Celebrating Glasgow’s Jewish Book Week

Published: 23 November 2017

Mitchell Library hosted an evening of poetry, story and song to celebrate Jewish Book Week.

Glasgow’s Mitchell Library hosted an evening of music, storytelling, poetry and history to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the first ever UK Jewish Book Week.

This free, non-ticketed event on Thursday 30 November 2017 mirrored the original 1937 Book Week, when a group of Glasgow women from the B’nai Brith Women’s Lodge, a worldwide Jewish philanthropic society, decided they wanted to tell a more positive story of Jewish British culture to both Jews and non-Jews alike.

They hit on the idea of a Book Week showcasing nearly 2000 volumes in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, as well as modern fiction, poetry, drama and children’s books alongside artworks. Glasgow’s event would help to inspire a London event, which launched in 1952, and now is a major fixture of the UK Jewish life today.

Forgotten milestone

Dr Phil Alexander of the University of Glasgow said: “The 1937 event was a forgotten milestone in British Jewish culture and deserves to be remembered more widely.

“Just as the original Book Week aimed to raise public awareness of Jewish creativity, this event is a great chance for us to get some of our project research out of the university and in front of a wider audience.”

Poet Jeffrey Robinson read from his poetry and prose re-creations of a childhood idyll, and also discussed an extraordinary anthology of poems and visions of the Jews from tribal times to the 1970s.

Stephanie Brickman of the Yiddish Song Project and Dr Alexander performed a selection of Yiddish songs.

Dr Heather Valencia of the University of Stirling gave a talk on the Mitchell Library’s own collection of Yiddish books.

This event was part of Book Week Scotland and was organised by Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.

The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre displayed a selection of items from their extensive collection of historical Scottish Jewish life, and its director Harvey Kaplan gave a short talk on the archive’s role and development.

Dr Hannah Holtschneider of the University of Edinburgh and Dr Mia Spiro of the University of Glasgow told the tale of the original 1937 Jewish Book Week. Both Dr Holtschneider and Dr Spiro are part of the Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and run by the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

First published: 23 November 2017

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