We weren’t sure what to expect when we decided to hold a Day at the Sydney Jewish Writers’ Festival this year. Traditionally the SJWF has been a biennial event but following the success of the 2012 festival, we decided to hold a smaller-scale event this year. The response was anything but small-scale!
Feedback from the nearly 400 people that attended either Thursday’s launch with acclaimed French author Laurent Binet or Sunday’s main program has been overwhelmingly positive. People enjoyed the varied sessions and the excellent presenters.
In particular, visiting Israeli professor Michael Bar-Zohar’s sessions on terrorism and Israeli spy agency, the Mossad, met with rave reviews. It was standing room only as he told tales of the Ethiopian airlift, Black September and the murder of the Israeli athletes in Munich, and Israel’s efforts to slow Iran’s nuclear program.
|Prof Michael Bar-Zohar discusses the Mossad with Michaela Kalowski. Photo: David Sokol|
People also flocked to hear visiting Israeli journalist Boaz Bismuth and Middle East analyst Lydia Khalil talk about the so-called Arab Spring. They discussed the risks involved in an attack on Syria, the challenges of translating change in civil society to political success, and the potential role for the international community.
|Boaz Bismuth and Lydia Khalil discuss the Arab Spring. Photo: David Sokol|
Other stand-out speakers included social commentator Hugh Mackay who shared his research and wisdom about what makes a good life, intermingled with Jewish ideas raised by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie who interviewed him. Andrea Goldsmith discussed the role of memory and monuments in our lives. Iranian Jew Kooshyar Karimi revealed the heavy price he paid for acting against the Iranian government. Academics David Bird and Christopher Waters illuminated a relatively unknown but fascinating part of Australian history discussing pro-Nazi sympathisers in Australia and the policy of appeasement led by PM Menzies. Bryan Gaensler wowed audiences with the origins of the universe.
Everyone enjoyed the diverse program and engaging speakers as well as the opportunity to have their books signed by the authors at the Festival bookshop. A numbers of books even sold out.
|Hugh Mackay autographs his book after his session, 'What makes a life worth living?'|
Clearly the great Jewish literary talent out there is matched by the desire of the community to engage with Jewish writing. We can’t wait for more excellent programming in 2014. In the meantime, stay connected with us via our Facebook page.
As the Jewish New Year approaches we want to wish you and yours, Shana Tova.