First of all a belated shana tova to all.
This new year will be very important for Jewish Book Week. As I hope everybody knows by now, the festival will be moving to its new home, Kings Place. If you are not familiar with this stunning building, just wait until you’ve discovered it! Located by the canal, just 5 minutes walking distance north of Kings Cross, it couldn’t be more different from our former home. One could say it’s almost too sleek and beautiful but we are working on lots of ideas to make it a wonderful new venue for JBW.
The good news is that the new walkway from the station is now opened, in time for the beginning of the year for St Martin’s School of Arts students. The whole area is still a bit of a building site and will be totally transformed over the coming years but it is very interesting to see urbanisation in progress.
I’m sure Alain de Botton who will be doing a pre-JBW event to launch his book on Religion for Atheists but who came to last year’s festival to talk about his views on architecture will be delighted to speak at Kings Place. In that session he had shared the platform with Alex Lifschutz, the architect for the new Jewish Community Centre. If you missed it, you can watch it here. Last week, I was at the ground-breaking ceremony for the JCC and what a wonderful event it was. Nick Viner and Dame Vivien Duffield spoke beautifully. Boris Johnson asked what such a gathering of (diverse) rabbis should be called (a gaggle, a flock?) and made much ado about the fact that the Community Centre was replacing a Mercedes dealership and the Chief Rabbi was perfect, both funny and thoughtful. The atmosphere couldn’t have been better and more promising for the future.
Kings Place will be the ideal venue for one of our planned session on cities, chaired by Ziona Strelitz, with Avner de Shalit, professor of Democracy and Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Barbara mann, Professor of Hebrew literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. They will discuss space and place – in ideology, narrative and practice: how Jewish concepts – temple, eruv, diaspora, Zion – persist in identity and community coherence, and what contemporary cities – New York, Hong Kong, Berlin – evoke with today’s experience of global exposure. I am particularly looking forward to their views on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, two such different cities with such strong identities.
Another change is that I’ve decided to step down after this JBW. I hope to make it my most successful ever and leave on a high. It will be my 7th festival, quite a good Biblical number to part and the longest I have ever been in a job. No speech yet (if any), at the moment, I’m just looking forward to the next 5 months to ensure JBW 2012 is the best so far.