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Six star-studded Jewish events to see at SWF

From a Pulitzer prize winning journalist to a beloved children’s author, this year’s festival is brimming with Jewish writers, stories and experiences.
Ruby Kraner-Tucci
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Three young women laughing and carrying piles of books

SWF 2024 begins today and includes several Jewish writers, creatives and stories. (Image: SWF/Jacquie Manning)

Published: 20 May 2024

Last updated: 19 May 2024

At a time when Jewish creatives are being targeted and literary events are embroiled in scandals as a result of the Israel-Hamas war, this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) provides a much-needed platform for Jewish writers, thinkers and stories.

The 2024 program, which opens today and runs until May 26, follows the theme of “take me away”, with SWF Artistic Director Ann Mossop reflecting on the power of books to transport us and build bridges.

“Just as we can take books with us, books and stories can take us away from ourselves and from reality. They let us escape into different worlds, live other lives and travel in time and space,” she wrote. “We all read for different reasons, but these gifts of respite, empathy and the expansion of what we know and understand are very precious.”

From an extraordinary tale of Holocaust survival and the #MeToo movement, to relishing alone time and debating the necessity of books, we round up the top Jewish events to attend at SWF 2024 – with a few extras thrown in for those looking for more.

1: Julian Borger

Esteemed international journalist Julian Borger brings a wealth of experience to SWF all the way from America. Currently working as The Guardian’s world affairs editor based in Washington, Borger has also served as its Jerusalem-based Middle East correspondent and Washington bureau chief. He covered the Balkan wars in the 1990s and was part of the team that won the 2014 Pulitzer prize for covering the Snowden files on mass surveillance.

Over two events, Borger will unpack his second book, I Seek A Kind Person, an investigative memoir about his family’s Holocaust history, and discuss reporting from the frontlines in The War on Journalists, an expert panel that also includes John Lyons and Hamish Macdonald.

The events:

2: Kerri Sackville

Regular readers of the Sydney Morning Herald and its affiliate publications will recognise columnist and social commentator Kerri Sackville for her witty and personal take on relationships, parenting and culture.

The Jewish writer has also published five non-fiction books – her latest, The Secret Life of You, forms the basis of her two talks at SWF, where she’ll unpack the benefits of becoming comfortable with yourself and cherishing the “life-changing magic” of alone time.

The events:

Kerri Sackville is an Australian author, social commentator and long-time columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald. (Image: SWF)
Kerri Sackville is an Australian author, social commentator and long-time columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald. (Image: SWF)

3: Kate Manne

Philosopher of the #MeToo movement, Professor Kate Manne – who currently teaches at Cornell University – is heralded for her rigorous and vivid analysis of misogyny and male privilege in our modern society.

Over two sessions on SWF’s closing day, Manne will discuss her books Unshrinking, re-evaluating fatphobia as a social justice issue, and Down Girl and Entitled, exploring what lies ahead for the nature, function and persistence of misogyny.

The events:

4: Morris Gleitzman

One of Australia’s most treasured storytellers, Morris Gleitzman’s beloved Holocaust-inspired children’s novel Once become a household name almost two decades ago and inspired a best-selling series. Now he’s back with Tweet, an epic adventure between a boy and his budgie.

In this family-friendly SWF talk, recommended for kids aged eight and up, Gleitzman unpacks his impressive career spanning over 40 titles in conversation with Football Fever series author Kristin Darell.

The event:

Morris Gleitzman is a bestselling Australian children's author and was the Australian Children's Laureate for 2018 and 2019. (Image: SWF)
Morris Gleitzman is a bestselling Australian children's author and was the Australian Children's Laureate for 2018 and 2019. (Image: SWF)

5: Emile Sherman

Australian producer Emile Sherman’s company See-Saw Films is responsible for much-loved and star-studded productions including The King’s Speech, The Power of the Dog, Slow Horses and Top of the Lake – projects that earned him a raft of Academy and Emmy awards and nominations.

Sherman, also a former SWF director, co-hosts the popular Principle of Charity podcast along with Lloyd Vogelman, and joins this year’s festival to record a special live episode pitting Boomers against Gen Z to debate whether we still need books.

The event:

6: Sam Koslowski and Zara Seidler

As co-founders of Australia’s leading social-first news service, The Daily Aus, Jewish innovators Sam Koslowski and Zara Seidler have created a digestible and engaging way for young people to access the news.

In conversation with acclaimed ABC journalist and author Leigh Sales, the newsmakers discuss their debut book, No Silly Questions, which demystifies the facts behind headlines that matter.

The event:

Looking for more?

  • Hosted by the Sydney Jewish Museum, The Untold Australian Story of Maus (May 21, 6.45pm) reveals how an incredible chance encounter with the graphic novel Maus led Holocaust survivor Mark Spigelman to reunite with his long-lost family and better understand his own traumatic memories.
  • In More Than Memoir (May 25, 1pm, Carriageworks), Rachelle Unreich – author of Holocaust memoir A Brilliant Life – joins a panel exploring how personal experiences can illuminate the human condition, hosted by Jewish journalist and broadcaster Caroline Baum.
  • American investigative reporter Jake Adelstein discusses his latest memoir Tokyo Noir (May 25, 7.30pm, Carriageworks) – a darkly comic history lesson slash true crime exposé reflecting on Japan’s seedy underbelly, which is the much-anticipated sequel to Tokyo Vice, now a hit HBO TV series.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) runs from May 20 to 26.

About the author

Ruby Kraner-Tucci

Ruby Kraner-Tucci is a journalist and assistant editor of TJI. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Time Out, Law Society Journal and Dumbo Feather Magazine. She previously reported on the charity sector as a journalist for Pro Bono News and undertook internships at The Australian Jewish News and Broadsheet Media.


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The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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