Jewish Tribune Article: " Vancouver Jewish Book Festival Celebrates 25 Years With Full House"

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November 26, 2009

Vancouver Jewish Book Festival Celebrates 25 Years With Full House

by Eva Derton
JTWE Correspondent

About 300 people braved the cold, dark and very wet weather to attend the opening night of the Cherie Smith Jewish Book Festival at the Jewish Community Centre last Saturday night.

They were welcomed by Deborah Roitberg, the festival chair, who explained that Cherie Smith, who died in 1999, founded the festival 25 years ago and served as its chair for many years.

Dina Wachtel, western region director of Canadian Friends of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told the JTWE that the event was made possible through the generous support of the Rogow family as a part of the Dr. Rogow Memorial Lecture Series that the family established to honour the memory of their husband and father Dr. Robert Rogow, who was a faculty member at Simon Fraser University and a distinguished scholar in the field of labour relations.

Meir Shalev with Eleanor WachtelThe program consisted of an interview of Meir Shalev, an Israeli author, by Elanor Wachtel, a well known CBC personality and member of the Order of Canada.

The interview was taped for future airing on the CBC Radio’s Writers & Company. This program, which has been hosted by Wachtel since its inception in 1990, won the CBC Award for Programming Excellence for the best weekly show broadcast nationally in 1995 and the CBC Excellence Award in 2003. Wachtel, besides being an interviewer of authors, is a co-author of A Feminist Guide to the Canadian Constitution.

Shalev, who has won numerous international literary awards and whose books have been translated into more than 20 languages, has authored novels, children’s books and several books of nonfiction.

His novels titles include A Pigeon and a Boy, The Loves of Judith, Four Meals, Esau, and The Blue Mountain. He also writes politically charged columns for Israel’s daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, in which he criticizes the Israeli government and army.

Shalev became notorious by signing a petition titled ‘Deal with Abu Mazen (Abbas), negotiate for ceasefire with Hamas’ (YNET News, Sept. 23, 2007).

Wachtel asked Shalev about how his narratives came to be populated by vivid descriptions of the creatures of nature. Shalev said he was born in 1948 in Nahalal, Israel’s first moshav (which he described as a semi-cooperative village) and that as a boy he collected butterflies, scorpions, flies and spiders and aspired to become, not a writer, but a zoologist. That is until an encounter with a wasp landed him in a hospital. He has won an entomological award (Israel), not for scientific accomplishment, but for a loving description of insects in an accurate manner.

Wachtel asked leading questions, like “What about your relationship with your father who was very right wing?”

Shalev admitted receiving letters from his readers asking how it can be that the noted poet and novelist, the author of Songs of Jerusalem, Yitzhak Shalev, who believed in Israel, could have such a left-wing son.

Meir Shalev said that his priorities for Israel are different than “investing its energy, money and manpower in the territories” and that his relationship with Jerusalem is one of love and hate. While he lives part time in Jerusalem and admires the city’s ancient heritage and grandeur, he says that it is “surrounded by cemeteries” and that “dead people are running the city.” Shalev repeatedly stressed that he does “not want to solve the social problems of our time. I just want to tell stories.”

He said that the art of story telling is the same today as it was in ancient times by a fire in a cave, and that story telling cannot be replaced by modern technology. He claimed that he does not want to affect his readers’ political opinion.

The interview was followed by a wine and cheese reception with live music and access to a well stocked book fair with more than 900 titles.

Many audience members took the opportunity to buy Shalev’s latest book A Pigeon and a Boy (which won the American National Jewish Book Award) and had it signed by the author.

Dr. Robert Rogow z"l
Robert Rogow was a highly respected teacher and noted scholar in the field of Labour Relations. He was born in Newark, New Jersey on April 23, 1927. Professor Rogow joined the Faculty at Simon Fraser University in 1966 and remained there until his retirement in 1995. His scholarly contributions include research on the history of the trade union movement in Canada and the United States and Canadian labour relations. Jewish studies and biblical interest were also of great interest to him. A devoted husband, father and grandfather, Robert Rogow enriched the lives of all who knew him. His love of learning was unquenchable.

Professor Rogow passed away in January 1998. His passing was commemorated with a special ceremony at Simon Fraser University. His family is privileged to honour his memory with lectures from distinguished members of the faculty from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Robert Rogow Memorial Lecture

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