Our Jewish book festival features outstanding works of this year’s most sought-after and talked about authors for adults and children. We invite you to meet them in person and celebrate their contributions to Jewish and cultural life. This highly popular community-wide event brings together prominent and emerging Jewish writers and non-Jewish writers on Jewish subject matter. The Marvin Caplan Annual Jewish Book Festival also features an extensive collection of books and Chanukah gifts for sale. For more information please contact Jazmin at jrymberg@jewishhamilton.org (905) 648-0605x301


Saturday, December 3 | 7 pm


Stephen Mills   



Stephen Mills is the co-author with Roger Fouts of Next of Kin: My Con­ver­sa­tions with Chim­panzees, a Los Ange­les Times Best Book of the Year. He has worked with the Nat­ur­al Resources Defense Coun­cil since 1983, build­ing cam­paigns that have mobi­lized mil­lions of Amer­i­cans in sup­port of envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion. He lives in Cal­i­for­nia with his wife, Susan.


At thir­teen years old, Stephen Mills is cho­sen for spe­cial atten­tion by the direc­tor of his Jew­ish sum­mer camp, a charis­mat­ic social work­er intent on becom­ing his friend. Stephen places his trust in this author­i­ty fig­ure, who first grooms and then molests him for two years.

The after­shocks rip through his adult life: self-loathing, drug abuse, pet­ty crime, and hor­rif­ic night­mares, all made worse by the dis­cov­ery that his abuser is molest­ing oth­er boys. Only phys­i­cal and men­tal col­lapse bring Stephen to con­front the truth of his boy­hood and begin the painful process of recov­ery — as well as a decades-long cru­sade to stop a ser­i­al preda­tor, find jus­tice, and hold to account those who failed the chil­dren in their care.

The trau­ma of sex­u­al abuse is shared by one out of every six men, yet very few have bro­ken their silence. Cho­sen elo­quent­ly speaks for those count­less oth­ers and their fam­i­lies. It is the indeli­ble sto­ry of a man who faces his tor­ment and his tor­men­tor and, in the process, is made whole.

Sunday, December 4 | 11am

Dear Mr. Dickens

Nancy Churnin 




Nan­cy Churnin writes about inspir­ing peo­ple that encour­age kids to heal the world. Dear Mr. Dick­ens, the true sto­ry of a woman who spoke up to Charles Dick­ens, won the 2021 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award; A Queen to the Res­cue, about Hadas­sah founder Hen­ri­et­ta Szold, who saved 11,000 chil­dren from the Holo­caust, won a 2022 Syd­ney Tay­lor Notable.


Read­ers today are well aware of age-old con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing insen­si­tive por­tray­als of racial or eth­nic groups in books. In Dear Mr. Dick­ens, Nan­cy Churnin and Bethany Stan­cliffe tell the sto­ry of one Jew­ish read­er, Eliza Davis, who was a fan of nov­el­ist Charles Dick­ens but not of his anti­se­mit­ic car­i­ca­ture in Oliv­er Twist. Davis felt that the char­ac­ter of Fagin rep­re­sent­ed a dan­ger­ous­ly mis­lead­ing por­tray­al of her peo­ple, so she wrote to Dick­ens in hopes of a response. The small dra­ma of this inter­ac­tion between a famous author and a woman seek­ing change makes for an inspir­ing story.

Many chil­dren might not be famil­iar with Dick­ens, but Churnin intro­duces the basic facts of his career with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and accu­ra­cy. He is ​“the most famous writer of Eliza’s time,” and read­ers eager­ly await install­ments of his sto­ries in pop­u­lar mag­a­zines. Selec­tive facts about the era and about Dick­ens’ work, includ­ing his com­mit­ment to expos­ing social evils, set the stage for Eliza’s deci­sion. The implic­it hypocrisy of the novelist’s com­pas­sion for Oliv­er Twist, a poor orphan, angers Davis; young read­ers will eas­i­ly under­stand the idea that adults may fail to live up to their own ideals. Churnin care­ful­ly explains the dif­fer­ence between a char­ac­ter and a stereo­type through Davis’s rea­son­ing. Fagin is repeat­ed­ly iden­ti­fied as ​“the Jew,​”sug­gest­ing that his hor­ri­ble traits are endem­ic to the Jew­ish people.

