Leeds Literary Festival

A Festival of Words and Ideas

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MiliM is non-profit making and run entirely by volunteers, we are proud to be able to offer an exciting programme of webinars during the Covid-19 crisis.

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Milim Spring 2019

Judy Simons

The Northern Line: The History of a Provincial Jewish Family

Lies and secrets. Secrets and lies. All families have them. When Judy Simons discovered a locked box of papers after her mother’s death, she also unearthed a gripping family saga with secrets that had remained unspoken for over a century. Yet writing about the past is like trying to do a jigsaw when half the pieces are missing. This talk explores how we can discover the truth hidden in our own past. Judy’s research took her into immigrant ships, Manchester sweatshops, Victorian lunatic asylums and to Sheffield’s Paradise Square, once the heartland of the city’s Jewish life, where gangs of youths waited in the shadows armed with stones ready to throw at the “Jewboys” as they left cheder each evening. Drawing on diaries, letters, photographs and family heirlooms, The Northern Line forms a conversation between generations, part memoir and part forgotten Jewish social history.

Judy Simons is Emeritus Professor of English at De Montfort University Leicester and a Research Fellow at the University of London. Her books include Diaries and Journals of Literary Women and What Katy Read. She was born and brought up in Sheffield and for many years was editor of Sheffield Jewish Journal. Judy is Chair of Buxton Opera House and a trustee of the Girls Day School Trust.


Angela Himsel

A River could be a Tree

Angela Himsel’s memoir is about change or the possibility of change, and that rejecting your parents’ teachings and beliefs doesn’t mean rejecting them.

Angela Himsel’s memoir, A River Could be a Tree, received the NYC Big Book Award for memoir, 2019. Her Rockower Award-winning column, “Angetevka,” appeared weekly at ZEEK.net. “Angetevka” juxtaposed her current, Jewish world of kosher Coke and Kabala on the upper West Side of Manhattan with her fundamentalist Christian upbringing in Jasper, Indiana, as the seventh of eleven children waiting for Jesus to return.

Himsel’s writing has been published in the New York Times, the Jewish Week, the Forward, Lilith, BOOK, the Partisan Review, Shmate, BOMB, and online at beliefnet.com, ducts.org, and Damemagazine.com. Himsel studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for two years, earning her bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Indiana University. She also holds an MA in creative writing from City College


Ronnie Fraser

The thrill of new technology 1914-1919; Jewish Flyers in the First World War

Young men were attracted to aviation during WW1 because it was new, thrilling and glamourous. Keen and energetic, the young recruits were drawn to aeroplanes, the latest technology and a new type of warfare; keen to do their duty for King and Country, the thrills of flying outweighed the dangers of aerial combat.

Dr Ronnie Fraser will tell the stories of some of the three hundred young Jewish pilots and observers who served with the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War.

Dr Ronnie Fraser is a researcher for the website ‘British Jews in the First World War-We Were There Too’


Emil Draitser

Laughing all the way to Freedom

In his autobiographical trilogy, lively, evocative, and rich with humor, Hunter College Russian professor Emil Draitser describes his life as a Jew in the Soviet Union. Shush! Growing up Jewish under Stalin opens with the author’s startling discovery: many years after making his way to America from Odessa in Soviet Ukraine, every time he uttered the remark “Jewish”—even in casual conversation—he lowered his voice.

This behavior was a natural by-product, he realized, of growing up in the anti-Semitic, post-Holocaust, Soviet Union when “Shush!” was the most frequent word he heard from his parents trying to keep a low profile. The compelling memoir provides a unique account of mid-twentieth-century existence in Russia as the young Draitser struggles to reconcile the harsh values of Soviet society with the values of his working-class Jewish family.

 

In Jaws of the Crocodile covers Emil’s adult years in the Soviet Union, focusing on his work for Krokodil, a major satirical publication, which was allowed “to ridicule things the state apparatus has proved wrong and worthy of criticism.” The book explores what it means to be a satirist and a Jew in a country lacking freedom of expression. His experience provides a window into the lives of a generation of artists who could poke fun and make readers laugh, as long as they toed a narrow, state-approved line.

 

Farewell, Mama Odessa is devoted to the travails of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union and adjustment to life in a totally different culture. Drawing on the rich tradition of Odessan humor, this autobiographical novel explores the most powerful innate motivation that drives many people to leave the country they were born and raised, about their hopes and dreams, their aspirations to achieve their full human potential.

 


Yanky Fachler

A military lunatic asylum in Buckinghamshire – the Jews at Bletchley Park

Maybe unsurprisingly, Britain’s top-secret WW2 decoding centre at Bletchley Park had a hugely disproportionate number of Jews working there. Yanky describes some of the Jewish decoders and other personnel, and also explores some unexpected links between Bletchley Park and the future State of Israel.


 

Private: sponsors

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Councillors Dan Cohen and Neil Buckley

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Lisa & Les Baker

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Phil & Marcia Goldstone

 

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