Below, we give a preview of the first half of the upcoming Lit. season.
Meetings start at 8:00pm, unless otherwise indicated. All meetings until the end of 2022 will be by ZOOM. We hope to have some face-to-face meetings in 2023. Joining details for ZOOM meetings will be sent shortly before each meeting via the Lit.’s email list.
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As the meetings are a mixture of online and in-person this season, we are not charging our usual membership fees. We are asking for a contribution of £10 for a single membership this season, and £2 if a single meeting is attended without purchasing full membership. Either fee can be paid directly to our bank account (details below) or via PayPal using the button below. If, in addition to the £10 membership fee or £2 fee per meeting, you would like to make a donation to support the work of the Lit. in this and future seasons, please use the same payment methods as for the fees.
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Opening of the season: Sunday 23 October 2022: Anshel Pfeffer, A Postcard from Wartime Ukraine (ZOOM)
We are delighted to welcome Anshel Pfeffer, senior correspondent and columnist for Ha’aretz and Israel correspondent for The Economist, to open our year by giving us thoughts from his many and most recent visits to Ukraine. Born in Manchester and immigrating with his family to Israel at the age of nine, Anshel’s British passport has allowed Ha’aretz to send him to cover stories, such as the 2011 Egyptian revolution, in countries that are reluctant to permit entry to Israelis. Over the past 25 years, he has covered education, politics, security and foreign affairs, and received the B’nai Brith award for ‘Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage’ for his column ‘Jerusalem and Babylon’, a series of articles which covered issues relating to Israel and Jewish identity. His latest book, Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu (2018: Hurst Books) won plaudits from The Times (“a sober and erudite profile”), The Literary Review (“truly fascinating”), and Jonathan Freedland in The New York Review of Books (“a detailed, revealing and shrewd biography”).
Anshel observes that “after two reporting trips to Ukraine during the current war and numerous previous visits over the past 15 years, it is clear that the war has also awakened new feelings of Ukrainian patriotism among the country’s large Jewish community”- a community which historically has suffered greatly from Ukrainian nationalists. In his talk, Anshel will address this apparent paradox.
The electronic English edition of Ha’aretz, Israel’s foremost Hebrew language newspaper, may arrive daily in your electronic post by ordering it from www.haaretz.com. For the first year, subscriptions are at half price ($65).
6 November: Maria Chamberlain: ‘Never Tell Anyone You’re Jewish’ (ZOOM)
Maria Chamberlain’s book Never Tell Anyone You’re Jewish (published by Vallentine Mitchell, May 2022) is based on her parents’ and grandparents’ experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland and her family’s post-war life in Stalinist Poland and later in the UK. The book, which is part testimony, part tribute to her Holocaust survivor parents, celebrates their courage and resilience, and brings to life on the page several family members who perished. Much of this history is harrowing and tragic, but it presents touching and tender portraits of her family members in extraordinary times. Maria ponders on how it was possible for so many seemingly ordinary people (German, Polish and Ukrainian) to participate in this unspeakable evil. She talks about the after-effects of the Holocaust on her survivor parents, and how this legacy has shaped her own identity.
Maria who was born soon after the war in Kraków, Poland, emigrated with her parents to the UK in 1958 and settled in Edinburgh, where she still lives. She has led an academic career as a plant scientist and lecturer of Biology at Edinburgh University.
20 November David Horovitz: Whither Israel? Analysing the Elections of 1 November 2022 (ZOOM)
On 1 November, Israel is heading back to the polls for the fifth time since 2019. By the time of this scheduled talk, clear results may not be available if Israel is to enter a protracted period of coalition formation, as has been in the past. We are fortunate indeed to welcome to the Lit. the founding editor of The Times of Israel, David Horovitz, to make sense and unpack for us the results of the 1 November elections and to analyse their implications for the future.
David immigrated to Israel from London in 1983, was editor and publisher of the award-winning magazine The Jerusalem Report, editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post and launched The Times of Israel as an English paper in 2012. It now publishes in French, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew (Z’man Yisrael) and has an average of 40 million monthly readers. He lectures widely in Israel, the USA and Europe on Israeli current affairs and has conducted landmark interviews with Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Volodymyr Zelensky and, much to delight of his children, Paul McCartney. He has published several books on Israel, including The Jerusalem Report’s 1996 biography of Yitzchak Rabin – Shalom, Friend- which he edited and co-wrote, and which won the US National Jewish Book Award for Non-Fiction.
The daily and weekend edition of The Times of Israel, as well as The Jewish Times, may be dropped into your electronic post by ordering it from www.timesofisrael.com. You can enjoy an ad-free experience by taking out a modest monthly or annual subscription, which is greatly encouraged.
