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If you go
What: People of the Book lecture with author Jonathan Safran Foer
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Temple Congregation Achduth Vesholom, 5200 Old Mill Road
Admission: Free

Lecture seeks to benefit community


Author Jonathan Safran Foer, known for his best-selling novels that were both adapted to the big screen, “Everything Is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” will be in Fort Wayne on Monday.

Foer will be speaking as part of the Jewish Federation’s annual People of the Book lecture, which brings authors of critical acclaim to the city, to enrich the community with literature and raise donations for local groups.

The event is free, but donations collected this year will go to the Habitat for Humanity Interfaith Build.

“I suggested three years ago when the economy tanked that we take a free will donation at the end to support a local agency,” executive director Doris Fogel says. “It’s our gift to the Fort Wayne community.”

The lecture raised almost $800 last year.

“In the Jewish service, we do not tithe, we all pay dues,” Fogel says. “This is different. We wanted to be able to benefit the community.”

Money from the Dr. Harry W. Salon Foundation and Louis and Anne B. Schneider Foundation has allowed the federation to present lectures for 34 years.

“One of the criteria of our funding is that the author has to be Jewish or must have written something of Jewish content,” Fogel says. “Our committee thinks about what would interest the Fort Wayne community and how well-known the author is.”

She has been involved with the lecture for seven years. Fogel says that depending on the year, the committee may take months in selecting a lecturer. She says she is happy to see the event continue to grow over the years. Erik Larson, author of “Garden of Beasts,” drew 450 people last year, she says.

“The response from the public has been fabulous,” Fogel says. “I’ve had calls all year about the lecture. It’s a very successful project.”

Foer, a Jewish-American author, received the National Jewish Book Award, The Guardian First Book Award and the Los Angeles Times’ Book of the Year title for his debut novel, “Everything Is Illuminated.” The book was inspired by Foer’s voyage to the Ukraine after graduating from Princeton in 1999. The 36-year-old author has followed up with several novels.

Foer is currently the Lillian Vernon Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at New York University. His new novel, “Escape from Children’s Hospital,” will be published next year.

In preparation for the lecture, the federation offered a free showing of “Everything Is Illuminated,” which was followed by a discussion with Steve Carr, an associate professor of communication at IPFW and co-director of the IPFW Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

“I think that the interesting thing about the film is how much it deals with the issues of the memory and the sort of dimensions formed in the American and European contexts,” Carr says. “It’s very much within a time period and it’s a little quirky.”

Fogel says she isn’t as familiar with this author as she has been with previous authors featured in the lecture. She recently finished reading “Everything is Illuminated.” But she says Foer’s list of awards and recognition made him a viable candidate for the committee, which put personal tastes aside for the betterment of the community.

“Our main goal is to attract as many people as possible,” Fogel says.