As part of our Being Jewish in Scotland project, SCoJeC took three award-winning Jewish writers to Inverness in a celebration of Scottish Jewish writing. Rodge Glass, Annemarie Allan, and J. David Simons read from their recent books and, in a question and answer session chaired by SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski, the authors reflected on the relationship between their Jewish identities and their writing. Click here to listen a recording of the readings and discussion, and here to find out more about the authors.
The event took place in Inverness Library. Elizabeth Parker, the senior librarian, welcomed SCoJeC, the writers, and the audience. Noting the lack of Jewish community facilities in Inverness, she said: “It was my absolute pleasure to be able to make the space available, I was thrilled that you sought me out and that you could bring such excellent authors to Inverness.”
Both Rodge and David talked about feeling driven to write about Jewish themes "until they’d got rid of them". David has written two historical novels based on the Glasgow Jewish community in which he grew up, and is currently working on the third of his trilogy that follows his characters to a kibbutz before the establishment of the state of Israel, while Rodge's first two novels are centred around Jewish families. Annemarie’s latest, as yet unpublished, novel, loosely based on her own family’s story, is about a boy escaping from Danzig the day after Kristallnacht. She had thought that her three children’s books did not include any of her ‘Jewish story’, but, having only discovered her Jewish identity as an adult, she commented that, since they deal with outsiders and family secrets, they may have a Jewish theme after all!
The event attracted a diverse group of people; some Jewish, and others with Jewish family background, or an interest in the Jewish community. After the readings and discussion, many of the audience were inspired to tell their own stories in a very powerful and emotive way.
One local man said he had converted to Judaism, prompting a Jewish woman to say: “It’s not the easiest thing to be Jewish – why would anyone want to take that burden on?” He replied that he didn’t feel it as a burden; the more he found out about Judaism, the more he felt it was “instinctively right” for him. His questioner, who had moved to the Highlands as an adult, said “maybe you feel the same way about being Jewish as I feel about being a Highlander." Another woman drew an analogy between the Highland Clearances and the Holocaust, saying that she no longer had access to the language that her grandmother spoke, and that it was important to remember and to memorialise the past.