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Jonathan Magonet

At first glance the Book of Ruth seems to be an unlikely source of much rabbinic interpretation. The story is often seen as a simple tale about country folk, complete with a happy end. That Ruth is a Moabitess who will end up as the ancestress of King David is obviously significant. But what special implications might the rabbis have found in it?

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Jonathan Magonet

This issue completes the two devoted to the current state of Ladino studies. The Editorial Board is deeply indebted to Hilary Pomeroy for the scholarship, devotion, and, if she will forgive the lapse into another Jewish language, the sitzfleisch needed to complete the task. None of us anticipated quite how complex the editorial task would be, down to ensuring the correct detailed transliteration of so many Ladino texts. Hilary’s editorial follows showing the broader context within which the articles are located. The issue also contains her own important contribution to the range of studies. Together the two issues form a comprehensive overview of the field.

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Jonathan Magonet

The year 2013 sees the fortieth anniversary of the Annual International Jewish- Christian-Muslim Student Conference (JCM) which has been co-sponsored and sustained from its beginning by Leo Baeck College. Created at the Hedwig Dransfeld Haus in Bendorf, then under the direction of Anneliese Debray, it moved to Wuppertal when the Haus closed. The partner organisations have included the Oekumenische Werkstatt (now United Evangelical Mission), Wuppertal, the Bendorfer Forum, the Deutsche Muslim-Liga, Bonn, and the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, University of Birmingham. Regular financial support has come from the German Ministry of the Interior.

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Jonathan Magonet

When speaking about Wendy Greengross at a memorial service shortly after her death, Rabbi Lionel Blue likened her to other exceptional British Jewish women, like the Hon Lily Montagu and Lady Henriques, who were deeply motivated by their religious beliefs and who undertook pioneering work within the Jewish and wider community.

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Jonathan Magonet

The preparation for this issue coincided with a conference in London which also served to launch Anthony Polonsky’s important three-volume work The Jews in Poland and Russia. At the meeting he gave a paper which we reproduce here, originally delivered at Harvard, describing his own personal history and how he became engaged in the study of Polish-Jewish history. It serves also as an introduction to the themes of his book.

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Jonathan Magonet

In a journal that only appears twice a year, we are always likely to be overtaken by events. In the case of the first article in this issue, Frank Dabba Smith’s important study of the history of Dr Ernst Leitz and his contribution to saving Jewish lives during the Second World War, an earlier version of this paper attracted considerable international attention. It was featured in major newspapers in the UK and Germany and in time will appear in book form. We are delighted to publish the fullest account to date of his research, as well as Frank’s book review of Michael Walzer’s Law, Politics and Morality. An important companion piece is the paper by two ‘Lilianas’, Furman and Feierstein, who have researched the history of Jewish books plundered by the Nazis and their immediate post-war fate. They focus in particular on the dramatic story of the attempts to print a new edition of the Talmud in post-war Germany, itself a form of resistance to the destruction wrought by the Nazis.

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Jonathan Magonet

That all happened many years ago. To my surprise, and regret, I am the one still here to tell the story. Ruth was younger than me by so many years, but the hand of God works in its own mysterious way. There are those who still say that her death was my punishment for marrying someone like her, from an enemy people and a godless society. So I feel it is up to me to set the record straight. To tell Ruth's story as she might have told it herself. I will do my best and I hope to do justice to an extraordinary woman., who in a brief moment changed my prejudice and fear into acceptance and love. Who gave me a new life. When Oved comes of age he can learn from her own words the story of his true mother.

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Jonathan Magonet

It is with great sadness that we record the death after a long illness, on 3 May 2009, of Mme Colette Kessler, one of the leading figures of liberal Judaism in France. She was above all a teacher and educator, responsible for developing the educational programmes at the Union Libéral Israélite (ULI) and subsequently the Mouvement Juif Libéral de France (MJLF) in Paris. But she was also dedicated to developing Jewish-Christian dialogue, participating in innumerable conferences, encounters, studies and religious services. She addressed the World Union for Progressive Judaism Conference in Paris in 1995 on ‘The Urgency of a Jewish Response in the Inter-religious Dialogue’ anticipating by five years the appearance in the United States of ‘Dabru Emet, A Jewish Statement about Christianity’.

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Jonathan Magonet

When I began to study at the Leo Baeck College I was very much influenced by our lecturer in Bible Dr Ellen Littmann. In fact I owe to her my own interest in the Hebrew Bible. At her urging I went on to do doctoral studies so that I could eventually succeed her at the College. Bible was not her first field of study. Instead it was history and she belonged to that circle around Ismar Elbogen and Leo Baeck who were such significant figures at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin and indeed for all of German Jewry before the war. She was brought to England from Israel by Rabbi Dr Van der Zyl the main architect in the creation of the College.

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'To Give You a Future and a Hope' (Jeremiah 29:11)

Leo Baeck College, Centre for Jewish Education through the Retrospectoscope – David Goldstein Memorial Lecture, 16 June 2005

Jonathan Magonet

It is a great privilege to have been invited to give this lecture in memory of David Goldstein, zikhrono livrakha. He was one of the great scholars and teachers of our movement and he died tragically young. I recall in particular a series of lectures he gave at the College on the Golden Age of Spain. In one of the earlier ones he noted that while at school he had been taught about the so-called 'dark ages' in Europe when there was little in the way of cultural development. The only exception, he had been taught, was the single shining light provided by the Venerable Bede. It was only in later life that he discovered that at the same time when Christian Europe was 'in the dark', Islamic Spain was going through its 'golden age' with an extraordinary flourishing culture that nourishes us till today. That same kind of cultural narrowness and ignorance seems to be no less a problem today when considering the Muslim presence in Europe, and I am always pleased to use that illustration to challenge people to think more broadly.