Public Lecture: ‘Divided City, Divided Self: Muriel Spark in Jerusalem’, Dr Nina Fischer, Edgar Astaire Fellow in Jewish Studies, 23 March 2015, New College

Time and Place: Monday, 23 March 2015 from 17:30 to 18:30, Martin Hall, New College.

This is a public lecture, and will be followed by a Reception in Rainy Hall, New College at 18.30. Please register at


In Muriel Spark’s papers it is evident that her journey to Jerusalem in 1961 – then a city divided between Israel and Jordan and the setting of the Eichmann trial – and the book to grow out of this experience, The Mandelbaum Gate, were of great importance to her. In what she calls “half-Jewish novel,” entitled after the only crossing point between the two parts of Jerusalem, she explores the divided city from the perspectives of her protagonists. Among the characters, who are Israelis, Arabs, and different British visitors, some choose to see only one perspective, while some see many, even in themselves. For example, Barbara, a British-Jewish convert to Catholicism is enabled to reconcile the two parts of her self, and Freddy, a diplomat ends up seeing much more than the “delightful English atmosphere” he initially longed for. In this talk I want to propose that Spark uses the characters’ divisions to take a stance against orthodoxies, whether they are religious or national, and instead points to the advantages of seeing a complex, challenging, and yet, richer world. The Mandelbaum Gate suggests that seeing more than one story in and of Jerusalem might be a way of overcoming division, a suggestion that is as wise today as it was in 1961.

Nina Fischer is currently the Edgar Astaire Fellow in Jewish Studies and a visiting fellow at IASH. Previously she has held fellowships at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and at the Australian National University. She has also served as the project manager of the ‘History & Memory’ research group at the University of Konstanz.

Nina’s research areas include Memory, Holocaust, and Middle Eastern Studies and she is currently writing a book on cultural representations of Jerusalem from the 19th century until today. Her recent publications on the subject include “Landscapes of Scripture and Conflict: Cultural Memories and the Israeli West Bank Barrier.” Landscapes 15, No. 2 (2014): 143-155 and “Graphic Novels Explore an (Un-)Holy Land.” Quest: Issues in Contemporary Jewish History, 6 (2013): 73-107.


Conference: ‘Power, Authority & Canon’, 6 MAY 2015, New College, University of Edinburgh

The process by which some authoritative scriptures came to be included in the canons of Judaism and Christianity has received much attention. While light has been shed on the importance of scribalism, citation, rewriting, and community understanding, little attention has been placed on the implications in making some scriptures, and not others, authoritative.

The scope of this conference will revolve around the issues of historical, theological and ethical ramifications of canonization. What are the effects in elevating certain writings to the status of “Holy Scriptures”? Some texts have the power to define identity and orthodoxy, to inspire noble actions, and also to justify violence and prejudice. Is the belief in the holiness of certain texts a warrant for their use and misuse?

0900-0915 Welcome
0915-1000 John Collins (Yale University) “Uses of Torah in the Second Temple Period”
1000-1045 Michael Satlow (Brown University) “Bad Prophecies”
1045-1100 Coffee
1100-1145 Manfred Oeming (Universität Heidelberg) “The Way of God: Ethics and Ritual as Birthplaces of Canonicity”
1145-1230 Timothy Lim (University of Edinburgh) “The Insufficiency of Divine Inspiration”
1230-1330 Lunch
1400-1445 John Barton (University of Oxford) “How far does the content of canonical texts matter?
1445-1530 Walter Moberly (University of Durham) “Canonicity and religious truth: What role, if any, should a traditional canon play today?”
1530-1615 Craig Evans (Acadia Divinity School) “Jesus and the Beginnings of the Christian Canon of Scripture”
1615-1700 Tea
1700-1745 Shaye Cohen (Harvard University) “Some Reflections on the Canon”
1745-1800 Closing Remarks

For further information and how to book, please see:

Conference: ‘Scottish Jewish Arts and Scottish Jewish Life 1914 to 2014’. Rozelle House, Ayr, 14-15 September 2014

Scottish Jewish Arts and Scottish Jewish Life 1914 to 2014.  Rozelle House, Ayr, Sunday 14th Sept 12 noon to 3 pm, Monday 15th Sept, 11am to 4 pm, with a chance to see the Cultural Connections exhibition of drawings, paintings and sculpture by artists Benno Schotz, Josef Herman, Jankel Adler, Hannah Frank, and others.

The conference is organised by SCoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, as part of the ‘European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage’   See the full programme at this link. A highlight of the Sunday is a talk on the history of the Jewish community in Ayr by Harvey Kaplan, Director of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre. Monday’s highlights include the film ‘Hannah Frank, the Spark Divine’ together with a talk by director Sarah Thomas about the making of the film – and a presentation by Deborah Haase on the artist Hilda Goldwag.

The conference is free but we would ask for a minimum donation of £5 to cover refreshments each day. We can help with transport from Glasgow – email fiona@scojec.orgTo book email, or tel: 01292 443708