December 8, 2023, 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Packing a suitcase ready to go with 179 short retellings of his personal favorites from traditional folklore, jokes, and reminiscences, Zeitlin shares what he groks as the verbal heart and fullnessness of Jewish experience. He views Jews as cultural, religious, and historical travelers, carrying their own stories as well as the time-honored, forging new connections with encounters. It’s the humanity in the stories and jokes which matter to him.
Steve Zeitlin is a folklorist, writer, cultural activist, and the Founding Director of City Lore, New York’s center for urban folk culture. He received his Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania, and is the author or coauthor of 10 award-winning books on America’s folk culture. His latest is JEWels: Teasing out the Poetry in Jewish Humor and Storytelling (JPS). Others include The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness (Cornell), Because God Loves Stories: An Anthology of Jewish Storytelling (Simon & Schuster), a volume of poetry, I Hear America Singing in the Rain (First Street Press) and three books for young readers. He coproduced the storytelling series American Talkers for NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday and Morning Edition with Dave Isay and is the recipient of the American Folklore Society’s Benjamin Botkin Award for lifetime achievement in public folklore.
His latest book, JEWels, is the first of its kind: the living tradition of Jewish stories and jokes transformed into poems, recording and reflecting Jewish experience from ancient times through the present day. In this novel hybrid—jokes and stories boiled down to their essence in short poems—Jewish witticism is preserved side by side with evocative storytelling and deepened with running commentary and questions for discussion.
Copies of the book will be available for purchase on Friday evening using a Shabbat friendly system.