DAVAR News

Henri Tajfel: Explorer of identity and difference

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Henri Tajfel was one of the most influential European social psychologists of the 20th century. Rupert Brown will trace his life from his birth in Poland in 1919, his time as a prisoner-of-war of the Germans in World War II, his post-war work with Jewish orphans in France and Belgium, and thence to his short but brilliant career as a social psychologist. Tajfel was interested in how and why groups see and treat each other in negative ways. He conducted a famous set of studies – known as the minimal group experiments – and developed Social Identity Theory, the heart of which is that people’s identities are often intimately tied up with the groups they belong to and they will work hard to make those groups appear superior to other groups. This theory paved the way for subsequent work which shows how mass-scale human violence, such as the Holocaust, might be possible.

Rupert Brown is Emeritus Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Sussex. He obtained his PhD under Tajfel at the University of Bristol and has been an active researcher in the field of intergroup relations and prejudice. He was the recipient of the 2014 Henri Tajfel medal, awarded by the European Association of Social Psychology and is the author of two widely used student texts, Group Processes (2019) and Prejudice (2010). His biography of Tajfel is published by Routledge (2019).

Remember

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Canada/Germany 2015, 94 mins, English

Director Atom Egoyan featuring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau

‘Christopher Plummer puts on a master class in acting, and his director, Atom Egoyan, delivers one in audience manipulation in Remember a psychological thriller featuring that most blood-boiling of plot devices: a Nazi who escaped justice.’

Mr. Plummer is Zev and Martin Landau plays Max, fellow residents in an assisted-living complex. Max realizes they were both at Auschwitz. He is the brains and Zev is the brawn, so to speak, of a plan Max has hatched to seek vengeance on a concentration camp official who escaped to the United States under a false identity. Max is in a wheelchair, but he arms Zev and sends him on a cross-country journey to interview four people who could be the missing Nazi, the hope being that he’ll kill the man once he finds him. But Zev is floating in and out of dementia, complicating the task and giving Mr. Plummer a chance to turn in a very fine performance.’ (Neil Glezinger, NY Times review)

Medicine in Ancient Judaism: Why does G-d attempt to kill Moses in Exodus 4?

Directly after the burning bush scene, G-d inexplicably tries to kill Moses (Exodus 4:24-26). Fortunately, Moses’ life is saved by Zipporah’s enigmatic “Bridegroom of Blood” ritual. Commentators both ancient and modern have proposed many solutions by filling in the gaps, proposing reasons such as Moses’ failing courage or procrastination. But what did this episode mean in its original setting? This talk will look at how G-d’s attempt on Moses’ life is better understood in the broader historical context of ancient medicine. In this talk, Dr Askin will draw upon recent research from her current project, Medicine in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism, to explore how and why the Bible’s portrayals of medicine and healing seems so mysterious and distant to us.

Dr Lindsey A. Askin is Lecturer in Jewish Studies, University of Bristol. She is the author of Scribal Culture in Ben Sira (Brill, 2018), which is based on her doctoral thesis (University of Cambridge, 2012-16). Her research interests include mental illness and medicine in the Bible and ancient Judaism, scribal culture and literacy, Ben Sira, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Book of Jubilees.

Back to Berlin

Following eleven modern-day Jewish bikers on an epic journey from Tel-Aviv to Berlin, crossing nine European countries and 4,500 km in twenty-four days. Their mission, to deliver the Maccabi torch to Hitler’s infamous 1936 Olympic stadium, for the opening ceremony of the 2015 European Maccabiah Games. These riders follow in the tracks of the early 1930s’ bikers who set out from Tel Aviv to all corners of Europe.  En route, each country holds a chilling resonance for our motor-cycling Holocaust survivors, descendants of survivors and the grandson of a 1930s Maccabiah Rider. Stories of defiance and survival are revealed, as well as those of horrifying tragedy.  As resurgent populism and anti-Semitism once again rear their ugly heads, this film brings an important message through the voice of those who have been personally affected by one of the darkest pages in human history. This isn’t simply a “Jewish” story. It is the story of people overcoming the worst from fellow man to restate our common humanity.

Here I am; Capturing the Stories of the South Wales Jewish Community

There have been two projects in Cardiff over the last 10 years that have used oral history to capture the stories of the Cardiff Jewish community, as well as preserving written records. The talk will look at how we went about it and some of the advantages of oral history, and will give some fascinating snippets from the stories people had to tell. It will also look at what we learnt about identity and belonging and the diversity of experience of the community, from the last Barmitzvah in a synagogue in Cologne ten days before Kristallnacht to the first Jewish wedding in Kidwelly, a village in West Wales.

