Kollek a British Spy?
The late Teddy Kollek reportedly spied for Britain against the hard-line Jewish underground in British Mandate Palestine. Citing declassified documents, the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Achronot, reported last week that Kollek, who is best remembered as Jerusalem’s longest-serving mayor, had spent much of the 1940s passing information to the British authorities that helped them crack down on Etzel and Lehi fighters.
At the time, Kollek was a senior figure with the Jewish Agency, which was largely aligned with the more moderate Haganah and Palmach Zionist movements.
One of Etzel’s leaders, Menachem Begin, topped Britain’s wanted list, eluded capture and went on to become Israeli prime minister. According to Yediot, Israeli diplomats asked Britain’s government archives to keep the files on Kollek sealed while he was alive.
Asked about the report, Kollek’s son, Amos, told the newspaper, “Dad never spoke of his activities during that period.”
U.S. Lawmakers Want Insurance Firms to Release Names of Shoah Policyholders
Congress wants to force Holocaust-era insurance companies to disclose lists of their insured survivors. The Holocaust Insurance Accountability Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), seeks to supersede international agreements brokered by the State Department to settle insurance claims through the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.
The proposed legislation asserts that commission, which officially ended its nine-year efforts last week, “did not make sufficient effort to investigate” or compile the names of Holocaust-era insureds or the claims due to survivors. The measure would require insurers to disclose comprehensive lists of those they insured during the Hitler era.
The legislation also authorizes federal lawsuits to recover monies from insurers, thus overruling the commission’s authority and a variety of adverse Supreme Court rulings that have denied survivors the right to sue.
The bill was spurred by survivors groups, following revelations in the Jewish media that the secret International Tracing Service archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany, contains thousands of uninvestigated documents relating to insurance and corporate complicity.
Briton Wins Largest Jewish Literary Prize
The largest-ever Jewish literary prize, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature that was inaugurated this year, has been awarded to British writer Tamar Yellin, author of “The Genizah at the House of Shepher.”
The award carries a grant of $100,000. Individuals cannot apply but instead are recommended by an anonymous team of nominators. Many Jewish literary awards have modest, if any, honorariums attached.
The prize was established by Sami Rohr’s children and grandchildren to celebrate his 80th birthday and is presented to an emerging writer, whose work of exceptional literary merit stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern.
Yellin has won a triple crown of major Jewish literary awards this year. In addition to the Rohr Prize, she received Hadassah’s Ribalow Prize and the Reform Judaism Prize, both awarded for Jewish fiction.
When asked about how the latest award might change her life, she replied, “I’m carrying on with my writing. I’m working on a new novel.”
She explained that because of her supportive husband, she was able to give up teaching several years ago and become a full-time writer. She continues to visit schools in northern England as a Jewish Faith Visitor, teaching about Judaism in schools where there’s a large Pakistani Muslim community and many of the children have never encountered a Jewish person.
“It’s very important to connect with them, for them to meet someone Jewish and to learn about our traditions to break down the barrier of ignorance,” she said.
The daughter of a third-generation Jerusalemite father and a Polish immigrant mother, she studied Hebrew and Arabic at Oxford. In her novel and stories, she writes of identity, community, belonging and exile, which, as she explained, are themes that grow out of her experience of being Jewish in England.
Rohr was a real estate developer in Bogota, Columbia, for more than 30 years and now lives in Miami. His lifelong love of Jewish writing includes the work of Lion Feuchtwanger and, in Yiddish, Israel Joshua Singer.
The two runners-up, who will each receive $7,500, are Amir Guttfreund of Israel, author of “Our Holocaust,” and Michael Lavigne of San Francisco, author of “Not Me.” Other finalists are Yael Hedaya from Israel, author of “Accidents,” and Naomi Alderman from England, author of “Disobedience.”
Administered by the Jewish Book Council, the prize will be given annually, with awards to fiction and nonfiction writers in alternate years.
The Rohr family will also establish the Rohr Family Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature. The institute will convene a biannual retreat, meeting for the first time after the next round of award recipients are announced in 2008. All of the finalists will be invited to participate.
Judges for this year’s award were professor Jeremy Dauber, Columbia University; novelist (and MacArthur Fellow) Rebecca Goldstein; Daisy Maryles, Publishers Weekly; novelist Jonathan Rosen; and professor Ruth Wisse, Harvard University. — Sandee Brawarsky, The Jewish Week
Briefs courtesy of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.