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A late autumn message

Dear JHSE members,

I have not written for a while, partly due to a trip to Australia and partly due to a great deal of distraction and unexpected duties in response to the difficult times we are experiencing as the Israel-Hamas War continues.

The trip to Melbourne was for training medieval historians from across New Zealand and Australia, but it also allowed me to visit a lovely city and to meet interesting colleagues. Among them was Professor Julie Kelman, of Monash University, an expert on the history of Jews in French-speaking lands. She has agreed to offer the JHSE a talk about her research, one I shall schedule very soon.

Several of our JHSE meetings had to be cancelled or postponed. Members wrote to say that a scheduled lecture about a medieval massacre was not quite right just now; an Israeli professor was unable to travel during the War; we have updated the webslte and have informed you about these changes. On the other hand, I encourage you to attend next Monday's (27/11) talk, organised by the Essex branch, on Palestine in 1936, just join here:

On our streets we have seen troubling words and images, some drawing on the historic stock of antisemitic imagery. The phenomenon is one JHSE scholars research, and try to combat. We all feel its effects. I for one shall be marching on Sunday 26 November in Central London in what I hope will be a big march against antisemitism in central London. I am sure many JHSE members will be there.

It was heart-warming to be invited by the Danish Ambassador to attend the commemoration of the saving of the Danish Jews by their compatriots 80 years ago. Some JHSE trustees and their families attended. Simon Maurice writes:

The Jewish Historical Society was honoured to have received a number of invitations to the Residence of the Danish Ambassador, on 8th November, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Denmark standing up against the Occupying German Forces in World War 2 by evacuating almost all of its Jewish citizens to nearby neutral Sweden.

In this way Denmark saved 99% of its Jewish population and guests heard an excellent explanatory speech from the Danish Ambassador H.E. Rene Dinesen as well as a first-hand account from one of the evacuees, Ruth Vecht of her memory of Denmark in the early days of the war, the increasingly tense situation in the country regarding the fate of its Jews, and ultimately what the evacuation itself was like for her.

Rene Dinesen, Danish Ambassador to the UK

This was followed by testimonies from other survivors' relatives. The Ambassador had hosted a similar evening ten years ago, whilst in South Africa. The incredible lengths Denmark and the Danes went to, to help preserve its Jewish population, and the message it sent to the world in what have become overtly difficult times for Jews in many countries, should serve as an inspiration both to the UK and to the wider international community – that one right minded country and its citizens can make a real difference in the struggle against intolerance and hatred.

I am also happy to report that the New Generation Group of emergent historians is very active. It is a network we created in April 2020, during Lockdown, to support PhD researchers and early career researchers in those difficult times. Since then the group has flourished and has become a peer-group of great interest with its own reading groups, meetings, and training sessions. I am always delighted to support them as are other JHSE Trustees. Whenever I manage to join them I learn a great deal.

I also have a date for your diaries - 3 March 2024. On this Sunday during Jewish Book Week we have organised an event to as part of our Anniversary year: a discussion of 'Who is Jewish History For?' The panel will include Simon Schama, Peter Hyman, Jonathan Brent, and me. We will consider how Jewish history fits within British history, where it should be taught, and how. I hope many of you will attend. Once the JBW programme is published we will share it with you.

Please write to me with suggestions about subjects you would like us to deal with and activities you would enjoy I am always delighted to hear from members.

Wishing you all the best, and hoping for better news, besorot tovot.

Miri Rubin, President of the JHSE


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