Sydney Jewish Writers Festival set to return

Books that will be discussed at the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival.

AN attempt to confront real issues head-on is at the heart of this year’s Sydney Jewish Writers Festival (SJWF).

Love and loss, the weight of trauma and the perils of the online world are some of the thought-provoking topics to be explored at Shalom’s four-day festival from August 20-25, with most sessions held at the Bondi Pavilion.

In conversation with Michaela Kalowski on August 25, veteran journalist and author David Leser will talk about men, women and power in the aftermath of the #MeToo movement.

“My article for Good Weekend on the #MeToo movement received an extraordinary response from within Australia and around the world and grew out of my wanting to understand the distress signals we were seeing from millions of women around the world in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal,” said Leser, who wrote the piece in February last year.

“It was an attempt by one man to try and understand where this violence from men came from. The response to my article was very humbling and because of that response I decided to expand the article into a book.”

Titled Women, Men and the Whole Damn Thing, Leser’s book was released last Monday.

Initially, some criticism regarding Leser’s approach came from women, “who thought that a man should not be writing on this subject, but this is not about a man telling women what to think”, he said. “It’s about encouraging men to look at the models of masculinity that have brought us to this moment in history, and looking at how we might instigate change for the greater good.”

One way of doing this, he suggested, is by looking at the education and socialisation of young boys.

“We need to teach boys that it’s not unmanly to have or discuss emotions. Boys start out with the full gamut of emotions available to them, but our culture tends to shame many of those emotions out of them,” remarked Leser.

“Boys need to grow up knowing how to give voice to complex, ambiguous and sometimes tumultuous emotions, and not just to express those emotions through anger or sex.”

Also in discussion with Kalowski on Sunday, authors Meera Atkinson, Maria Tumarkin and Rabbi Ariel Burger, will address the topic of trauma – how it can be funnelled into healing and helping others, and how it leaves its imprint in the spaces we reside in. 

Rabbi Burger will also be discussing Elie Wiesel’s teachings with Elliot Perlman on Thursday, August 22.

On the same day, author and Holocaust survivor Diane Armstrong will speak about her new book, The Collaborator, with author Rita Nash, who also sits on the SJWF programming committee.

Festival director Justine Saidman commented, “We challenged ourselves this year to develop a program that reflected some of the central concerns of our audience. This took us beyond the books themselves and into the space of ideas and concepts. It’s been an incredibly powerful experience.”

For the full program and bookings, visit shalom.edu.au.

SOPHIE DEUTSCH