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Celebration of Books

Fairfax’s first annual Jewish Book Festival starts Sunday.

Former presidents are not the first people one would expect to be compared to biblical figures, but to Naomi Harris Rosenblatt, it’s an obvious likeness.

“The story of Bathsheba and David is in many ways similar to President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky,” said Rosenblatt, author of “After the Apple: Women in the Bible: Timeless Stories of Love, Lust, and Longing.” Both had their power secured when they got into trouble, she pointed out, and David acknowledges he’s done something wrong. In fact, many of the mistakes made by biblical characters are the same mistakes we make today. When Adam and Eve are caught newly full of apple and acknowledge, “Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. Nobody assumes responsibility, and we’re still doing it today.”

Rosenblatt’s book “After the Apple” chronicles the stories of 14 women from the Hebrew Bible, attempting to, illuminate the aspects of their women’s lives that speak to the people of today, she said. Rosenblatt will be the opening speaker at the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia’s (JCCNV) Jewish Book Festival, which is being previewed Saturday, Jan. 20 at a performance by rocker Susan Greenbaum and ends Thursday, Jan. 25 with a discussion by Rabbi Irwin Kula, author of “Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life.” Rosenblatt will be speaking on Sunday, Jan. 21, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. with a brunch following.

“I’m really flattered that I’ll be opening the festival,” she said. This is the first annual Jewish Book Festival presented by the JCCNV, which also hosts the Celebration of the Arts in March and the Jewish Film Festival in April. The Book Festival rounds out what the JCCNV is able to offer the community, said Laura Adler, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the JCCNV.

The other speakers include Isabel Rose, author of “The J.A.P. Chronicles,” a sort of “‘Sex and the City’ meets Jane Austin,” said Adler, and Janna Malamud Smith, daughter of late Pulitzer Prize-winning author Bernard Malamud, author of “The Fixer.” Smith’s book, “My Father is a Book,” is a biography of her father. “I think that everyone can relate with different relationships that they have with their parents,” Adler said of the book.

The Jewish Book Festival also features a program of children’s activities and readings, the first of which is a reading and breakfast with Curious George on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 21. Children attending this event will be able to have their picture taken with Curious George and enjoy readings of his stories. On Monday evening Jacqueline Jules from Falls Church will be reading from he book “Noah and the Ziz.” In Jules’ story Noah, given only one week to round up two of each animal, asks for the help of the Ziz, a huge and clumsy bird, to help get all the animals together. The reading will be joined by a spaghetti dinner.

In addition to the adult and children’s programs, the JCCNV offers a book fair featuring books by Jewish authors throughout the festival from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. “Jewish book festivals are really terrific,” Rosenblatt said, they “offer a service to the authors and the communities they serve.”

Those unfamiliar with the books shouldn’t be shy about attending. “I think a lot of these topics hit home and are things people can relate with regardless of whether you’ve read the books,” said Laurie Albert, director of community engagement for the JCCNV.

“Technology and medicine has changed in the past 4,000 years, but human nature has not changed one iota,” said Rosenblatt on the accessibility of “After the Apple.” “That’s why these stories are so timeless.”