This week we went to Limmud. No, it isn`t a distant country. It is a five day annual `Edinburgh Festival` of Jewish culture and learning – defined as broadly as you choose. It is open to anyone who wants to come along and participate. In the past I have given talks about plays ( The Scapegoat, about William Holman Hunt and how he became a significant Victorian Christian Zionist,) and play-readings ( Years ago when the event took place in Worcester. A reading of Candlesticks.)
So, demonstrably, you can call almost anything Jewish learning, if someone or something in it is noticeably Jewish, and there is something to be learned.
The last session I attended was given by friends Julie Siddiqi and Judy Silkoff, members of the women`s group Nisa-Nashim. Muslim women and Jewish women. Although both women spoke with gravitas and common sense and each seemed well-informed about her background, and sure of her identity, the topic of the presentation was `headscarves.` I was keen for the discussion to widen, as I think were the women, but on the topic of headscarves alone there seemed to be plenty to discuss. What women wear is not just a Jewish-Muslim issue of course.
Rabbi Dr Roderick Young gave a talk about his hero E M Forster, and I was sorry not have reread EMF in recent years. Very prescient, he was on the subject of anti-semitism, attacking it in 1939 in a moving essay.
Jeff and I attended a talk by Donald Mackintyre. `Gaza.` Then we went to buy his book of that name. Jeff is engrossed in it so I wait my turn. However alarming, painful, annoying or inspiring, the more a skilled journalist can fill in details, the better I hope to understand the issues around Gaza.
We attended a `panel` of Jeff Phillips and Wes Streeting. I was moved by these two, and had nostalgic flashbacks to `Labour moments` over the years, where voting and supporting Labour seemed the natural thing. Then, in a phone conversation, someone pointed out to me that both these MP`s had hardcampaigned for Labour under the leadership of Corbyn, and the shadow of Momentum – whatever they said about it at Limmud. So perhaps I shouldn`t have been quite so moved.
Limmud runs a Book Club, of course. I invested in all the books to be discussed, but then only read one of them. Liar, by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. Aviva Dautch and Shoshi Ish-Horowitz presented Liar and the room was far too full, stuffy in fact. I felt secretly proud of myself. When I learned recently from editor Nora Gold that my story `Words` will feature on the literary website Jewish Fiction.Net, I immediately googled it. The first chapters of `Liar` figure in the current issue.
`The Secret Jews of Mallorca` was another fascinating presentation. How amazing that after 500 years people still know that they came from Jewish families, who were forced to convert by the Spanish Inquisition.