Colin Heyman was involved in the Hineni Oral History project which started the work in 2009 and John Minkes of the Jewish History Association of South Wales has continued the work over the last three years. In our other lives, Colin is a trainer and facilitator, John a retired criminologist. Our other joint activity is going to see Cardiff City play

A bag of marbles (un sac de billes)

Last year this film was sold out, so we are reshowing it. Canadian director Christian Duguay explores the horrors of World War Two from the perspective of two young Jewish boys living in Nazi-occupied France in Un Sac de Billes (A Bag of Marbles). Based on the acclaimed memoirs of the same name by Joseph Joffo, A Bag of Marbles is a lavishly shot production that is brilliantly acted and is a gut-wrenching reminder of one of history’s darkest chapters. Following the fall of Paris to Nazi Germany during World War II, brothers Maurice (Batyste Fleurial) and Joseph (Dorian Le Clech) are forced to leave their close-knit Jewish family behind for the free-zone along the French Riviera.

 Despite the grim war scenes and the dark subject matter, Duguay has created a lavishly shot film that boasts stunning cinematography, lush locations and beautiful period costumes. The film beautifully balances the high stake tension with some sweet and endearing moments between the two brothers and celebrates their innocence. While the film is a dark reminder of a terrible page in our history, its heart-warming story reminds us that there are still good people in our darkest moments (modified from Daniele Foti-Cuzzola)

Internment of German Jews on the Isle of Man during World War Two

During the second war German Jews living in Britain were classified as enemy aliens, and in 1940 many were interned in camps on the Isle of Man. These included  David Memel’s father and father in law, and David has recently visited the sites of the camps. He will discuss  the historical background to the internments, and the experiences of internees, mainly based on the accounts of his family. Despite the loss of freedom, many interesting experiences resulted, including living with a famous artist and a lion tamer.

David Memel was chair of Limmud Bristol South West 2018 and is a committee member of Davar. He is a retired GP.

Disobedience

The question of whose disobedience, and what kind of disobedience it is, are at the heart of this absorbing and moving love story from Chilean director Sebastián Lelio based on the novel by Naomi Alderman. The drama takes place in the Orthodox Jewish community of north London. Weisz is Ronit, a young photographer evidently living a fashionable and bohemian lifestyle in New York. Out of the blue, she receives some bad news from back home that her father, a much-respected rabbi, has died. Ronit’s return resurrects her past relationships with Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), her father’s favourite pupil, who is now a much admired young rabbi himself. The other is with Esti, beautifully played by Rachel McAdams, who was Ronit’s only ally in youthful rebelliousness back in the day. This is a richly satisfying and powerfully acted work. (modified from Peter Bagshaw, Guardian)

Saudade: A Sephardic journey

 

10 years ago, after a series of seemingly disparate coincidences, Judy Rodrigues began a journey into 300 years of East End London Jewish history, which led her back through her grandfather’s Sephardic Marrano Jewish roots to Portugal and Northern Spain As an artist, the histories and stories became part of ‘life being lived’ as they began to permeate, enrich and expand the poetic metaphors of experience and place through her work. The journey became as much a search for the sense of a lost community, as that of an individual identity.

 

Judy Rodrigues is an artist working in contemporary contexts with a studio at Spike Island, Bristol. In 2008 she was awarded a residency grant in Mertola, Portugal followed by an exhibition in Porto. In 2014 she received an Arts Council grant to work in Isle of Wight and exhibited in Dimbola Lodge, once home of the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. In 2017 she exhibited in Pico Island, Azores and then worked on a collaborative publication with Portuguese poet Jose Efe. Their book, In Pico, will be launched Jan 2019.

 

Footnote

 

Professor Eliezer Shkolnik, an elderly Talmudic scholar, whose long career has never amounted to much, has always been eclipsed by his middle-aged son – Professor Uriel Shkolnik, also a Talmudic specialist – who has been showered with all the awards and fellowships that he himself yearned for. The older man must now reconcile himself to being a footnote in his son’s life. Then, one day, a sensational piece of news turns everything upside down. Joseph Cedar’s Israeli movie Footnote is a sprightly, shrewd and ingenious black comedy of middle age and disappointed ambition. (modified from Peter Bradshaw, Guardian)

 

Israel 2011, 107 mins, Hebrew with sub-titles

Directed by Joseph Cedar and starring Shlomo Bar’aba and Lior Ashkenazi