11 December Rabbi Jonathan Romain (ZOOM)
Jews worry. That is part of our DNA. Sometimes, it is needless and we indulge in ‘oy gevults’. But at other times there are good reasons to worry. Jonathan Romain has been at the forefront of some controversial campaigns within the Jewish community (such as pioneering a more welcoming approach to mixed-faith couples, trying to make faith schools more inclusive, arguing for assisted dying to be legalised, and intervening in the 2020 General Election) and, in his talk, he will explore the seven major challenges faced by British Jewry. Come and find out what they are…and decide whether we need to worry or not.
Jonathan Romain is a rabbi, writer and broadcaster, He is Minister of Maidenhead Reform Synagogue, writes for The Times and The Jewish Chronicle, and is often heard or seen on the BBC. He is Chaplain to the Jewish Police Association, President of the Accord Coalition (campaigning for inclusive education), and Vice-Chair of Dignity in Dying. His latest book, The Naked Rabbi, John Hunt Publishing (£10.99) came out in May 2022.
8 January Kerstin Stutterheim: The Goldberg Condition, or how a famous person was forgotten and rediscovered (meeting in person)
Emanuel Goldberg was an influential scientist, manager and visionary whose name was almost erased from history by the Nazis. Born in Moscow, he studied in Berlin and London. He was appointed as the first ever professor of photographic and reproduction techniques in his late twenties. A few years later, he headed the research department of one of the most important camera factories in Dresden, of which he became the manager until he was kidnapped by the SA in 1933. After a diversion via Paris, he migrated to Israel, where his laboratory became the incubation cell of Israel’s optical industry. One can say that there would be no drones made in Israel today without Goldberg’s revenge on Hitler. But he was not only a researcher who scaled down everything that seemed too big to him, he also wrote wonderful love letters.In a network of diverse research scientists, we have reconstructed his biography as best we could, made his estate accessible and secure, and interviewed his daughter and the rest of his family. One of the results was a documentary film made by Niels Bolbrinker and myself, from which I will show and discuss some excerpts.
Kerstin Stutterheim is professor in creative practice and head of research at the School of Arts and Creative Industries at Edinburgh Napier University. Her recent positions have included Rector of the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, and Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at Bournemouth University. Her most recent monograph is Modern Film Dramaturgy – An Introduction, Peter Lang Publishing 2019. A new work, Dramaturgie im Dokumentarfilm, is in preparation for 2023. As documentary filmmaker she wrote and directed several internationally awarded films, including Myth, Might and Murderer (1999, 89 min) about the idea of being the chosen within the Nazi ideology; Bauhaus—Model and Myth (2009 – 103 min) about the history and the aftermath of the Bauhaus academy, and Flies & Angels about two Ukrainian Jewish artists, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, and their art of the ‘total installation’ (D 2009. 90 min). Her filmography is at https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0836488/.
26 February Film: The Song Searcher: The Times and Toils of Moyshe Beregovsky, 8pm (meeting in person)
This film, directed by one of Russia’s leading documentary film makers, Yelena Yakovich, is the story of a man’s lifelong search for authentic Yiddish folk music and of his unique archive. Moyshe Beregovsky, a musician and scholar, criss-crossed Ukraine with phonograph in hand during the most dramatic years of Soviet history in order to record and study the traditional music of Ukrainian Jewry. Presumed to be lost forever, his archive was only recently discovered on hundreds of fragile wax cylinders in Kiev. His work began in the 1920’s and led to his arrest and imprisonment in a Stalinist labour camp in 1950, while most of those whose songs he recorded were ultimately shot and tossed into mass graves. Although Beregovsky succeeded in saving the musical heritage of Ukraine’s Jews, the personal price he paid was high. Filmed on location in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, and loaded with rare, unique video-footage and archival audio materials, this film is much more than an account of Moyshe Beregovsky’s life and work. Using haunting historical images, it tells the story of how Beregovsky and his fellow ethnomusicologists rescued Yiddish song before it was practically silenced in the Soviet Union. The music is heard throughout the film, either in its original archival version or performed live by some of the best contemporary klezmer musicians. The same team very recently made a subsequent audio documentary, Yiddish Glory. It is a remarkable programme and can be heard by accessing BBC Sounds on https://www.bbco.uk/programmes/m001h56n. It tells of the 1.5 million Jews transported by the Soviet Union to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan during the War and of the songs, many of which were adapted to the situation which Jews found themselves in beyond the Urals, and which were sent back to Beregovsky in Kiev for safekeeping.
