DAVAR News

No poetry after Auschwitz

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Starting with Theodor Adorno’s much-quoted proposition that ‘After Auschwitz it is barbaric to write poetry’, this talk will explore the tension between confronting the reality of the Holocaust and responding artistically through the medium of poetry to human experience. By focusing on individual poems by survivors such as Paul Celan and Primo Levi and English-language poets such as Anthony Hecht, Michael Longley and Carol Ann Duffy, the talk will tentatively consider how necessary poetry remains in the modern world. Examples of poems will be provided and can be found in the anthology, “Holocaust Poetry”, edited by Hilda Schiff.

Philip Lyons is a teacher and poet who lives in Bristol. He has taught creative writing and literary studies in a variety of settings, including universities, prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Since completing a PhD on Literary and Theological Responses to the Holocaust at the University of Bristol in 1988, he has also worked in the fields of advice and guidance, mental health, and adult education. He is the author of one full-length collection, “Like It Is” (Poetry Space, 2011), and he has given readings throughout the South West, including the Wells Festival of Literature and the Thornbury Arts Festival.

The Zookeepers Wife

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Adapted from Diane Ackerman’s 2007 non-fiction book, the film follows Warsaw zookeepers Jan (Heldenbergh) and Antonina (Chastain) as they risk their lives to save Jewish townspeople from the Nazis by concealing them in their zoo home-turned-pig farm. From the opening scene of almost fairy-tale idyll, life is transformed by the arrival of the Nazis.  The film contrasts life in the zoo with the neighbouring Warsaw ghetto and the struggles of its inhabitants as well as the partisans.

The story of the zookeepers who risked their lives repeatedly throughout the war is an incredibly moving and important story, in and of itself. Years later, when asked why they did what they did, Jan Zabinski answered, “I only did my duty—if you can save somebody’s life, it’s your duty to try.” (Sheila O’Malley)

 

Kabbalah and Yoga

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Yoga is one of at least six Hindu religions as old or older than Judaism. It overlaps through serendipity with the concept of “Adam Kadmon” (original man) in Rabbi Moshe de Leon’s Zohar – published in manuscript form in the late 13th century Castile but attributed by some to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai the 2nd century Talmudic sage. The “Asanas”, yogic postures, are the sites of tension and muscular exercise which coincidentally are related to the Kabbalistic “sefirot” (emanations). In Jewish Zoharic mysticism, these emanations interact with one another to express moral and psychological issues. In a parallel way, the Yoga positions represent objects, creatures or roles which also have “Being-related” significance. This talk will also include a demonstration of a various yoga positions.

 

Michael Picardie was born and brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa and was a member of the Liberal party and the Congress of Democrats (sister party to the ANC) and was arrested after the Sharpeville shootings in 1960. He is an actor and author of plays about South Africa (Shades of Brown, Struggle with the Boer, Shaloma, The Zulu and the Zeide). His father Louis passed onto him his knowledge of Indian mysticism, Hatha Yoga, a love of the poet Tagore and the writings of Mahatma Ghandi. He has a PhD on theatre studies and taught psychology to Social Workers (1968-86). He currently teaches Kabbalah, Yoga and Meditation at the Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation.

Denial

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In 1996, the historian Deborah Lipstadt was pursued in the UK courts by the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, for calling him a falsifier of history in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. This movie version of those events, stars Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt and Timothy Spall as Irving. Weisz plays the professional historian who is astonished to find that people expect her to debate on equal terms with sinister deniers.  Lipstadt retains the solicitor Anthony Julius, (Andrew Scott), who plans a shrewd legal tactic that involves the case being heard in front of a judge, with no jury, to minimise Irving’s theatricals. This film, which reasserts the primacy of truth telling its story with punchy commitment and force, is a breath of fresh air. (modified Peter Bradshaw, Guardian)

UK & US 2016, 110 mins, English

Director Mike Jackson featuring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall

Putting your local Jewish history on the map: the Bradford experience.

 

Bowland Street Synagogue Interior

Bradford in West Yorkshire started attracting Jews as residents as the City’s Wool Trade grew in the 1830s. The community grew as many migrants first from Germany and then from Russia made their homes in Bradford. In 1881 the first synagogue was opened in Bowland Street built by the German Jewish merchants and in 1906 the first Orthodox synagogue was opened. The Bowland Street Synagogue was awarded a grant of £50,000 in 2011 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project entitled ‘Making their Mark’ looking at the roles of Jews in the building of Bradford. The project successfully concluded in 2013, but the work still carries on, helping people trace their family histories, taking tourists round Bradford and acting as a resource for those interested in Jews and Bradford. The talk will look at what was achieved in Bradford and more important lessons for other Jewish Community Projects.

 

Nigel Grizzard was born in London and moved North to work in Bradford as a Policy Maker for the City Council. Over many years he has been involved with many Jewish Heritage projects in Yorkshire. These include running Jewish Heritage trails in Yorkshire, lecturing in the UK, Canada and Israel on Jewish Heritage themes. He currently is involved with a project to document the rescue of the Adeni Jewish community by the British in 1967 and their resettlement in Stamford Hill.

