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.
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.
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