Ideas and books at the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival

August 31, 2016 by Michael Misrachi
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Bondi was abuzz this weekend as hundreds of people gathered for the 2016 Sydney Jewish Writers Festival.

Orli Wargon, David Gonski, Kathy Shand and Michaela Kalowski

Orli Wargon, David Gonski, Kathy Shand and Michaela Kalowski

The festival opened at the Bondi Pavilion with a fascinating and hopeful discussion between award- winning Israeli journalist Matti Friedman and stereotype-defying Rabbi Dov Lipman about fractures in Israel and the quiet, slow progress being made to overcome some of them.

“Israel is such a dynamic and complex place, it is always wonderful to hear different perspectives on issues,” said Festival Director Michael Misrachi. “Friedman and Lipman offered analysis, reflection and vision, which are as essential as ever.”

Kooshyar Karimi, Toni Whitmont and Arnold Zable

Kooshyar Karimi, Toni Whitmont and Arnold Zable

Audiences were then serenaded by Lee Kofman and Adi Sappir, who performed the poetry of celebrated Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai.

The program continued on Sunday at Waverley Library with sessions on refugees, music, true crime, and both fictional and real-life stories of Holocaust survival. Audiences were inspired by philanthropist and businessman David Gonski, and moved by authors Shelley Davidow and Alexandra, who explored how one passes on a family legacy without transmitting difficult and traumatic aspects. Matti Friedman spoke to a capacity crowd about his books, The Aleppo Codex and Pumpkinflowers, which promptly sold out at the bookshop.

Davidow, who appears at the Brisbane Writers Festival in the coming weeks, enthused that the program was so topical: “It explored issues facing the country, the world, and people’s lives.”

Dina Gold’s riveting story of reclaiming a family building stolen by the Nazis, the book launch of Rebellious Daughters, and the session on death – which featured authors Leah Kaminsky and Steven Amsterdam along with Rabbi David Freedman and SMH Literary Editor Susan Wyndham – also drew particularly large crowds.

“Audiences flocked to engage with the issue of the end of life, which touches us all but remains highly emotive and still largely taboo,” Misrachi said. “It was thought-provoking and poignant to confront issues like suicide and euthanasia, as well as the panellists’ personal experiences with death.”

Children were also highly engaged at the festival through three sessions run in conjunction with PJ Library. Kids played with words and language with Erica Bental, author of Has a Book Got a Spine, and quizzed Anna and Barbara Fienberg about how they wrote the beloved series Tashi.

Festival Director Michael Misrachi, Rabbi Dov Lipman, moderator Debbie Whitmont, author and journalist Matti Friedman and Waverley Councillor Leon Goltsman

Festival Director Michael Misrachi, Rabbi Dov Lipman, moderator Debbie Whitmont, author and journalist Matti Friedman and Waverley Councillor Leon Goltsman

Tashi authors Barbara and Anna Fienberg with kids

Tashi authors Barbara and Anna Fienberg with kids

 

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