Author Series mixes virtual, real worlds

PHOTO: MJCC Arts & Culture Manager Lenny Steinberg stands before a display of the six author talks he has curated so far for this year’s Author Series. 

The Mittleman Jewish Community Center will bring at least six authors to Portland (in person, on Zoom or both) for this year’s Author Series. For now, the program includes one hybrid and four virtual programs as well as one in-person event with a post-talk event (see below). 
The authors are selected from about 250 authors in the annual guide of authors on tour curated by the Jewish Book Council, of which the MJCC is a member. Virtual and hybrid programs will be available on both Zoom and Facebook Live. Each event will include a presentation by the author, a moderated conversation with the presenter and a Q&A session with the audience.
“We consciously left the schedule open so we have the opportunity to bring in more authors in person in late spring or early summer as the world, hopefully, opens back up,” says MJCC Arts & Culture Manager Lenny Steinberg. 
“It feels like a grand reopening,” says Lenny. “We are figuring out what people want – what gets people out to an (in-person) event and what they are willing to sit on Zoom for. As the JCC, we are committed to providing arts and culture programs for the community.”
The first two programs in the Author Series this year are partnerships, another area the J hopes to expand.  
On Jan. 13, the J will partner with Israel360 and Congregation Neveh Shalom for a 6:30 pm Zoom event with Daniel Sokatch, author of Can We Talk About Israel? A Guide for the Curious, Confused and Conflicted. The program also partners with PDX Hillel and the Portland State University Judaic Studies Department to provide free registration for students. Students can register at
On Jan. 20, the MJCC will present Catherine Ehrlich, author of Irma’s Passport, in a hybrid program in partnership with Eastside Jewish Commons. Ehrlich will speak at the EJC at 6:30 pm. Those not comfortable with attending in person can participate on Zoom or Facebook Live. Part personal memoir, part historical drama, Irma’s Passport is narrated alternately by Irma’s granddaughter, Catherine, and Irma herself. You can read about it in the Sept. 30, 2021, Jewish Review. 
Lenny is particularly excited by the May program, which he hopes will mark the return of the popular mahjong tournament the J launched in 2019. The tournament was “wildly successful,” and the center planned to make it an annual event until Covid intervened the next year. The author portion of the May 22 event will feature Mahjong author Annelise Heinz, an assistant professor of history at the University of Oregon. Her book explores the American history of the Chinese parlor game mahjong in the first half of the 20th century.
“We will host her in the ballroom for a typical author talk and hope to follow that with a mahjong tournament and lunch, pandemic permitting,” says Lenny. “If a tourney is not feasible, we may offer an open play mahjong experience instead.”
“This is another effort to bring back to the community events that were successful before the pandemic and that people have asked for,” he adds.
Lenny encourages people to contact him with program ideas and suggestions. He can be reached at 503-535-3555 or For more information on the Author Series and other in-person and virtual arts and culture programs, contact Lenny or visit

MJCC 2022 Author Series
Daniel Sokatch, author of Can We Talk About Israel? 6:30 pm, Jan. 13, virtual
Catherine Ehrlich, author of Irma’s Passport, 6:30 pm, Jan. 20, hybrid: Eastside Jewish Commons, 2420 NE Sandy, Portland, and virtual
Raffi Berg, author of Red Sea Spies, 11 am, Jan. 23, virtual
Cindy Rizzom, author of The Papercutter, 6:30 pm, Feb. 10, virtual
Ben Freeman, author of Jewish Pride: Rebuilding a People, 6:30 pm, March 24, virtual 
Annelise Heinz, author of Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture, 11 am, May 22, at the MJCC, 6651 SW Capitol Hwy., Portland; followed by mahjong play or tournament
Tickets for each program are $5. Information and registration:



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