Norman: the moderate rise and fall of a New York fixer

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Norman (Richard Gere), a New York fixer, knows the right people and can get things done. When an Israeli dignitary named Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi) comes to the city, Norman decides to impress the man by buying him some very expensive shoes. It works and he establishes a strong connection to the man, but a few years later, when Eshel becomes the Israel prime minister, Norman can’t communicate with him anymore, and this threatens to destroy his reputation.

“Israeli director Cedar impressively creates a complex and intricately detailed portrait of the web of political, financial, social and religious affiliations that has everything to do with how the world works. Gere presides over it all with an impressively self-effacing portrait of a man who, while you wouldn’t want to experience him in real life, remains fascinating onscreen from beginning to end. Of the countless hustler characters who have driven dramatic films over the decades, Gere makes this one distinctive and different, even if there’s no revelation of the entire man.” (Modified from review by Todd McCarthy)


From Buenos Aires to Bristol – The history of Limmud, the global Jewish educational phenomenon


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With Bristol holding its first Limmud event in June 2018, it’s time to hear what makes Limmud so remarkable.  Founded in 1980, Limmud has spread all over the world, empowering Jews of every stripe and type to take control of their own learning. It has pioneered modes of participatory leadership and how different Jews can learn and work together while fully respecting their deepest held differences. Still controversial amongst some for its unparalleled approach to inclusion, there are now Limmud events in over 85 places in 44 countries across the world, creating new educators, offering a model for grown up Jewish life everywhere and introducing Jews to each other, who often lived next door but never spoke.

Clive Lawton is one of the co-Founders of Limmud and served as its first Executive Director for 7 years till 2006 and subsequently as a Senior Consultant. Recognised with an OBE, Clive is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading Jewish educators as well as an international advisor on the development of educational leadership and issues of diversity. In the early 1990s Clive was responsible for the grant that first established Davar and spoke at its inaugural event. He has been a Headteacher, Chair of an NHS Hospital Trust, a governor of the Metropolitan Police, an advisor to the Home Office on Race Equality issues and a regular on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. He is currently CEO of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, a magistrate, scholar in residence at London’s flagship JW3 Cultural Centre, and has authored about a dozen books.




The Governess

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Set in the 1830s, the story centres on Rosina da Silva, the sophisticated eldest daughter of a wealthy Jewish Italian family living in a small enclave of Sephardic London Jews. When her father is murdered on the street and leaves behind numerous debts, she refuses an arranged marriage to an older suitor, declaring that she will work to support her family, even if she has to take to the stage like her aunt, who is a renowned singer. She decides to use her classical education and advertise her services as a governess, transforming herself into Mary Blackchurch – a Protestant of partial Italian descent – in order to conceal her heritage. However life becomes complicated as she gets to know Charles Cavendish, the patriarch of the house, and his son Henry.  Minnie Driver (Rosina) gives one of her best performances with memorable beauty and the screen presence of a real star.

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


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.



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



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


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)