People of all backgrounds became familiar this year with the story of Randy Pausch. Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie-Mellon University when the school asked him to present a "last lecture" -- a common collegiate practice requiring the speaker to consider and share the legacy they would want to leave if their demise was imminent.
Unbeknownst to Carnegie-Mellon, Pausch had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and would soon learn that it was terminal, but he accepted the invitation, anyway.
His humorous and inspiring talk, captured on video, became an international hit on YouTube (with over 7 million viewings, currently), leading Pausch to publish a book about his experience, "The Last Lecture," before his death in July.
Pausch's co-author on the book, Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow, will speak about it as one of the featured authors at the 42nd Annual Jewish Community Book Fair, which begins Wednesday and runs through Dec. 11.
News 4 Senior Correspondent Rich Newberg will introduce Zaslow's talk Dec. 9 at the Jewish Community Center's Benderson Building, 2640 North Forest Road, Getzville.
The JCC again presents the Book Fair as part of a Cultural Arts Festival, which will include concerts, talks and discussion groups, with books sold by Talking Leaves Books at all author events (an idea for shoppers wishing to support a local business). There is a wider-than-usual variety of venues this year, including five Jewish temples: two reform, one reconstructionist, one conservative and one Orthodox. Some highlights include:
*Diane Ackerman, author of the best-selling "A Natural History of the Senses," will talk about "The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story." It tells the true story of Jan and Antonia Zabinski, the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo who saved hundreds of people from the Nazis.
Journalist and news anchor Rich Kellman will introduce Ackerman's talk Tuesday at Temple Beth Tzedek (formerly Temple Shaarey Zedek), 621 Getzville Road, Amherst.
*Theodore L. Steinberg, distinguished English professor at Fredonia State College, demonstrates that Jews living in medieval times managed some glorious accomplishments despite the persecution they endured in "Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages." Steinberg will speak Nov. 6 at Temple Sinai, 50 Alberta Road, Amherst.
*The family story behind the name you've seen on many Jewish products in your supermarket is shared in an entertaining saga, "Manischewitz, The Matzo Family: The Making of a Jewish Icon." Author Laura Manischewitz Alpern, the great-granddaughter of company founder Dov Behr, will speak Nov. 10 at the JCC Amherst.
Two popular musical groups return for concerts. Synergy, an ensemble led by former BPO flutist Laurence Trott, will create "sound sculptures" of poetry, chamber music and emotion concerning the Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain and contemporary America; Kristallnacht and the Holocaust; and Israel, in "Words and Music from the Tree of Life" on Nov. 9 at Temple Beth Am, 4660 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville.
Sisters of Sheynville, the exuberant all-female swing/klezmer band from Toronto, present their unique combo of original and traditional material inspired by the Barry Sisters at the UB Student Union Theater on the North Campus on Dec. 7.
Jewish Community Book Fair
Through Dec. 11, various locations
Full schedule at jccbookfair.com or call for 688-4114, ext. 337, for info