Opening of the season: Sunday 10th October 2021: Stefan Reif (University of Cambridge), ‘Bouncing Back and Forward: Stefan Reif reflects on his autobiography and on Edinburgh in the post-war years’ (ZOOM)

Stefan Reif (OBE; BA, PhD London; MA LittD Cambridge; Hon. PhD Haifa) is Emeritus Professor of Medieval Hebrew Studies and Fellow of St John’s College in the University of Cambridge. He also holds senior research posts at the Universities of Haifa and Tel Aviv. He was the Founding Director of the Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University Library (1973-2006) and oversaw the conservation, research, digitization and publication of most of the 200,000 Genizah fragments held there. He is the author of over 400 articles and numerous books, and has lectured widely in Europe, Israel, Canada and the USA. His latest book is his autobiography entitled Bouncing Back –and Forward published in 2021 by Vallentine Mitchell in London; available to the Lit. audience at the reduced price of £13.30 when ordering from using the discount code ReifZoom.

Stefan writes: I expect that all those who share with me memories of Edinburgh in the early 1950s, both Jewish and more general, will have their own individual recollections of who and what impacted on them. The first seven chapters of Bouncing Back have much to say about those years. There is, of course, the highly personal aspect of a little boy’s relationships with his parents and his Zeide and how a father’s return from active service affected that boy’s development. The school and the cheder of those days made a deep impression as did the kind of disciplined education that was still, in the post-war years, little changed from the pre-war ones. My admiration for Rabbi Cohen and my family’s doubts about Rabbi Daiches were not shared by all and there is still much here for the historian to discuss. A theme of my story is the feeling of being an outsider at many stages of my life, no less in the Edinburgh of my youth than later in London, Glasgow, Philadelphia and Cambridge. Also prominent is the notion that success can rarely be achieved without having to overcome obstruction, opposition as well as downright jealousy and resentment. I hope that these and similar topics will provide the basis for our Zoom discussions on 10 October. I look forward to meeting up again with those who remember me and to sharing ideas with them and with others who came later to a changed Edinburgh scene.

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Filed under 5782 / 2021-22 Programme

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