At 3.15 pm on Sunday 30 April a cast of actors, writers and academics amongst others will read from the first page of Primo Levi’s seminal novel If This is a Man. Taking on chunks of the text each to read aloud, they will only stop when they reach the novel’s final page – an estimated six-hour feat. This unique reading is taking place at London’s Southbank Centre to mark 70 years since the publication of Levi’s harrowing account of the year he spent in Auschwitz concentration camp when he was 23 years old.
We spoke to one of the curators of the event, novelist AL Kennedy, about why the book remains so significant today.
“He shone with the sun”, lilted singer Rosie Archer in a soaring paean that took place as part of many poignant moments during an afternoon of tributes to the playwright Arnold Wesker, who died age 83 on 12 April 2016.
Held at the Royal Court Theatre, Wesker’s spiritual home despite the theatre having turned down Chicken Soup with Barley (it premiered in 1958 at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre), the evening was filled with warm memories of the late playwright from luminaries across the arts world.
We were so sad to hear of the death of the pioneering historian David Cesarani on October 25. He contributed over the years to Jewish Renaissance, but here JR editor Rebecca Taylor recalls her first meeting with him at the legendary Kosher Luncheon Club in London’s East End.
I first met David Cesarani in the late-1980s. I must have been about 20-years-old and was writing my final-year dissertation for my English degree at Cambridge University. I had chosen a geekily obscure area of literature to focus on – a body of work with political leanings that emerged from the Jewish East End in the 1930s. It focused on novels such as Simon Blumenfeld’s Jew Boy and William Goldman’s East End My Cradle, which grappled with relating the immigrant experience alongside experimenting with the new forms of modernist writing, and pitched all this against a background of political debate about how the ‘working class’ should best be represented artistically.
With the General Election now officially underway, we have politics on our minds – in all its forms – for our April issue. From the revolutionary Yiddish poets who fired up the streets of East London, to the current crop of social activists who are committed to making the world a better place today. As our pieces show, there is an irrevocable link between Jews and political activism.
We also have an essay on Jewish voting patterns by Geoffrey Alderman; a discussion on the ethics of the ‘right to offend’ by Brian Klug, and a personal reflection by associate Times editor Daniel Finkelstein on whether being Jewish really matters when it comes to casting your vote. There’s a piece from Paris three months after the terrorist attacks there by a former Le Monde senior editor, Sylvain Cypel, and a piece by Dan Carrier about his great uncle Nat – one of the first English speakers to fire a shot in the Spanish Civil War. But if you’ve had enough of politics (already!) don’t despair, there’s plenty to keep you reading.
We’re celebrating two centenaries: one with the chair of the Ben Uri museum, David Glasser, who tells us how he rose from the mean streets of Glasgow to head one of the most exciting art venues in Europe; and on the eve of the Arthur Miller centenary, we’re asking why are there no Jews in the plays of one of the 20th-century’s greatest Jewish playwrights? There’s also klezmer from Leeds boys Tantz, an interview with new Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen and a report from the place to be on a Tuesday night in Manchester: the Menorah Film Club. Plus three month’s of cultural listings for the UK and abroad. With all that going on – don’t forget to vote!
A packed crowd of around 60 people attended the second JR salon event this week at Lauderdale House in Highgate. They were there to hear the virtuoso talents of violinist Irmina Trynkos, as well as the sparkling sounds of pianist Marco Fatichenti. And they weren’t disappointed.
This coming Tuesday 24 February Jewish Renaissance‘s editor Rebecca Taylor will be hosting a special event as part of Jewish Book Week. Taking place at London Jewish Museum, the afternoon will centre around the South African anti-apartheid campaigner Helen Suzman (pictured above visiting Meadowlands high school, Soweto in 1977).
This week Jewish Renaissance editor Rebecca Taylor spoke to Jon Kaye at Sunday Jewish Radio. The station, which is based at Jewish Care in Golders Green, London, broadcasts interviews and conversations on a range of topics and airs – you guessed it – on Sundays! Rebecca told Jon about why she left mainstream journalism for a Jewish magazine and talked about her own Jewish identity, as well as some of the stories in the current issue of JR. Such as Jewish Tehran, why Shmita is becoming a hip commandment, and what has happened to the German Jewish community since the fall of the Berlin wall. You can listen to the interview above.
We enjoyed our first Jewish Renaissance salon on Sunday 18 January as much as we hope all of you did. This exclusive event for our subscribers was held at Lord and Lady Lipworth’s house in St John’s Wood and featured Howard Jacobson in conversation with Janet Suzman (pictured above), with a performance by virtuoso violinist Irmina Trynkos.