Having studied the importance of angels in the pre-biblical past, through the bible, and on into medieval and modern literature, Valery Rees will take this opportunity to look at some of the angels that appear in our own liturgies against a wider background of their origins and their later representations across the Religions of the Book. How did people know what the cheruvim on the cover of the mercy seat were supposed to look like? Was Satan the equivalent of the fallen angel Lucifer of the Christian tradition? Who were the angels who ‘fell’? and who are the angels we invoke in the song Shalom Aleichem? Why were the angels so important to the community who wrote the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice? These and any other questions you may like to bring will be addressed in this talk which will be illustrated throughout.
Following her appearance on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time programme on Radio 4 on Angels, Valery Rees was commissioned to write a history of Angels that would cover every aspect of their presence in various religious traditions, over as long an historical period as was necessary. The resulting book From Gabriel to Lucifer was published in 2013, with a second edition in paperback in 2015 (https://tinyurl.com/ws9sm937), and a German translation in 2017. All this was something of a surprise as she more usually works on topics connected to the Renaissance. She has published extensively on the philosopher Marsilio Ficino (15th century, Florence) and his influence on poets, artists and statesmen across Europe. She heads the Renaissance Studies faculty at the School of Philosophy and Economic Science in London, and is proud to serve as an Associate of her alma mater, Newnham College, Cambridge. She is also a Trustee of Westminster Synagogue and Chair of Adult Education.
In her memoir, Invisible Walls, Hella Pick has described a multifaceted life that began in Vienna and brought her as a Kindertransport child to Britain at the age of 10. As a refugee uprooted from the country of her birth, she was educated in Britain, became a journalist who travelled the world, has written three books, including a biography of the Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, and worked with Lord Weidenfeld during the last 15 years of his life. She has a CBE and several honours from Germany and Austria. She has an honorary degree from Sussex University. But her book is not intended as a catalogue of achievement. It is also a vehicle for examining the impact of being uprooted as a child and a lifelong battle to overcome insecurity and make sense of multiple identities. Brought up without contact with Jewish communities, it took a long time for Hella to acknowledge her Jewish identity, and involve herself in the fight against Antisemitism. With her refugee’s origin the question of what it is to be a Jew in Brexit Britain occupies her deeply. Her aim at this meeting of the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society will be to stimulate discussion on the issues she has raised in her book.
Hella Pick was born in Vienna in 1929. In March 1939 Hella arrived in the UK as a refugee on the Kindertransport; her mother was able to join her three months later. Hella went to school in London and in theLake District, and became a British citizen in 1948. Following a degree at the London School of Economics she became the UN correspondent of The Guardian newspaper in 1960, guided by its then chief US correspondent Alistair Cooke. She spent three decades at The Guardian, ending up as Diplomatic Editor. During her very distinguished career as a journalist, Hella Pick covered many of the leading events of the post-war period and met its leading participants. Pick was awarded a CBE in 2000 for her work as a journalist and writer. She is currently the Arts and Culture Programme Director at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an independent think-tank based in London. She has dual British and Austrian citizenship, and regularly visits Austria, which she describes as her ‘home away from home’.