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

Dror Mishani

In conversation with Jonathan Straight

Jonathan Straight will be in conversation with Dror Mishani , the best-selling crime writer, screenwriter and literary scholar. He also specialises in the history of crime fiction, and is head of the creative writing program in Tel Aviv University


Charles Harris

"If I should forget you..." Award-nominated author Charles Harris on his new amnesia-based psychological thriller "Room 15"

In his best-selling new novel, “Room 15” a police detective with amnesia suspects he’s witnessed a murder and that someone is trying to kill him before he gets his memory back.

Charles Harris talks about how the idea behind “Room 15” first came to him and how he developed it. Memory is a hot topic nowadays. As a Jewish writer and also qualified in Ericksonian hypnosis, he is only too aware of the importance of remembrance… but perhaps there are sometimes things that are best forgotten. Through the lens of a crime thriller, he wanted to explore the experience of forgetting. And the fear of what you might remember when memories return.

A successful film-maker, Charles Harris began as a film editor before writing and directing for cinema, BBC and Channel 4, winning awards for his work. His movie “Paradise Grove” starred Ron Moody and was named by the Jewish Chronicle as the Anglo-Jewish film of the year.”

He has since moved into writing novels and his debut, the tabloid satire “The Breaking of Liam Glass”, became a number 1 Amazon best-seller and was nominated for two international awards. “Room 15” was published by Bloodhound Books in July 2020. He is married and has two cats who live with him in London and two sons who don’t.


Elizabeth Green

In conversation with Elizabeth Green

Born in Croydon, Surrey, and raised in North London, Elizabeth Green is the sister of well known and controversial billionaire Sir Philip Green. She, ironically, was missing adoration and attention both in the family and out in the world. This is her coming of age moment, her coming out of the shadows moment, her having a voice moment. Currently in New York City, Elizabeth owns the West Village restaurant Planted.


Michael Berkowitz

Jews in the boxing world: fighters, managers, promoters, journalists, filmmakers

This presentation, illustrated with prints, photos, and film-clips, is a wide-ranging exploration about Jews, internationally, who have punched above their weight in the boxing world. Encompassing both fact and fictionalized-film, the survey begins with Daniel Mendoza and his cohort in late eighteenth-century Britain, and concludes with some of the Jews who remain active in the ‘fight-game.’ Jews were, in fact, ‘contenders’, in several countries, for several decades, and in Britain, for more than a century. In so doing they shaped the sport which struggles to retain respectability and appreciate its complicated legacy.

This picture is of Isaac Bitton (1779-1839), detail of a print from a private collection. Bitton (also Bittoon), a contemporary of Mendoza, was regarded as one of the great fighters and colourful personalities of his age. Isaac’s descendant, the talented and elegant actress June Brown, is best known as Dot Cotton in the long-running East Enders.

Michael Berkowitz, a native of Rochester, New York, was trained (to little avail) by Ozzie Sussman, a former New York State Welterweight champ. Since 2012 the editor of Jewish Historical Studies: Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Berkowitz is professor of modern Jewish history at University College London. His most recent book is Jews and Photography in Britain (University of Texas Press, 2015). He was co-editor, with Ruti Ungar, of Fighting Back? Jewish and Black Boxers in Britain (2007), the catalogue from the Jewish Museum exhibition for which Berkowitz served as academic advisor.

PLEASE NOTE The talk will NOT be available on Catvhup due to copyright reasons


Vera Grodzinski

American Heiress Peggy Guggenheim, and her Venice Modern Art Museum

This presentation by Vera Grodzinski sets Peggy Guggenheim’s art collection and patronage against her personal life that was always played out in the public eye. Born 1898, Peggy Guggenheim’s tempestuous life spanned the most of the volatile years of the twentieth century. As an American heiress she made Europe her home during the interwar years, but as a Jew she took refuge in New York to escape Nazi persecutions across a warn-torn Continent. After World War II, she returned to Europe, and settled in Venice where she created one of the best -loved modern art museums in Italy. Since her death in 1979, she has been revered as a modern art icon and her Venice ‘Modern Art Collection’ remains her unique legacy.

Vera Grodzinski is a historian of Jewish social and cultural history; she has lectured widely, and has written for academic and cultural publications here and abroad. Her scholarly interests lie with the Jewish contribution to the western cannon of modern art, whether Jews were private art collectors, commercial art dealers or public art patrons.

At present she is finishing her Memoir, set in the wider context of her family’s history:

Seven Languages, Eight Passports, Nine Lives.

Jewish Journeys, Jewish Memories.

(Her manuscript is still searching for an agent and publisher)  


Esther Amini

In conversation with Esther Amini

Jonathan Straight will be in conversation with Esther Amini who is a writer, painter, and psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice. Her short stories have appeared in Elle, Lilith, Tablet, The Jewish Week, Barnard Magazine, TK University’s Inscape Literary, Proximity, Paper Brigade, and Zibby Owens’ Anthology: “Moms Don’t Have Time To.”

She was named one of Aspen Words’ two best emerging memoirists and awarded its Emerging Writer Fellowship in 2016 based on her memoir entitled: “Concealed.” Her pieces have been performed by Jewish Women’s Theatre in Los Angeles and in Manhattan, and was chosen by JWT as their Artist-in-Residence in 2019.

