(photo credit: Wikimedia)
LONDON – Jewish Book Week (JBW) kicked off in London on Saturday night with a
far-reaching and diverse program of events and participants, including famed
author Umberto Eco, British actor David Morrissey, Israeli designer Ron Arad,
Britain’s chief rabbi and the founder of US lobby group J Street.
leading festival of Jewish thoughts and ideas and a major event in the Jewish
calendar, the book week attracts audiences beyond the Jewish
However, it is not without controversy; it stands accused of
hosting anti-Israel protagonists.
Last year, one of its main sponsors, The Jewish
accused it of hosting “fanatical Israel-bashers” and “Israel’s
enemies,” and for allowing a session to be sponsored by the London Review of
, who it described as “a Der Stuermer- lite for
“With friends like JBW, there is precious little that
Israel’s intellectual enemies need to bother with,” the Chronicle
said in an
editorial last year.
The UK’s second-oldest festival, this year’s book
week is celebrating 60 years with a week of events that explore Jewish culture,
look at Israel and the Middle East, touch on global issues, unearth new talent,
launch books and delve into comedy, music, film and
Highlights include a discussion with authors Anthony Julius
and Hillel Halkin on their book about famed philosopher Yehuda Halevi; a talk
with historian and author Deborah Lipstadt, who will be discussing her new book
on the Eichmann Trial; the launch of French film-maker and intellectual Claude
Lanzmann autobiography, who is known for his documentary Shoah and will be
speaking to BBC creative director Alan Yentob about his life, work and passions;
and University of London’s Professor of Israeli Studies Colin Shindler’s
conversation with journalist Nick Cohen, author of the book What’s Left: How
liberals lost their way
, on Shindler’s new book Israel and the European Left:
Between Solidarity and Delegitimization.
Other notable speakers include
Israeli author Etgar Keret and award-winning author Jonathan Safran Foer, who
will be talking to Jeffrey Goldberg about the Hagadda and his new edition that
is set to become a popular edition to Seder table.
British Chief Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks and atheist mathematician Marcus du Sautoy delve into the
relationship between science and religion, while academic Bernard Wasserstein
presents an interpretation of the collapse of European Jewish civilization even
before the rise of the Nazis.
The founder of J Street Jeremy Ben-Ami is
slated to be interviewed by Guardian
journalist Jonathan Freedland about the
challenges of being “a new voice for Israel,” while comedian David Schneider
will provide a light-hearted look at how Jews and sport just do not get
British artist Willow Winston has been commissioned by Jewish Book
Week and her book-themed art installations adorn the venue. To commemorate the
occasion, organizers have also drafted a list of 60 must-read Jewish books from
the last 60 years.
With many events sold out, each session will be
available as free podcasts after the event.