The 61st annual Jewish Book Fair rolls on this week at the West Bloomfield Jewish Community Center, offering a diverse array of art, music, and speakers as a tribute to the written word through Nov. 18. However, none will offer a story quite like that of Irene Miller's, a West Bloomfield resident who fled from her home nation of Poland for the Soviet Union on the brink of the Holocaust in 1939.
Miller's first-person, historical take on her journey, titled Into No Man's Land, is the first book she has had published. She is scheduled to speak at the book fair on Sunday, as part of a panel celebrating local authors.
A sense of tikkun olam, or a sacred prescription taught in Judaism to repair the world, stayed with Miller throughout her family's harrowing exit, into a Siberian labor camp and then an impoverished village in Uzbekistan for eight years. Even after using that sense to help propel her to a successful life including work for civil rights and help for women with substance abuse issues, Miller said that she is able to easily dive back into the mind of herself at a young age, when life seemed anything but successful.
Miller said that she remains active at 76 as a docent at the Detroit Institute of Arts and as a regular speaker at the Holocaust Memorial Center of Farmington Hills. There, she said she has found the inspiration necessary over the past five years to finish Into No Man's Land.
"I find that people who listen to my rather painful experiences open themselves up with whatever their suffering is," Miller said. "For me, it is a very touching moment when someone reveals their pain to me, a total stranger. I hope that my book could offer a similar effect."
Miller is scheduled to speak on Sunday, Nov. 18 from 10 a.m.-12 noon. as part of a tribute to local authors, co-sponsored by Congregation B'nai Moshe among others. Admission is free.
Other highlighted local authors include Roger M. Ajluni (Gospel of a Cab Driver: A Novel), Jane Alkon (The Remarkable Mr. Boy), Shelly Bell (A Year to Remember), Judith Laikin Elkin (Walking Made My Path) and Katherine Erlich (Super Nutrition for Babies: The Right Way to Feed Your Baby for Optimal Health).
If you go
- What: The oldest and largest Jewish book fair in the United States, according to organizers, featuring leading figures from the arts, entertainment, politics, business, journalism, and more.
- When: Events will be held every day in West Bloomfield until Nov. 18.
- Where: The Berman Center for the Performing Arts and Handleman Hall and Auditorium in the West Bloomfield Jewish Community Center, 6600 W. Maple Rd., and the the Oak Park JCC at 15110 W. 10 Mile Rd.
- Cost: Paid admission is required for some events, but most are free. Tickets cost between $8-$56. To purchase tickets, visit theberman.org or call 248-661-1900.
- What else: "This year there are books on arts, letters, and science; our senses will experience both fine art and music as our minds are stimulated by science and medicine," writes fair chair Sue Lutz in a press release. "The U.S. election will be over, so the Annual Jewish Book Fair will fill the gap with plenty of debate in the areas of international politics and religion, while embracing those of all faiths locally."