Eighty years ago, the UK’s first Jewish Book Week took place, not in London but in Glasgow. The event was run by the newly-formed Women’s Lodge of Glasgow B’nai B'rith and showcased more than 2,000 books on a wide range of topics. There were daily lectures, film screenings, artworks by Benno Schotz and Hannah Frank, and religious objects from Garnethill Synagogue.
Marking the anniversary, a team of academics, performers and archivists organised an event in Glasgow's Mitchell Library under the auspices of the Jewish Lives/Scottish Spaces (Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh) project and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre. It was also part of Book Week Scotland programme.
True to the spirit of the original, it mixed music, poetry, historical talks and displays. Singer Stephanie Brickman and pianist Phil Alexander opened with their take on some Yiddish classics. Hannah Holtschneider and Mia Spiro then gave a short history of the original Book Week, highlighting the tireless work of the Women’s Lodge president, Maude Joseph.
There were readings from Glasgow-based poet scholar Jeffrey Robinson and Yiddish linguist and translator Dr Heather Valencia offered an insight into the Mitchell Library’s diverse collection of Yiddish books. Alongside well-known Yiddish authors such as Sholem Aleichem, the collection includes translations of Dickens and Swift and Russian poetry.
Other contributors included Scottish Jewish Archives Director Harvey Kaplan, who talked about Glasgow Jewish history and some of the archive’s many treasures.
Glasgow University's Dr Phil Alexander said afterwards, “I was thrilled to see so many people coming out on this cold night to celebrate this little-known event and to take a chance on hearing and learning something new. Occasions like this are a great way for academics and researchers to put their work in front of a non-specialist public, and it’s fantastic to see what we do sitting alongside wonderful poetry, music, and the excellent work of the Scottish Jewish Archves Centre.”