Felix and Meira

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Unfolding on snowy sidewalks and beneath overcast skies, “Felix and Meira” watches ever so closely as a young Hasidic wife and mother is tempted by the quirky charms of a wayward older man. Yet this tenderly observed love story isn’t about religion — or its lack — but about the attraction of difference and the undeniable need to feel alive. That’s something that Meira (Hadas Yaron) clearly longs for; chafing against the restrictions imposed by her Orthodox community, and weary of being scolded by her bewildered husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky).  Though set in present-day Montreal, this tender romance unfolds like an episode from another century, paying the sort of careful attention to social boundaries you’d expect to find in a classic forbidden-love novel. It “distinguishes itself through its subtlety and sensitivity, offering quiet reflection for festival and arthouse audiences”. (Peter Debruge, Variety)

Canada 2014, 105 mins, English, Yiddish, French (sub-titles)

Director Maxime Giroux featuring Martin Dubreuil, Luzer Twersky, Hadas Yaron

Social justice, Jews and the refugee experience in Britain

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Vivienne Jackson •  Jewish Council for Racial Equality • London

Race, asylum and immigration are visibly high on the UK political agenda. Europe is witnessing the greatest refugee crisis within its boundaries since the Second World War. Anti-immigration arguments are palpable in sections of the national press, and appear to have lain behind some of the votes for Brexit. As we try to make sense of so called ‘home-grown’ terror attacks, the experience of many Muslims in everyday life is of overt and subtle forms of discrimination and racism. In such circumstances, what do Jewish people have to contribute to debates about migration and racial discrimination, and is it distinctive? This talk will evaluate how Jewish voices have contributed to race and asylum debates in the UK. The talk will invite discussion about what, if anything, a future Jewish voice on race and asylum should sound like.

Dr Vivienne Jackson works for the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) which is 40 years old this year. JCORE has campaigned for racial equality and building bridges between different minority communities in the UK, as well as running practical projects to support asylum seekers and refugees. Vivienne is the project coordinator of JUMP (the JCORE Unaccompanied Minors Project), which pairs trained befrienders with young asylum-seekers and refugees here on their own. She has worked in NGOs and academia in the field of asylum, race and migration since 2002. She was youth outreach office for Student Action for Refugees (STAR), before completing a PhD about Filipino migrant workers in Israel at the University of Bristol.  She has contributed to research for the Children’s Society on various topics relating to child and young refugees, and worked for Right Track in Bristol, a charity aiming to support Black and ethnic minority children at risk of trouble with the law. This talk is part of the Journey to Justice travelling exhibition in Bristol. (see http://journeytojustice.org.uk/projects/bristol/ for more details)

Dough

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Take an aging white Jewish baker, add a young black Muslim immigrant, and what do you have? The ingredients story in which bridges are built across religious, racial and generations. Nat (Jonathan Pryce), who runs a kosher London bakery is struggling and facing a hostile takeover bid from a cutthroat developer who wants to tear it down. When Nat’s apprentice quits, he reluctantly hires Ayyash (Jerome Holder), a Muslim immigrant from Africa. Ayyash supplements the family income by selling marijuana on the side, and when he makes an unplanned recipe alteration and mixes some into the baked goods, business booms. “Dough” is sweet, often funny and always nonthreatening, a movie for those who wish the intractable realities of the world would just disappear. (Neil Glenzinger, NY Times)

 

Jews and the Slave Trade

In 1991, the Nation of Islam first published the Secret Relationships between Jews and Blacks charging Jews with controlling the Atlantic Slave trade. The book has been furiously rebutted by academics but its assertions are still circulating unquestioned on a number of popular Black History sites. How significant is this? How is the Jewish role in slavery- especially in the British Caribbean variously perceived by Black Britons today and by British Jews? What is the present state of historiography relating to Jews and the Atlantic Slave Trade? And to what extent did the controversy so engendered challenge Jewish historiography? This paper begins to consider these questions in the light of Madge’s own experience both as an academic historian (who has published on both slavery and its legacy in Britain and on ethnic identity) and as a public historian who has worked closely with both museums and Black and Jewish community and history groups in Britain.

Madge Dresser is a Senior Research Fellow and recently retired Associate Professor in History at the University of the West of England, Bristol and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. The author of Slavery Obscured: the Social History of the Slave Trade in Bristol (London: Continuum, 2001, reprinted Redcliffe Press 2007) she has a long standing interest in the history of slavery, questions of national identity and the position of ethnic and religious minorities in British society.. In 2013 she co-authored and co-edited Slavery and the British Country House for Historic England and more recently has co-authored and edited Women and the City: Bristol 1373-2000. (Bristol: Redcliffe Press, 2016).

Indignation

Set against the backdrop of the Korean War, a working-class Jewish student, Marcus (Logan Lerman), leaves Newark, New Jersey, to attend a small college in Ohio. There, he experiences a sexual awakening after meeting the elegant and wealthy Olivia (Sarah Gadon), and confronts the school’s dean (Tracy Letts) over the role of religion in academic life.

“Indignation,” the directing debut of the long time independent film producer and executive James Schamus, is a movie so insistently out of step with contemporary American cinema as to be considered practically defiant. Adapted from a novel by Philip Roth, “Indignation” is, like much of Roth’s late work, concerned with, or perhaps the better phrase is “consumed by” mortality and its inevitability. The novel’s measured prose carries a subtext of absolute rage at the arbitrary unfairness of fate. “Drawing superb performances from each and every one of his actors, Schamus meticulously makes every shot, and every gesture contained within that shot, count…..Schamus’ commitment to a style, and to the material, yields potent results.…It brings home all the indignation of Roth’s work, and adds some fresh fuel to that fire.” (Glenn Kenny www.rogerebert.com)