A Daily Recommendation from our President, Miri Rubin
29 May 2020
I am delighted to share with you a reflective podcast which at the end of the week allows you to ponder some important issues which also resonate with our current Covid-19 crisis. What is our duty to our family, our community, through voluntary giving – philanthropy? What does the state owe us – its citizens – areas which should not be dependent on philanthropy? And how do our religious traditions affect our choices? From Rabbi Julia Neuberger, delivered at Oxford University (introduction ends at minute 5)
28 May 2020
Shavuot is all about learning, and so today I am delighted to share with you a podcast which I prepared with the Professor Chris Clark at Cambridge. We discuss what we may learn from the past about our current situation. I hope it is of interest.
Wishing you a happy Shavuot, good health and safety.
27 May 2020
I hope you enjoyed listening to the stimulating discussion from yesterday. Here is the second part.
Take good care as we very carefully begin the long journey towards some ‘new normal’.
26 May 2020
During the pandemic we have expected the state to shield us, and it in turn has legislated special powers in policing, controlling borders, borrowing money, and paying it out as necessary. Some are warning us that these powers infringe our human rights, and will have to be reclaimed after the Covid-19 crisis. So it occurred to me that you may be interested in this discussion of human rights, from a Jewish point of view. This discussion will continue tomorrow.
Best wishes for health and peace of mind.
21 May 2020
The Jewish Historical Society aims to communicate history at many levels: to support young academic historians, to enable research projects in our communities, and to encourage the dissemination of illuminating and informed discussion of the past.
I thought you would enjoy hearing what Simon Schama – a master communicator of History – has to say about ‘public history’, and the uses of history in our public life.
20 May 2020
Something a little light-hearted to match the beautiful weather we are experiencing today.
Comedian and writer David Schneider investigates why British Jewish comedy has lagged behind compared to its much more self-confident American equivalent in this BBC radio program. Enjoy!
19 May 2020
No one has been so indefatigable in exposing Holocaust deniers than Professor Richard Evans. Over his career he has moved from being a nineteenth century historian, to becoming an expert on the Third Reich and the Holocaust. He has boldly – and bravely – ventured into difficult issues. Here he reflects on why it is – in terms of teaching history at schools, TV programming, and history book sales – that dark period still intrigues and interests so many, young and old. Start listening to this interview/discussion around minute 6 (following a lengthy introduction).
18 May 2020
Today’s podcast is from the series Adventures in Jewish Studies and provides a fascinating exploration of Jewish Languages. I found it interesting and illuminating and hope you do too!
Have a good week and keep well.
15 May 2020
I know that many of your are interested in family history and genealogy. So today’s offering is a talk about the journey of a British journalist to trace his family’s history and its property in Germany. A very interesting and moving story that you can listen to here: https://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2018/03/thomas-harding-youre-doing-what-my-familys-response-to-my-trying-to-save-the-house-stolen-by-the-nazis/
14 May 2020
It is my pleasure today to share with you a conversation with one of our past Presidents, Professor Ada Rapoport-Albert. Some of you may know her. Ada is a uniquely exciting scholar of Hasidism, and a pioneer in the history of Ashkenazi women.
Here she is in conversation about her research over some 40 years, where she offers an introduction to these interesting subjects: https://newbooksnetwork.com/ada-rapoport-albert-hasidic-studies-essays-in-history-and-gender-littman-library-of-jewish-civilization-2018/
13 May 2020
Today’s recommendation need no endorsement. Here are two great communicators and passionate lovers of music. And you can be there – online – just by clicking on JOIN tonight at 7.30 pm. It should be a wonderful event: https://www.jmi.org.uk/
If you can’t make the live event the recorded session will be made available afterwards via their website.
12 May 2020
One of the alarming findings of recent weeks, has been the way Covid-19 has affected ethnic minorities in the UK. We should all care about the welfare of communities that make up diverse Britain. So I thought we might listen together today to a lecture by the journalist who uncovered the Windrush failings. Here is a heartbreaking story about how the welfare of some British people was ignored with tragic effects. A most interesting exposition by a journalist with a very good historical sense: http://www.pearsinstitute.bbk.ac.uk/events/past-events/2020-events/the-windrush-betrayal-exposing-the-hostile-environment
11 May 2020
We had a great deal of music last week, with Norman Lebrecht’s excellent series of podcasts. I have found myself listening a lot to Radio 3 while working from home, with its many offerings of scared music. So I thought some music from the Jewish sacred music tradition might be welcome, and especially some music by British performers: Mosaic Voices.
This podcast was prepared in connection with their recent CD, but it is a useful introduction to contemporary old/new traditions.
8 May 2020
On this momentous day we will all be thinking a great deal about World War II and of course of the Holocaust. Recent years of historical research have shown how diverse was the British fighting force, which included fighters from the Commonwealth, as well as a Jewish brigade. This film tells some of their stories.
