Catch up with our online events

Responses to 7 October: Understanding and addressing antisemitism in Universities

The second in a series of talks arranged in conjunction with the London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

On and immediately after 7 October there was a global rise in antisemitism at a time when it would have been expected that the world would have sympathy and solidarity with Israel and with Jews. Universities are often seen as the heartland of contemporary antisemitic thinking, including in scholarship, in the classroom, and in student discourse on campus. Since 7 October many campuses and parts of academia more generally have become hostile environments for Jews.

Drawing on contributions to the Responses to 7 October anthology (Routledge, 2024) that she co-edited and her work as a member of the Intra-Communal Professorial Group founded to improve the atmosphere for Jewish staff and students in academia, Rosa Freedman will talk about antisemitism in universities, where it comes from, and what is being done to address it.

Responses to 7th October

The October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel came as a shock. The shock was not only that it had happened but that the attacks re-called other massacres in the Jewish past. This three-volume anthology offers in the reaction of 36 authors to these events. While many are Jewish some are not. They come from a variety of backgrounds, academics writers, lawyers, musicians and psychotherapists. They are united in attempting to help us understand how to deal with the enormity of October 7. As editors Rosa Freedman and David Hirsh say these chapters are *urgent, thoughtful, angry, reflective, raw and profound, and diverse.” Some focus on the events themselves, others delve into history, politics or law. There is also concern for the way in which reactions to October 7 have revealed a stark world of rising antisemitism. October 7 has in many ways changed the way we see the world and our relationship with friends, colleagues and communities.
This session will offer participants the opportunity to engage with the themes of this challenging anthology.
John Strawson, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of East London and Senior Research Fellow at London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemistism. He writes on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and is a contributor to this collection.

To order the book from Blackwells click here

The story of a life of fertility, feuds and flying. Eighty shades of Oy Vay.

Roy Homburg was born and bred in Leeds, educated at Roundhay School and qualified as a doctor at Middlesex Hospital, London University in 1966. After volunteering in 1967, Israel has been his home since. He served in the air force special flying unit for rescue and evacuation from 1969 to 2000, participated in all the wars and was decorated for a rescue in 1985. Professor Homburg has held posts as Professor and Head of Ob/Gyn at Tel Aviv University, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at VUMC, Amsterdam and at Queen Mary, London University. He has published 320 research articles/chapters in books and has written/edited 14 books. He has been invited to lecture worldwide frequently and has won prizes for research at the British, American, European and Israel Fertility Societies. He has served as Associate Editor for several prestigious professional journals and was the International Adviser for Reproductive Endocrinology for the European Society and is the Principal Coordinator of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility of International Society of IVF. He regards his biggest achievement as playing cricket for Israel.

This was a joint event with the Yorkshire Jewish Medical Professional’s Archive.

Laughing All Laughing All the Way to Freedom: Americanization of a Russian Jewish Emigre

All immigrants of the world coming to America expect it to be like their home country—only better. What they often fail to consider is that, like that of any other nation, America’s DNA differs from that of their country. It may take a lifetime to adjust to the unfamiliar country’s culture, mentality, and way of doing many things differently from the way they have known. It is especially true when immigrants come to America from a country based on different principles, in this case, collectivist Russia versus individualist America, with opposing political systems—the democratic American one and the totalitarian Soviet. This book is an account of the author’s coming to America a half-century ago with certain, mostly mistaken, expectations, and of the process of discovery on his way to becoming an American himself. In his essays, Emil Draitser uses self-deprecating humor to recollect his growing pains as he overcomes his upbringing in a totalitarian society to embrace America’s defining values

A Brilliant Commodity

During the late nineteenth century, tens of thousands of diggers, prospectors, merchants, and dealers extracted and shipped over 50 million carats of diamonds from South Africa to London. The primary supplier to the world, South Africa’s diamond fields became one of the formative sites of modern capitalist production. At each stage of the diamond’s route through the British empire and beyond-from Cape Town to London, from Amsterdam to New York City-carbon gems were primarily mined, processed, appraised, and sold by Jews. In her new book, A Brilliant Commodity, historian Saskia Coenen Snyder traces how once-peripheral Jewish populations became the central architects of a new, global exchange of diamonds that connected African sites of supply, European manufacturing centers, American retailers, and western consumers. Jews were well-positioned to become key players in the earliest stage of the diamond trade and its growth into a global industry, a development fueled by technological advancements, a dramatic rise in the demand of luxury goods, and an abundance of rough stones. Relying on mercantile and familial ties across continents, Jews created a highly successful commodity chain that included buyers, brokers, cutters, factory owners, financiers, and retailers. 

