Inaugural Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival a success

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The inaugural Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival was an “overwhelming and outstanding success,” according to festival Director Esther Kister.

Kister said ticket sales far exceeded expectations.

“From our sell-out audience of 500 on opening night on Saturday night to stumps on Monday night, the Festival exceeded our expectations in audiences, quality and spirit.

“Some 300 turned up at 9am Sunday to hear RN’s Rachael Kohn get close to the bone with world-famous psychotherapist and novelist, Irvin Yalom, on video-link from New York. Even Monday, which we expected to be quiet, attracted big crowds,” Kister said.

Opening night kicked off at the Glen Eira Town Hall Auditorium, hosted by comedian, actor, broadcaster and novelist Rachel Berger.

In the venerable tradition of Jewish storytelling, seven inspired writers gave their take on ‘it started with a word’- which was the festival theme. These included Howard Goldenberg, Andrea Goldsmith, Lally Katz, Maria Tumarkin, Arnold Zable and, fresh from the Sydney Writers Festival, US writer Dara Horn and Israeli author Zeruya Shalev.

“The calibre of speakers, chairs, topics and themes was exceptional and the feedback from writers and festival-goers uniformly enthusiastic. Our community was hungry for a celebration of the written and spoken word and the limitless power of ideas,” Kister said.

The festival continued for the next two days at the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia in Caulfield with interviews, panel discussions, book signings, and poetry readings, showcasing some of the best homegrown and overseas writers.

Kister said the Festival Hub was widely praised for offering authors and Festival-goers the opportunity to meet up, network, debate literature and ideas, buy books, whilst enjoying top-rate, fresh food.

Kister said it was a chance for talented local Jewish writers to share their stories.

“It was a time for our locals to shine – although most of our local treasures were born elsewhere. But that’s Australia. The whole Festival was a wonderful exhibition of pluralism. Festival-goers praised the authors for the way they threw themselves into debate, concentrating on ideas rather than simply trying to flog their books. Some said the discussion was the best they’d ever encountered at a literary festival,” Kister said.

“We’re already being besieged by other writers wanting to speak at the next Festival. Our large committee of volunteers needs to draw breath before making such a commitment but the demand is certainly there.”

J-Air, the Jewish community radio station, plans to broadcast interviews with authors Goldie Alexander, Maria Tumarkin, Renata Singer, Howard Goldenberg and George Halasz along with vox pops recorded with audiences by students of Bialik College.

Dumbalk-based author, Elisabeth Holdsworth, won the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival competition, run in conjunction with the Australian Jewish News and has recorded her winning story for broadcast on ABC Gippsland.

 

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