7 May 2020
The emergency measures legislated as part of the response to Covid-19 have got us thinking about our rights and freedoms in a democracy. Jews only began enjoying such rights in recent centuries, and this process is called Emancipation. So here is a fascinating lecture and conversation about that process which began centuries ago in central Europe, and has affected Jews everywhere.
Listen via the Jewish History Matters podcast: https://www.jewishhistory.fm/jewish-emancipation-with-david-sorkin/
6 May 2020
On this sunny day, it is my pleasure to recommend the third and final segment of Norman Lebrecht’s radio series on Music and the Jews.
I hope you will find it as moving as I have done.
Wishing you health and some peace of mind.
5 May 2020
Today’s podcast is the second on Jewish music, and I think it quite wonderful. While we think of Jewish music as led by cantors in synagogues, this explores the role of women in preserving and passing on Jewish song.
4 May 2020
So many of us have been spending more time listening to music during Lockdown. So it occurred to me that hearing some interesting discussions of music and the history of the Jews would be interesting. Norman Lebrecht, well known to many of you, is our guide through Music and the Jews.
I shall send two further portions tomorrow and on Wednesday.
Wishing you well.
1 May 2020
In Lockdown so many museums and collections have made images available, with virtual tours and curated displays online. But when did it all begin? And when did Jewish museums emerge? Here is a lecture delivered last year in London, by the curator of the wonderful Jewish Museum in Berlin, a Museum I am sure many of you have visited.
At the end of another week in Lockdown, I wish you all the very best.
30 April 2020
Our newspapers are currently obsessed with our Prime Minister: his character, his responsibility, the people he chooses to have around him. Let us distract ourselves today with a prime minister of Jewish heritage, brilliant and cultivated, who divided opinion in his time: Benjamin Disraeli.
This is a discussion mainly by enthusiasts, and I hope you enjoy it.
Best wishes for health and some peace of mind.
29 April 2020
Today we recommend the Youtube channel of Rabbi Morris of Bevis Marks. He has created a number of short videos on the treasures of Bevis Marks Synagogue and its surrounding area. Not only are they interesting and engaging, but these virtual tours can help you feel like you’re getting out and about!
28 April 2020
Today I am sharing with you a conversation with the great literary scholar and translator who produced a much-loved translation into modern English of the Bible. So many use the bible habitually in the English translation, but what are the challenges involved in preparing the translation/ What makes a good translation? Robert Alter offers some answers. And the interview begins 2.45 minutes in.
24 April 2020
I am a historian of medieval Europe, so you may find some of my interests are reflected in these daily choices. I really think though that reflecting on other places and times does help us focus on what matters in the here and now. This podcast is a lecture delivered by my friend and colleague David Nirenberg, about how diversity was lived in those faraway times. It interacts well with our own heightened awareness of all the different communities whose members are contributing to keep us safe in these tough times, and the toll it is taking on them. Start at minute 5, if you wish, after the introduction.
Best wishes for health and peace of mind.
23 April 2020
Today is Shakespeare’s birthday. In celebration of that, we share a wonderful treat with you. Two very interesting and creative people considering Shakespeare and the Jews.
22 April 2020
A good new book is always an occasion for discussion and reflection. I recommend this podcast on a new book by Magda Teter on the Blood Libel’s history in Europe, and in particular in Poland, in the form of a conversation, which begins around minute 8.
I hope you will agree this is an interesting conversation. professor Lipton was meant to speak to us this summer, and we may yet rearrange her lecture or maybe disseminate it in a different way.
Take good care.
21 April 2020
While many of us are trying to keep safe in our homes, I thought you would enjoy hearing about a group of people whose thought was ground breaking and whose times forced not staying put, but going into exile. They managed to bring from their German home to their American home-in-exile some of the most influential reflections about life in the 20th century.
I hope you will find this podcast about The Frankfurt School interesting.
20 April 2020
Another week in Lockdown. While the sun is shining on most of us, the hospitals are working harder than ever and some families are mourning. Those of us spared the worst of Covid-19 are turning to books, to new interests, and above all trying to appreciate human creativity and the ability to produce and share beauty. It occurs to me that the lecture you will find at the link below – and you may start around minute 8 – the sheer ingenuity of creating a parchment Mahzor – the comprehensive Jewish service book – is impressive, just as is the ingenuity of my colleague, the lecturer.
17 April 2020
We have now heard that we face at least three more weeks of Lockdown and for very good reasons. One of the strangest aspects of these ties is our inability to plan. The desire for some certainty about the future has motivated people at all times. So today I share with you a short podcast, part of the wonderful History of the World in 100 Objects, which is currently being repeated on BBC Radio 4. In medieval Spain, Jews were able to plot the sky and chart horoscopes, and in doing so they were similar to their Christian and Muslim neighbours.