Thursday, December 8 | 7pm

Brought Down

Simon Constam  



Simon Constam is a poet and an aphorist. His poems have been published in various magazines, among them The Jewish Literary Journal, Poetica, and the Dark Poetry Club. He has published a new, original aphorism under the moniker Daily Ferocity on Instagram, daily for almost three years.


Brought Down

Characterized by the admission of doubt in God’s desire for a better world, and willing to see Jewish tradition as indispensable, Brought Down struggles with daily life as a firm believer and continuing pride in Jewish identity. 

In the great Jewish tradition of holding God to account, and not relenting in anger towards Him, the themes in this book are universal: faith, religious practice, forgiveness, history, and the relevance of belief.


Saturday, December 10 | 7pm

The End of Her

Wayne Hoffman  



Wayne Hoff­man is a vet­er­an jour­nal­ist, pub­lished in the Wall Street Jour­nalWash­ing­ton Post, Hadas­sah Mag­a­zineThe For­wardOutThe Advo­cate, and else­where; he is exec­u­tive edi­tor of the online Jew­ish mag­a­zine Tablet. He has pub­lished three nov­els, includ­ing Sweet Like Sug­ar, which won the Amer­i­can Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award. He lives in New York City and the Catskills.


Part mem­oir and part mys­tery is how to best describe Wayne Hoffman’s new book, The End of Her: Rac­ing Against Alzheimer’s to Solve a Mur­der. Uti­liz­ing his skills as both a jour­nal­ist and a nov­el­ist, Hoff­man recounts his quest to solve the mur­der of his great-grand­moth­er, killed in her sleep in Win­nipeg in 1913, and to share his find­ings with his moth­er before her mind is rav­aged by Alzheimer’s Dis­ease. In the process, the author’s search for truth explores issues of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, the immi­grant expe­ri­ence, famil­ial oblig­a­tion, love, and loss.

The author’s search begins after he tells the improb­a­ble sto­ry of his grandmother’s death to a room full of jour­nal­ists. Skep­ti­cal him­self, but encour­aged by his col­leagues, Hoff­man begins to unpack the sto­ry by request­ing his great-grandmother’s death cer­tifi­cate. When it arrives in the mail and reads “’bul­let wound through the brain — homi­ci­dal,’” the author is hooked, and the quest begins.

As The End of Her con­tin­ues, Hoff­man weaves chap­ters about his mother’s decline and his fam­i­ly his­to­ry into a sin­gle nar­ra­tive. He includes fam­i­ly trees, pho­tos, and news­pa­per clip­pings, both in Eng­lish and Yid­dish, to add to the reader’s inter­est and under­stand­ing. Dur­ing his inves­ti­ga­tion, he unrav­els addi­tion­al fam­i­ly mys­ter­ies and paints a vivid pic­ture of life in Winnipeg’s thriv­ing Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in the peri­ods before and after World War One and the influen­za out­break of 1918. He also explores the rela­tion­ship between the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties of Win­nipeg and the dis­trust, anti­semitism, and bias­es that per­sist­ed among the groups that set­tled in Canada.

While The End of Her does not offer the sat­is­fac­tion of a neat­ly resolved mur­der mys­tery, it does offer the read­er a fas­ci­nat­ing and well-writ­ten sto­ry that keeps one’s inter­est to the very last page. While unproven, the author’s final analy­sis of the unlike­ly events of 1913 is com­pelling. Equal­ly com­pelling are Hoffman’s moti­va­tions for writ­ing this sto­ry: to share his family’s rich and unex­plored his­to­ry, to hon­or his moth­er and cap­ture her heart­break­ing decline, and to under­stand him­self a lit­tle bet­ter. He is suc­cess­ful in each of these goals and read­ers are enriched by it.

