) Person Be?

Sheila Heti & Dani Shapiro in conversation with Stephanie Butnick

May 9, 2019 | 7:00 – 8:30PM

In their newest books, Sheila Heti and Dani Shapiro explore how we become who we are, how Judaism shapes how we think about our identity, and society's expectations of female artists and Jewish women.

Sheila Heti is the author of eight books of fiction and non-fiction, including the novels Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?, which was chosen by New York magazine as one of the twelve "New Classics" of the twenty-first century. The New York Times named her one of "the new vanguard" among international female writers, and she was chosen by Time magazine as one of the Most Influential People in the World in 2013. Her books have been translated into twenty-one languages. She is the former Interviews Editor at The Believer magazine, and lives in Toronto.

Dani Shapiro is the author of the memoirs Inheritance, Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She is also an essayist and a journalist, and her short fiction, essays, and journalistic pieces have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of the New York Times, and many other publications. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School, and Wesleyan University; she is the cofounder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Questions? Contact events@jewishbooks.org.

Interested in previous events in the Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation series? Find information and resources from Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, and the 2016 scholarship edition.