Columbus author Victor Levenstein will kick off the 54th annual JCC Jewish Bookfair by sharing his story of being falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Russian dictator Joseph Stalin.
Levenstein will discuss his memoir, "Thirteen Nasty Little Snakes," at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus, 1125 College Ave.
In "Thirteen Nasty Little Snakes," Levenstein relates his story of being a 21-year-old college student in Russia in the 1940s when he was accused of plotting with 12 of his classmates to assassinate Stalin. Stalin's regime forced a false confession from seven of the accused, but Levenstein and five others maintained their innocence.
"The initial accusation fell apart, but it was still enough to condemn the seven who confessed," Levenstein said. "The rest of us received exile in Siberia for the rest of our lives. Then Stalin died and my exile ended."
Levenstein, who is 94, immigrated to the United States in 1980 with his wife, Dora, and his son, Matvey, who is an artist and professor in New York City. The family originally resided in Chicago and eventually settled in Columbus, where Levenstein worked for the Jeffrey Machinery Co. for 27 years.
Levenstein said he hopes to inspire others by telling his story.
"It's a story about survival -- physical survival, but also spiritual, moral survival," he said. "This attempt to preserve human dignity in this absolutely inhuman condition."
In addition to Levenstein's appearance, the JCC Jewish Bookfair will present events through April, having expanded from its previous incarnation as a series of events that took place in the fall.
Committee members organzing the book fair decided to expand beyond the fall to accommodate authors' schedules and present the broadest range of subject matter, said Cheryl Dritz, one of the organizers.
"It seems like fall is such a busy time in the city, and we have so many good authors," she said.
Other authors to be featured this year are: Stacy Middleman and her book "Dear Cancer, Love Stacy," Oct. 26; Dr. Michael F. Roizen and his book "AgeProof: Living Longer Without Running out of Money or Breaking a Hip," Oct. 30; Ron Balson and his book "The Trust," Nov. 1.
"We try to have a wide range of topics," Dritz said. "Either the topic is of interest to the Jewish community, or the author is Jewish."
In planning the JCC Jewish Bookfair, organizers attend the Jewish Book Council Network Conference, which is held in New York City each spring.
"It's a conference where we meet the authors, find out who's publishing books," Dritz said. "We see if there's a personal connection, something of interest to the community."
Other JCC Jewish Bookfair events include a Jan. 20 collaboration with Gallery Players, presenting An Evening with Alexandra Silber. Silber, often called "the fastest-rising soprano in musical theater," will discuss her book "After Anatevka: A Novel Inspired by 'Fiddler on the Roof' " and share songs and stories.
On March 5, Paula Shoyer will share recipes from her book "The Healthy Jewish Kitchen," a collection of more than 60 Sephardic and Ashkenazy Jewish classic recipes.
Other featured authors include Dr. Gail Saltz discussing "The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius," Feb. 12; David G. Dalin and his book "Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court," Feb. 26; and Evan Moffic discussing "The Happiness Prayer: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for the Best Way to Live Today," April 25.
For more information on the programs, or to purchase books or tickets, visit columbusjcc.org or contact Dritz at email@example.com or 614-559-6238.