Sunday, December 11 | 11am

Like a Drop of Ink in a Downpour

Yelena Lembersky 




Yele­na Lem­ber­sky grew up in Leningrad, the USSR, two places no longer on the map. The feel­ing of float­ing with­out pre­cise coor­di­nates, like a boat with­out moor­ing, is a pro­pelling cre­ative force for her imag­i­na­tion. After earn­ing a dou­ble Bach­e­lors’ from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and a Mas­ters’ from MIT, she worked as an archi­tect, orga­nized art exhi­bi­tions, and final­ly turned to writ­ing, pub­lish­ing sto­ries, essays, and the cat­a­logue ​“Felix Lem­ber­sky: Paint­ings and Draw­ings”. This new mem­oir, co-authored with her moth­er, Gali­na, is her first book-length work of cre­ative non-fic­tion. She lives with her fam­i­ly near Boston, Massachusetts.


Like a Drop of Ink in a Down­pour: Mem­o­ries of Sovi­et Rus­sia traces Yele­na Lembersky’s child­hood in Leningrad (Saint Peters­burg) in the 1970s and ​‘80s. Her life is upend­ed when her fam­i­ly decides to emi­grate to Amer­i­ca, but instead her moth­er is charged with a crime and unjust­ly incarcerated.

Told in the dual points of view, this mem­oir is a clear-eyed look at the real­i­ty of life in the Sovi­et Union dur­ing the Cold War, giv­ing us an insider’s per­spec­tive on the roots of con­tem­po­rary Rus­sia. It is also a com­ing-of age sto­ry, heart­felt and fun­ny, a tes­ta­ment to the unbreak­able bond between moth­ers and daugh­ters, and the heal­ing pow­er of art.

Sunday, December 11 | 4pm

Daughters of the Occupation

Shelly Sanders 



Shelly Sanders Greer is an established journalist with articles in national publications including the Toronto Star, National Post, Maclean’s, Canadian Living, and Reader’s Digest.


Shelly Sanders’ first novel, Rachel’s Secret (Second Story Press, 2012), received a Starred Review in Booklist: "In an artful way throughout this absorbing, chilling tale, characters wonder what can stop the tragedy of hatred from overcoming community, a question that will prompt readers to wonder the same." 

Rachel’s Secret was also an iTunes Book of the Week, and was named a Notable Book for Teens for the 2013 Sydney Taylor Book Awards, from the Association of Jewish Libraries. Two more award-winning novels followed, Rachel’s Promise (2013) and Rachel’s Hope (2014) completing The Rachel Trilogy. 


Sanders was chosen as a TD Canada Book Week Author in 2015; she toured schools and libraries in Manitoba, talking about the history behind her books and the writing process. Rachel’s Hope was a Notable Book for Teens for the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature in 2016. 


She lives in Toronto with her husband and two dogs, and has a revolving front door for her three children who keep returning to their nest.


On one extraordinary day in 1940, Miriam Talan’s сomfortable life is shattered. While she gives birth to her second child, a son she and her husband, Max, name Monya, the Soviets invade the Baltic state of Latvia an occupy the capital city of Riga, her home. Because the Talans are wealthy Jews, the Soviets confiscate Max’s business and the family’s house and bank accounts, leaving them with nothing.


Then, the Nazis arrive. They kill Max and begin to round up Jews. Fearing for her newborn son and her young daughter, Ilana, Miriam asks her loyal housekeeper to hide them and conceal their Jewish roots to keep them safe until the savagery ends.


Three decades later in Chicago, twenty-four-year-old Sarah Byrne is mourning the untimely death of her mother, Ilana. Sarah’s estranged grandmother, Miriam, attends the funeral, opening the door to shocking family secrets. Sarah probes Miriam for information about the past, but it is only when Miriam is in the hospital, delirious with fever, that she begs Sarah to find the son she left behind in Latvia.


Traveling to the Soviet satellite state, Sarah begins her search with the help of Roger, charismatic Russian-speaking professor. But as they come closer to the truth, she realizes her quest may have disastrous consequences.


A magnificent, emotionally powerful story of family and the lingering devastation of war, Daughters of the Occupation explores how trauma is passed down in families, and illuminates the strength and grace that can be shared by generations.