Katubot from the British Library’s collections

Ilana Tahan Lead Curator Hebrew and Christian Orient Collections returns to Milim to talk more about the Library’s collection katubot – Jewish marriage contracts

Jews milk Goats

In December 2023 Gillian Freedman published a book called Jews Milk Goats.

It was a project that she began last year in January 2023 when she had plans to write a book about Medieval Jewry in England. This then changed and became a book about my life on a 5-acre smallholding as a religiously observant Jew.

Gillian tells stories about the smallholding around the year but explores other topics such as factory farming, wool production, the history of beekeeping and, where it all began for her, the story of the Jews in medieval England – a voyage of discovery that started when she bought two Golden Guernsey goats.

The Chosen City

Bobby Steingrove is an outsider in a large Jewish family. a His uncle Stanley runs a motion picture studio in Hollywood during the golden era of the 1930s, but Bobby’s father is dependent on his charity. When Bobby gets in to Yale, a new world on the East Coast opens up to him. He mixes with a moneyed clique of amoral young men from prep schools. Handsome and clever, Bobby is able to keep up with them while he loses his innocence and falls in love.
After an elegant party one night in a grand house in Fifth Avenue he is willingly led into in Central Park. Ultimately, what happened outside in the dark that night puts Bobby’s aspirations on hold and sends him back to Los Angeles to work in his uncle’s studio. When the dark secret in his past is discovered, he is cast out by his family and blacklisted in Hollywood. Returning to New York, Bobby seeks new opportunities to prove his talents, but it is never clear who is being seduced and by whom.

The visual atmosphere of the novel is reminiscent of the Berlin novels of Christopher Isherwood, that became famous from the film Cabaret, and deals with similar themes and cultural references. Glamour and success are counterpointed by alienation and blurred boundaries both of sexuality and morality. The youthful aspirations and desires of the complex characters come alive through their conversations.

Author David Wurtzel practised at the English Bar and for several years was consultant editor of the Bar’s magazine, Counsel. His first novel, Thomas Lyster: A Cambridge Novel was published by Brilliance Books.

Towards a Digital Renaissance - are we empowered or diminished by new technologies?

As Generative AI and Chat GPT in particular sweep the world, the capabilities of computers seem to be getting closer and closer to those of humans to answer complex questions, to draft written work from articles to letters or even job descriptions, to create artwork that appears increasingly authentical or original, to create music that sounds like artists you know and like, and to help creators avoid lots of drudgery. And yet at the same time, the deep flaws and mistakes of the technology are becoming more worrying and serious in scope; the technology’s complete inability to know right from wrong threatens to enable deep fakes and misinformation to a degree that could destabilise democracy and undermine communities across society.

1550. The First Hebrew Play. Leone de Somme of Mantua a Jewish playwright and director

Mike Levy adapted “Comedy of Marriage” for his synagogue drama group. He then visited Mantua to walk in the footsteps of its original author Leone de Somme who he describes as a remarkable Renaissance Jew. His play never performed in the UK. It is the earliest known play written in Hebrew. He also wrote the world’s first instruction manual on how to direct a play.  And built a synagogue in the city!
Mike returns to Milim to talk about this truly forgotten Jewish innovator.

Israelophobia- where does criticism of Israel end and Antisemitism begin?

In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated for their religion In the twentieth century, were hated because of their race.

Today, Jews are hated for something else entirely, their nation-state of Israel.

Antisemitism has morphed into something both ancient and modern: Israelophobia. But how did this transformation occur? And why?

Award-winning journalist Jake Wallis Simons answers these questions, clarifying the line between criticism and hatred, exploring game-changing facts and exposing dangerous discourse.

Urgent, incisive, and deeply necessary, Israelophobia reveals why the Middle East’s only democracy, which uniquely respects the rights of women and sexual and religious minorities, attracts such disproportionate levels of slander. Rather than defending Israel against all criticism, it argues for reasonable disagreement based on reality instead of bigotry.