16 April 2020
Today I am sharing with you a podcast created by colleagues from the US, about a subject we all know: name changing by Jews. This happened across the centuries by choice, following migration, and also by edict. There is a short introduction, but the discussion begins around minute 3. It is very informal, and quite ‘American’, but it is based on a seriously researched book.
15 April 2020
Passover is a deeply historical festival, and we are living in times that invite historical reflection. My colleagues and I are being approached daily by journalists seeking insight from history on our challenging times. So I have decided to offer today a podcast about a most important – and controversial – historian: Flavius Josephus (27-100 CE). And there is an additional delight, since such great friends of our Society – not least my predecessor as President – are discussing the subject so very interestingly.
Warmest wishes for health and some peace of mind.
8 April 2020
Today many of us will be celebrating the Seder in odd and straining circumstances. And yet Passover cannot fail to inspire joy and hope. So today’s podcast is a recording I made a few years ago, about a wonderful poet and physician, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi, whose extraordinary life story I hope you will enjoy.
Download the audio file here to listen: YehudahHalevi 2
7 April 2020
Jewish communities were always diverse, full of mavericks, misfits, as well as brilliant and creative people who found the traditions they inherited to be constraining.
Baruch Spinoza was such a man. and his binds with his community became frayed.
The Dutch Jewish community into which he was born, is the one whose members also re-settled in England under Oliver Cromwell.
Hear all about it here:
6 April 2020
Another week of lockdown sees those of us in good health turning to books and to poetry. I thought you may enjoy listening to a podcast on an interesting – and troubled -Englishman of Jewish descent, Siegfried Sassoon. He was a poet, a war hero, a dissident, a sportsman, and much more. Throughout his life he struggled with issues of identity and purpose. I hope you enjoy this edifying discussion.
3 April 2020
We are all – even those still going out to work – contemplating what it means to be enclosed, to have our usual habits of movement, so essential to our freedom, limited. We are also discovering the possibilities of expansiveness and freedom as we stay at home, but connect to loved ones, as well as to those who lived in the past and have left us their legacy of books, music, plays, artifacts, poems…
Today’s podcast is about the Venentian Ghetto, the first formally and officially created enclosed Jewish neigh neighbourhood. The very word ‘ghetto’ is now heavy with the worst of associations – social segregation, racial humiliation – but when it was created in 1517, this was quite different. Strangely – and clearly this was never intended – the Ghetto afforded to its inhabitants the loftiest vantage points in Venice – looking over the city – and thus the cleanest air. That Ghetto still exists, now a tourist attraction, and its inhabitants also foresee a lively future for it.
We have this podcast from our friends at the Pears Institute, whose Director, Professor David Feldman, introduces the speaker, who starts 3 minutes in.
2 April 2020
Many members of the Society will already be preparing their homes for the beginning of Passover next week. In keeping with the season, I offer here a podcast about a most beautiful Rylands Haggadah – yes it belongs to the John Rylands Library in Manchester – made in mid-fourteenth century Spain. The lecturer shows how a well-off medieval Jew commissioned from a Christian artist a richly illustrated book for the family Seder.
Start at minute 6, as the introduction of the speaker is rather fulsome…
1 April 2020
Times of anxiety and panic – and their aftermaths – can lead to scapegoating and violence against minorities and otherwise stigmatised groups. This can happen in sophisticated societies led by people who are privileged and educated. For a sobering account of such a cruel libel, but also of civil mobilisation against it, here is a podcast on the Dreyfus Affair.
Take good care and best wishes of health to you and yours.
31 March 2020
There is much talk of heroes these days – doctors, nurses, carers – and it challenges us all to do our best in these challenging times. There is also much talk of leadership in crisis. In the Jewish tradition one figure has been elevated in the course of the twentieth century to heights, and especially in the State of Israel: Yehudah Hamakkabi, Judas Maccabeus.
Here is a podcast which disentangles myth and historical record that I hope you will enjoy.
30 March 2020
We enter another week of isolation and limitation of our movements, and no little anxiety. So I thought it may be interesting to listen to this podcast about the Talmud. In centuries past it organised every moment of the day for most Jews – it still does for some – however confined or comfortable their circumstances. I know you will enjoy it, not least because our last President features magisterially in it.
Keep safe, help each other, and let us look forward in hope.
27 March 2020
Shabbat Shalom, a good weekend to you and yours and a speedy recuperation to those of you who are ill.
Another day for many of us in physical isolation, but we can still try to expand out minds and draw strength from out traditions and history. So here is an offering, on the wisest of Kings – revered in Judaism, Christianity and Islam – King Solomon.
26 March 2020
Today’s podcast introduces Moses Mendelsohn, the Enlightenment thinker, associated with ideas of religious toleration, and who had interesting ideas about how Jewish and Christian cultures might interact and enrich each other.
25 March 2020
One can start with no better figure than Maimonides, from the excellent archive of Radio 4’s much-loved programme, In Our Time.