Literary Festival

December 6 - 11, 2021

Literary Festival

The JCC Literary Festival was meaningfully curated and chaired by Danyael Halprin, Calgary-based writer and editor. If you’ve missed the live events or just want to watch them again, the recordings are available below.


Monday, December 6

9:00am – 9:00pm: Interactive Literary Festival Display.

Danyael Halprin
Danyael Halprin

Danyael Halprin

Literary Festival Chair

Danyael Halprin is a Calgary-based writer and editor whose lifestyle features appear in numerous regional and national publications. Since the fall of 2020, Danyael worked with a Calgary family on…

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Ayelet Tsabari
Tuesday, December 7

7:00 – 8:00pm: Author Ayelet Tsabari and her book, The Art of Leaving, in conversation with Dr. Angy Cohen, University of Calgary’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Israel Studies (pre-recorded in Israel).

Ayelet Tsabari (צברי איילת) is the author of the memoir The Art of Leaving, winner of the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards, a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and The Vine Awards for Canadian Jewish Literature, and an Apple Books and Kirkus Review Best Book of 2019. Her first book, The Best Place on Earth, won the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for Jewish Fiction. The book was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, Kirkus Review’s Best Debut Fiction of 2016, was nominated for The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and has been published internationally to great acclaim.

Ayelet was born in Israel to a large family of Yemeni descent. She grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv, and travelled extensively throughout South East Asia, Europe and North America. In 1998 Ayelet moved to Vancouver, Canada, where she studied film and photography in Capilano University’s Media Program. She directed two documentary films, one of which won an award at the Palm Spring International Short Film Festival. She wrote her first story in English in 2006. A graduate of Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph, Ayelet teaches at the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Guelph, and University of King’s College’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

Maddison Tory
Wednesday, December 8

4:00 – 5:00pm: Author / Youth Social Activist Maddison Tory and her book, Your Secret Superpower: Ignite Your Spark (in-person and virtual – subject to change).

Maddison Tory is a Grade 12 Henry Wise Wood student from Calgary. She is a health advocate, children’s book author, international motivational speaker, and founder of her own social enterprise HUGS. Maddi recently wrote and published a children’s empowerment book called Your Secret Superpower: Ignite your SPARK. The book encourages young people to find their spark and use it to ignite positive change in the world. The book has inspired students internationally to start gratitude and passion projects in their communities. It’s perfect for young philanthropists. Profits from the book are donated to children’s hospitals across Canada.

Paul Alster
Wednesday, December 8

7:00 – 8:00pm: Author / Journalist Paul Alster discusses his book, Kin or Country with writer-editor and Paperny Family JCC Literary Festival chair Danyael Halprin (pre-recorded in Israel).

British-Israeli broadcast journalist Paul Alster decided to write a novel highlighting the expected two-thirds increase in the Israeli population over the next 30 years, most which will come from the Ultra Orthodox and Haredi Jewish communities. This dramatic new demographic will significantly move the balance of power in Israeli society and change day-to-day living in the world’s only majority Jewish nation. The question Kin or Country poses (and that much of Israeli society is already asking itself), is whether or not such changes will lead to societal chaos? Is there a potential Jewish civil war in the offing?

Written as a political thriller revolving around a frenetic police investigation into a murder discovered just days before the referendum is due to take place, Kin or Country also reflects the geopolitical issues that would come to pass in such a situation. Both American and Iranian political interests are also on the line, but the thought-provoking storyline also focuses on the very human dilemmas and emotions facing one Jerusalem-based family that reflects both sides of the heated political debate. Where do their loyalties lie? With their kin or their country?

Bonnie Kaplan
Thursday, December 9

1:00 – 2:00pm: Author Bonnie Kaplan, professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine and her book, The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition (virtual).

Bonnie J Kaplan, PhD, is Professor Emerita in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. She has published widely on the biological basis of developmental disorders and mental health – particularly, the contribution of nutrition to mental health. Her efforts to include nutrition knowledge in the care of people with mental health challenges has earned her a variety of awards, including the Dr. Rogers Prize in September 2019; and in 2017 she was selected as one of 150 Canadian Difference Makers in Mental Health, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Her recent book The Better Brain, is co-authored with Professor Julia Rucklidge (University of Canterbury, New Zealand).

Alan Scott Haft
Thursday, December 9

7:00 – 8:00pm: Author Alan Scott Haft and his book, Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano (virtual).

Alan Scott Haft was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950. He is a 1973 graduate of Queens College, New York. He received his J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law in 1978. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife Gail. They have two children, Hartley and Jamie.

The story of Alan’s father Harry Haft, Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano was first published in hardcover by Syracuse University Press in 2006. Today the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and as an audio book. It has also been translated from English into German and Polish. A graphic novel based on the book, Der Boxer, by acclaimed German cartoonist Reinhard Kleist was published in Germany in 2006 and is available in 26 countries.

A major motion picture The Survivor, produced by BronStudios, directed by Barry Levinson, and starring Ben Foster premiered in September 2021 at the Toronto International Film Festival. HBO/HBO MAX has acquired the North American rights to the film.

Barb Brittain-Marshall
Friday, December 10

11:00am – 1:00pm: Join Barb Brittain-Marshall, host of Letter Writing Socials for a unique, fun, and in-person typewriter event called, Kibitz and Type. Do you have a story blossoming in your imagination? Do you love the feel and click-clack sound of typing out your prose on a typewriter? If your answer is an enthusiastic, “Yes!” then this is the event for you. Come to the JCC and sit down at one of the typewriters to compose your poem, love letter, or short story.

Barb Brittain-Marshall is a scribbler, lover of all things snail mail, and host of Letter Writing Socials. When she isn’t hiking in the mountains or working on her children’s picture book, she can be found writing letters on her typewriters. She hopes to inspire others to discover the charm of letter writing, one mailbox at a time.

Kres Mersky
Saturday, December 11

7:00pm: Join actress and writer Kres Mersky (best known for her role in Revenge of the Nerds) for a 40-minute Q&A session to discuss her one-woman play she created: The Life and Times of A. Einstein. It is a hilarious and touching portrait of Albert Einstein as well as a humanizing look into the Nobel Laureate’s life, as seen through the people around him. Access Kres’ video-on-demand performance of her play (1hr, 15min) for $18.  VIDEO-ON-DEMAND (use code: CALGARYJCC to receive special rate)