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Jewish Lives in New Zealand Leonard Bell

Jewish Lives in New Zealand Leonard Bell


Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History was published by Random House in 2012. At the time of writing the edition had almost sold out with a second edition pending. The Jewish Online Museum has included excerpts from just six of the twelve chapters in the museum, edited for the online museum. Editor Leonard Bell introduces the museum visitor to the full text with a 'behind the scenes' reflection on the writing of the book, and what you might find in its 440 pages. Read the editor's introduction to this fascinating history below.

In the Introduction to Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History I write that the book ‘does not, however, offer an encyclopaedic survey of everything of any note that Jews have done in New Zealand. Rather it is an anthology, a collection of essays, both textual and photographic, augmented by further information panels and images. While there is a chapter on the nature and extent of anti-semitism in New Zealand, the book focuses primarily on the socio-cultural impacts of individuals in New Zealand society from pre-colonial times to the present. It presents a multi-faceted picture of their activities and energies, and their interactions with others. This is a big and far-ranging subject, too big to be covered comprehensively in just one book, and we have had perforce to be selective. For instance there is a chapter on medicine, yet there continue to be so many doctors who are Jewish that to extend that chapter to cover them all would be to overflow it another volume (p. 12).

In short, there is much more that can be written about Jewish lives in New Zealand. On several occasions in the book I note that an entire book could be written on just one occupational area – for instance, rabbis in New Zealand, doctors and medicine, Jews and the Left. At the launches of Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History in Auckland and Wellington I observed that research for the book had unearthed so much information and so many intriguing individual stories and histories that there were inevitably gaps in the book and that not everyone and every area of activity could be included. A Volume 2 was waiting to be written. Or the Jewish Online Museum, then in its planning stages, should be well positioned to do that job.

The excerpts from Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History offered here are drawn from the chapters ‘Nathan’s Kin: Jews and Music in New Zealand’, ‘Border Crossings: The Visual Arts’, ‘Reflecting the World: Jewish Writers’, ‘Leading the Way: The Stories of Seven Jewish Women’, ‘The Southernmost Jewish Community in the World’ and ‘Cultural Entrepeneurs in the Performing Arts – and Food’. The other six chapters are ‘Jewish Academics in New Zealand’, ‘Jews are News [journalists and journalism]’, ‘Anti-Semitism at the End of the World: The Politics of Prejudice in New Zealand’, ‘Enterprise and Obligation: Jewish Business in Auckland and Wellington’ and ‘Jewish Doctors in New Zealand [up to 1960]’. The book also includes about 20 shorter ‘Boxes’ or sidebars on a wide range of subjects – for instance, film, modern dance, fashion, psychotherapy, the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle  and rabbis. There is much more about Jewish lives in New Zealand that can be written about.

Image header (above): Book Cover, Jewish Lives in New Zealand: A History edited by Leonard Bell and Diana Morrow, 2012. Photograph by Paul Douillard © JoM


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