Esther Amini was awarded the Aspen Words-2016 Emerging Writer Fellowship and also was selected by Jewish Women’s Theatre as their 2019 Artist-in-Residence.  Her memoir draws us into the life of a Jewish/Iranian daughter caught between two worlds: Iran and America.  A dutiful daughter of tradition-bound parents who hungers for more self-determination than tradition allows.

 

Orphaned at birth, Esther’s illiterate mother, Hana, was strong-armed at age fourteen into marrying Esther’s then thirty-four-year-old father, Fatulla.  In Mashhad, Iran they lived underground like the Marranos of Spain.  The life-threatening anti-Semitism in Mashhad forced Esther’s mother to hide her identity by wearing the black chador while her father prayed from the Koran in public squares, each posing as Muslim.  However, within the secrecy of their home they lived as devout Jews.  At the end of World War II, incensed by persecution, Hana led her husband and two sons to the States. Shortly afterwards, Esther was born in New York City, and this is where her story begins.

 

Esther says, “Growing up first generation American during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, I was baffled, enraged and in awe of my family. The overriding feeling was that my parents each left one leg in medieval Mashhad, with a strong urge to keep me veiled.  My father’s terror of the outside world and my mother’s hunger for it spilled into our raucous home.”

 

Her memoir highlights her longing to separate herself from her father’s watchful eye and her mother’s eccentric ways of soaking up the American culture.  CONCEALED speaks not only to Iranians and their first-generation American children, but to every immigrant and descendent who feels the poignant and complicated push-pull of legacy.  The universal themes of family and loyalty, honoring traditional customs vs. breaking the mold, fighting oppression and yearning for hope all bear witness to Esther trying to understand it and then struggling with what to keep and what to discard.


Ilana Tahan

From Bondage to Freedom: Hagadah treasures from the British Library’s collections

Hagadah, which literally means ‘telling’ or ‘narration’, is the Hebrew service book used in Jewish households on the first two nights of Passover, at a ceremony known as the Seder (order).

A spring festival celebrated in the Diaspora over eight consecutive days, Passover commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage as told in the Book of Exodus. Originally an integral part of the Sidur (general prayer book), the Hagadah became an independent entity sometime in the 13th century, and soon emerged as the Jewish text most suitable for decoration.  This is attested by the broad range of medieval illuminated Passover Hagadah manuscripts still in existence, and the numerous editions published worldwide since the invention of printing. Its narrative, ritual and didactic character, and the fact that it was intended for domestic use, provided ample scope for originality and artistic creativity. It is therefore unsurprising that to this day, the Hagadah remains the most cherished and most frequently illustrated text in the Jewish realm.

 

This presentation by Ilana Tahan, Lead Curator of the Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections at the British Library, will showcase beautifully illustrated handwritten and printed specimens drawn from the British Library’s unparalleled collection of Hagadot, spanning six centuries of original artistic endeavour. These fine examples represent landmarks in the centuries-long history of the Passover Hagadah. Ilana’s talk will be followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

Ilana has been the Lead Curator responsible for the smooth running and delivery of the Hebrew Manuscripts Digitisation Project, a major, externally funded project undertaken by the British Library, 2013-2020. In 2009, Ilana was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to scholarship.

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries, with sites in St Pancras, London and Boston Spa, near Wetherby. The Library has a growing culture and learning programme in the Leeds region.

A virtual tour of the British Library’s Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word exhibition can be viewed here.

Image:  Baking the matzah (unleavened bread) Or 2737, f. 88r-


Helen Fry

A Very Secret War: Bugging the Nazis in WWII

During WW2, British intelligence bugged the conversations of German prisoners-of-war at three stately houses, including Trent Park in north London, and Latimer House and Wilton Park in Buckinghamshire. From 1942 Trent Park was reserved for Hitler’s captured Generals. In an astonishing turn of events, they were housed in luxurious conditions and lulled into a false sense of security. They became unguarded in their conversations and inadvertently gave away from of Hitler’s most closely guarded secrets, including the V1 (‘doodlebug’), V2 and atomic bomb programme. For over 60 years the “secret listeners” (German-Jewish émigrés who had fled Hitler) never spoke about their work, not even to their families. They died, little knowing that they, alongside Bletchley Park, shortened the war. Having worked through the declassified files, historian Helen Fry sheds light on one of the greatest deceptions of WWII.

 

Historian Dr Helen Fry has written and edited over 25 books; primarily on the Second World War with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans who fought for Britain, and also British intelligence, espionage and WWII. She is the author of the bestselling book The Walls have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of WWII which was one of the Daily mail’s top 8 Books of the Year for War (2019). Her books include MI9: The British Secret Service for Escape & Evasion in WWII and The London Cage about London’s secret WWII Interrogation Centre. She has appeared in numerous TV documentaries, some of which include  David Jason’s Secret Service (Channel 4), Spying on Hitler’s Army (Channel 4) and Home Front Heroes (BBC1). Helen is an Ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, formerly a founding trustee and Deputy Chair of Trent Park Museum Trust; and President of the Friends of the National Archives.


 

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