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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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.