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Catheryn Kilgarriff

Hi Naomi

I've just read your book - the last 30 pages shamefully while my in laws had breakfast after staying with us, but I really wanted to finish it.

I run a publishing house, Marion Boyars Publishers (Marion Boyars was my mother - she died in 1999 leaving the house in the lurch, and I stepped in).

My family is, of course, Jewish (my maiden name was Lobbenberg). However, my mother had my sister and I christened up in Shropshire, apparently to stop the vicar calling round. She wanted to forget her Jewishness due to the tragedies in her family in the Holocaust, which seemed a good reason to me. She also wanted my sister and I to 'fit in' in England. We had many Jewish family friends, and my mother's second husband is the son of a cantor, and you can't get much more Jewish than that, However, I was never taken to synagogue, studied Divinity at school, and even attended church for quite a few years after the birth of my daughters (to say thank you to God - the only way I knew how). But I had also come into contact with young Jewish people in North London in my youth, and their sense of wanting to draw me in, adopt me as one of theirs etc, made me run far. My sister, in Mass, USA, is a fervent Jew who does landscape gardening for Jewish organisations, attends, is an important member of her local synagogue, and is very, very cross that I do not do much to be Jewish. I bought her Rugelach from Zabar's for Christmas, but that's as far as it goes with me.

So, your last pages about always being a Jew interested me. I explore the whole issue in a rather expensive way - except it isn't as both books I've published about rebellious Jews have done rather well - The German Money by Lev Raphael, and The Circumcision by Gyory Dalos. Both are very good, and pretty funny.

While walking in the Shropshire hills over Christmas, one of my half brothers (a Lobbenberg - Nic from my father's second marriage) asked me what I was reading. A Jewish book I said, it's really good and won the Orange New Writer's Award. But don't worry- I said (he is an agnostic - so no Jewish propoganda from my sister sits on his back for more than a second), it's the kind of Jewish book that I like to read- you know, a Jewish American lesbian with her roots in Hendon comes home and gets into bed with the wife of the rabbi to be - her old flame.


" But I wish there were someone doing something more simple: just saying here we are, Jewish, come and find out what a world of different things that can mean."

Yes. Somehow only formal observance and shul membership are "real", even to secular Jews who don't go to shul. Several of us here in Madison WI US get together regularly to read Yiddish literature. I begin to appreciate that our reading is, if not exactly worship, something akin to modest holiness.

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