Through charting the history of Israelophobia starting in Nazi Germany, travelling via the Kremlin to Tehran and along fibre optic cables to billions of screens and using it to understand contemporary prejudice, this timely book will restore much-needed sanity to the debate, creating the space for mutual understanding, tolerance, and peace.

Jake Wallis Simons is an award-winning British journalist and novelist. Formerly a foreign correspondent who has worked for the BBC and national newspapers, he is now Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, where he has become known for publishing world exclusives, often about Iran and the Mossad. In addition, he is a writer for the  Spectator, a commentator for Sky News and a broadcaster for BBC Radio 4 and the World Service.

Normal Schmormal

Ashley Blaker will be in conversation with Jonathan Straight about his latest book and tour ‘Normal Schmormal’

The heartwarming and hilarious part-memoir, part-guide from comedian and father Ashley Blaker, on parenting children with special needs.

Ashley Blaker has six children, three of whom have an SEN diagnosis. Between endless meetings, countless therapists, public humiliations, failed playdates, surreal monologues and occasional violence, it’s certainly not what anyone would call a ‘normal’ household – but would he want it any other way?

Written with humour, compassion and a lot of love, Normal Schmormal is a must-read for parents, carers and teachers of children with SEN, either looking for a bit of support or in need of a very big laugh.

Hitler, Stalin, Mum & Dad

Daniel Finkelstein’s family experience at the hands of the two genocidal dictators of the 20th century is one of miraculous survival.

His mother Mirjam Wiener was the youngest of three daughters born in Germany to Alfred and Margarete Wiener. Alfred, a decorated hero from the Great War, is now widely acknowledged to have been the first person to recognise the existential danger Hitler posed to the Jews and began, in 1933, to catalogue in detail Nazi crimes. After moving his family to Amsterdam, he relocated his library to London and was preparing to bring over his wife and children when Germany invaded Holland. Before long, the family was rounded up, robbed, humiliated, and sent to Bergen-Belsen.

Daniel’s father Ludwik was born in Lwow, the only child of a prosperous Jewish family. In 1939, after Hitter and Stalin carved up Poland, the family was rounded up by the communists and sent to do hard labour in a Siberian gulag. Working as slave labourers on a collective farm, his father survived the freezing winters in a tiny house they built from cow dung.

‘This is a story of love and murder. A story of how the great torces of history crashed down in a terrible wave on two happy families; of how it tossed them and turned them, and finally returned what was left to dry land. It’s a story of brilliant ingenuity, great bravery, and almost unbelievable coincidences.

It’s a story of secret archives and freezing wastelands; of forgery and theft; concentration camps and the Gulag. Of evil and the consequences of evil. And of freedom, and freedom’s reward. It’s the story of how Daniel’s family took a journey which ended happily in Hendon, eating crusty bread rolls with butter in the Tesco café near the M1, but on the way took a detour through hell.’

Daniel Finkelstein is a British journalist and opinion writer. A former executive editor of The Times, he continues to write for the paper. He has been Political Columnist of the Year four times and recently joined the board of Chelsea Football Club. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2013.

Meet Me At Cantors - Meet the writers

Jonathan Straight

Jerusalem artist Alan Meerkin talks about street photography

Life is a tapestry of episodes that each person experiences in a unique way. Being repetitive, such episodes are not considered exceptional, and their importance to us is lost. Observing those around us in their daily grind, we are brought to recognise elements in our own lives that might otherwise seem mundane, and our world suddenly feels bigger. This is equally true of life in Israel.

Alan finds it exciting to bring people to understand themselves and appreciate the world around them. Through the medium of photography, he captures the commonplace routines of life, hopefully enabling others to expand their perception of self in this complex web called human life.

Alan Meerkin is a passionate photographer and journalist. He is excited to take his most recent exhibit, QUOTIDIAN, to several cities overseas. Alan photographs life and nature throughout Israel and has released a series of short films about extraordinary places and events. He volunteers at the Community Garden of Jerusalem’s Museum of Natural History, where he documents communal activities as well as performances by local artists. Alan has run photography workshops and spoken at a variety of forums including the Jerusalem Bird Observatory and the Bet Yehudit Community Centre.

In August 2023 he published Distilling Jerusalem, a photo book about everyday life in the Holy City.