The screening will be introduced by Dr Phil Alexander, who will also be happy to discuss the film and any questions that may arise after the screening. Phil is well known to many of us in Edinburgh for his performance of klezmer, both with and without his quintet Moyshe’s Bagel, as well as tango and ‘salsa celtica’. He is an ethnomusicologist who received his PhD from SOAS, following his examination of klezmer music and performance in Berlin. He is currently a British Academy Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, where he studies historical Scottish-Jewish musical interactions.
13 March 2023, Chitra Ramaswamy in conversation about Homelands: The History of a Friendship (meeting in person)
Monday 13 March, 5:45pm, Elizabeth Templeton Lecture Theatre, New College, Mound Place, EH1 2LX
This event is co-sponsored by Edinburgh Jewish Studies Network and the Scottish Network for Religion and Literature.
We are delighted to welcome Chitra Ramaswamy to talk about her latest book: a hybrid biography/memoir exploring her friendship with a 98-year-old German Jewish refugee called Henry Wuga. The two of them might seem unlikely friends: one born in 1970s Britain to Indian immigrant parents, the other fleeing Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport in 1939. And yet, Homelands is a book about common ground; a story of migration, antisemitism, racism, family, belonging, grief and resilience. It won the Saltire Society Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2022 and is available in all good bookshops. Signed copies can be purchased at Toppings.
Chitra Ramaswamy is a journalist and author from London. Her latest book, Homelands: The History of a Friendship, published by Canongate in April 2022, is a work of creative non-fiction exploring her friendship with a 98-year-old German Jewish refugee called Henry Wuga. It won the Saltire Non-Fiction Book of the Year and was included in The Guardian’s top memoirs and biographies of 2022. Her first book, Expecting: The Inner Life of Pregnancy, published by Saraband in April 2016, won the Saltire First Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Polari Prize. She has contributed essays to Antlers of Water, Nasty Women, The Freedom Papers, The Bi:ble, and Message From The Skies and is currently working on a commission from the Alasdair Gray Archive. She writes for The Guardian, is the restaurant critic for The Times Scotland, and broadcasts for BBC radio. She lives in Edinburgh with her partner, two children and rescue dog.
2 April Matthew Teller, Nine Quarters of Jerusalem (meeting in person)
In Jerusalem, what you see and what is true are two different things. The Old City has never had “four quarters” as its maps proclaim. And beyond the crush and frenzy of its major religious sites, many of its quarters are little known to visitors, its people ignored and their stories untold. “Nine Quarters of Jerusalem” lets the communities of the Old City speak for themselves. Ranging from ancient past to political present, it evokes the city’s depth and cultural diversity. Matthew Teller’s highly original “biography” features the Old City’s Palestinian and Jewish communities, but also spotlights its Indian and African populations, its Greek and Armenian and Syriac cultures, its downtrodden Dom Gypsy families, and its Sufi mystics. It discusses the sources of Jerusalem’s holiness and the ideas—often startlingly secular—that have shaped lives within its walls. It is an evocation of place through story, led by the voices of Jerusalemites.
Matthew Teller’s “Nine Quarters of Jerusalem: A New Biography of the Old City” (Profile Books, 2022) was named a Book of the Year by the Daily Telegraph. Matthew writes for the BBC, Guardian, Independent, Times, Financial Times and other global media. He has produced and presented documentaries for BBC Radio 4 and World Service, and has reported for Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ from around the Middle East and beyond. He is the author of several travel guides, including the Rough Guide to Jordan. His previous book was “Quite Alone: Journalism from the Middle East 2008–2019”.
16 April Mike Levy, Get the Children out! Unsung Heroes of the Kindertransport (ZOOM)
How was the rescue of 10,000 mainly Jewish children from Nazi-controlled lands carried out? What were the mechanics of rescue and how did British government policy encourage or hinder the escape of Germany’s persecuted minority? How was a large-scale voluntary effort to care for the children once in Britain, created and sustained? Mike Levy explores the mostly forgotten role of Kindertransport rescuers and the landscape of care that was quickly established in the host country.
Mike Levy is a professional researcher, educator, critic, playwright and journalist. He holds a fellowship in Holocaust education from the Imperial War Museum in London and is a frequent educator for the Lessons from Auschwitz programme run by the Holocaust Education Trust. In 2012 he was awarded the In Memoria medal by the Polish government for his history play ‘The Invisible Army’. Mike is an oral historian currently working freelance with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and a researcher for the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation. He is also engaged by the Association for Jewish Refugees on a project to map the impact of the Holocaust on Britain. He is chair of the Harwich Kindertransport Memorial appeal seeking to create a new sculpture in the port where most of the refugee children had a first sight of freedom. Mike’s book, GET THE CHILDREN OUT! – Unsung Heroes of the Kindertransport was published by lemonsoul.com in February this year.