Catch up with our online events

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

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

Jew(ets): Jewish-Christian Disputation in the Age of Enlightenment

I Want You To Know We’re Still Here

Mine is a family of readers and writers. Our house is filled with books. There are contemporary design books on the coffee table in the living room, legal books in my husband’s home office, and piles of children’s books for when my grandchildren visit. However, the side table next to my bed is piled with books about the Holocaust. Framed maps of shtetls line my office walls and pictures of relatives killed in the Holocaust are displayed on our family gallery walls.

Sometimes I feel like I exist across two polarized realities, experiencing great fulfilment from family, friends, and a meaningful career, and, at the same time, finding the joy of my life tempered by its shadows. In the darker corners of my mind live ghosts and demons who visit me from the shtetls in Ukraine where my family came from. Some of the details that make these visions so vivid are imagined because I grew up in a family where memories were too terrible to speak of.

This is the true story of four generations who have been dealing with the Holocaust and its aftermath. We are four generations, survivors and survivors of survivors, storytellers and memory keepers. And we’re still here.

Esther Safran Foer is one of the most well known and influential women in Washington, D.C. Most recently she served as the executive director of the Sixth & I historic synagogue for nearly 10 years, revitalizing the cultural relevance of the historic building. Before taking over at Sixth & I, she was the president of FM Strategic Communications, a public relations firm that advised top law firms and Fortune 500 companies. Her first job in politics was on the staff of the George McGovern campaign for president in 1972.


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)  

The Bolsheviks, Jewish Socialists and Antisemitism

When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they announced the overthrow of a world scarred by exploitation and domination. In the very moment of revolution, these sentiments were put to the test as antisemitic pogroms swept the former Pale of Settlement. The pogroms posed fundamental questions of the Bolshevik project, revealing the depth of antisemitism within sections of the working class, peasantry and Red Army. Brendan McGeever’s new book Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution offers the first book-length analysis of the Bolshevik response to antisemitism. Contrary to existing understandings, it reveals this campaign to have been led not by the Party leadership, as is often assumed, but by a loosely connected group of radicals who mobilized around a Jewish political subjectivity. By examining pogroms committed by the Red Army, McGeever also reveals the explosive overlap between revolutionary politics and antisemitism, and the capacity for class to become racialized in a moment of crisis.



Dr Brendan McGeever is Lecturer in the Sociology of Racialization and Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London and is a Research Associate at the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, which is based at Birkbeck. His research examines antisemitism and other racisms, past and present. He is the author of Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2019) which is winner of the 2020 Reginald Zelnik Book Prize for History, and was given ‘Honourable Mention’ for the W. Bruce Lincoln Prize. He is a 2019 BBC ‘New Generation Thinker’.


This is talk is held jointly with the Leeds Branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England

A Night at the Oscars

In 1996, Gillian Walnes Perry MBE had the great privilege of attending the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, along with Miep Gies, the courageous helper of Anne Frank and her family in hiding. To coincide with the 2021 Oscar nominations, Gillian takes the audience on a behind the scenes look at Hollywood’s glittering annual ceremony, describe what it’s like to walk the red carpet, and how the Oscar winning director of the documentary film she had commissioned introduced Miep Gies to the world from that famous Hollywood stage. Gillian will also explain the history of the event, citing some of its most memorable moments and colourful characters

For more details click here

Keeping your Head in the Game

Time to talk about his latest book “Keeping your Head in the Game” which is the first ever book about sports psychotherapy. Ten sportsmen and women enter therapy to discover more about themselves and their careers.

Described as a genuine MUST for anyone interested in the human side of sport. It is comforting to realise that everyone – from global superstar to young aspirant – suffers from profound uncertainty of one sort or another . .This book will promote greater kindness and understanding .

Gary is in converation with Adam Pope BBC Radio Leeds reporter


To order Gary’s book click here


To access these select CC on the YouTube page

In conversation with UK No.1 best-selling crime and thriller author, Peter James

Peter James, a UK No. 1 bestselling crime and thriller author will be in conversation with Jonathan Straight. Synonymous with plot-twisting page-turners, Peter has garnered an army of loyal fans throughout his storytelling career – which also included stints writing for TV and producing films. He has won over 40 awards for his work, including the WHSmith Best Crime Author of All Time Award, Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger and a BAFTA nomination for The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons for which he was an Executive Producer. Many of Peter’s novels have been adapted for film, TV and stage.



To access these select CC on the YouTube page

Moshe Dayan - the most iconic Jewish face of the 20th Century

Because of his eye-patch, his pedigree (only the second child born on a kibbutz), his military record, and his political record, Moshe Dayan is the 20th century’s most widely recognised Jewish face – in Israel, in the Jewish world, and in the outside world.
UK-born Yanky Fachler lived in Israel for almost 30 years before moving to Ireland, where he is chair of the Jewish Historical Society of Ireland. Yanky is a writer, broadcaster, corporate trainer, published author, and frequent speaker to Jewish Historical Society of England branches in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Jerusalem.

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. n.

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-


To access these select CC on the YouTube page

In conversation with Esther Amini

Jonathan Straight 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.

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.


To order

Not In The Script: The Black Sheep in the Billionaire’s Family

Click here

"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.

In conversation with Dror Mishani

Jonathan Straight is 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