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Discussion Groups and Book Fairs

In 1966, the Brighton & Hove Jewish Discussion Group was established. This met fortnightly on a Tuesday afternoon when fully-researched papers on Jewish topics were presented by members of the group. After the group declined, it was revived in the early 1980s through the initiative of Dr Berl Osborne, an Edinburgh-born GP from London, who… Read more »

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In 1966, the Brighton & Hove Jewish Discussion Group was established. This met fortnightly on a Tuesday afternoon when fully-researched papers on Jewish topics were presented by members of the group.

After the group declined, it was revived in the early 1980s through the initiative of Dr Berl Osborne, an Edinburgh-born GP from London, who had retired to Hove. A very successful period ensued with regular and stimulating meetings held at the Mark Luck Hall attracting audiences of about 60 regular attendees. However increasing noise from the school on the premises prompted a move to Ralli Hall and a consequent reduction in numbers. Regular fortnightly meetings still continued under the three year tenure of Cyril Jacobs. He was followed by Dr Bernard Fox, who continued to attract an array of prominent and stimulating speakers and the final chairman was Sam Barsam. It was, perhaps, the irregularity of subsequent meetings that led eventually to the group closing.

Later in the 1980s there were three interlinked activities. The stimulus came from a series of lectures, the Heritage Course, organised by Ivor Richards and administered by Jackie Vapnick. Two series of these weekly evening lectures were held between 1981 and 1983. From this grew the idea of replicating locally the London-based Jewish Book Week. Three such Book Fairs were held in the 1984, 1986, and 1988, and were much more restricted than the London format. The first such fair was chaired by Desmond Trenner, the others by Godfrey Gould and Ivor Richards. They were held at Hove Town Hall from Sunday afternoon to Monday evening, with a display of Jewish books for sale supplied by John Trotter from Manor House in London.

Lectures by eminent speakers were given on Sunday and Monday evenings with a vegetarian literary lunch on Monday. Amongst the speakers we attracted were Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs, Professor Raddai who spoke on a computer generated analysis of the Book of Genesis, and the poet Dannie Abse.

Using the membership of the book fair committee as a base, Desmond, a lawyer who had moved from London to Hove, recreated the format of a discussion group with which he had been involved in London. This group met monthly in members’ homes to discuss both Jewish and more general topics introduced usually by members themselves. Following a period of success, this evening discussion group was also eventually disbanded. Generally arguments developed between the younger and older age groups with neither being able to cope with the others literary preferences.

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