Great thinkers and writers at the Cape Town Jewish Literary Festival

The Jewish Literary Festival 2023 (JLF2023) will host some of the greatest thinkers and writers in the country on Human Rights Day (21 March) this year in Cape Town. Join us for a provocative series of  panels on business, politics, sport, history, narrative, identity, heroes, villains and much more!

Renowned British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore is our guest of honour and will discuss his latest book ‘The World’, which takes a wide-angle lens on global history via the shenanigans of  ruling families through the ages. It includes everyone from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the Bonapartes, Hapsburgs, and even the Rockefellers and Trumps.

And from the bad behaviour of the elite and powerful, and in an ode to Human Rights Day, we examine the role and value of an apology. Author and professor Melanie Judge will discuss her book ‘Unsettling Apologies’ and the histories of injustice, dispossession and violence in South Africa with her co-author Dee Smythe-amid a global resurgence of demands for the acknowledgement of historical and contemporary wrongs.

We will also pay homage to the trauma of seeking justice with authors Antony Altbeker, Liz McGregor, Janine Lazarus and moderator Beverly Lester, who will explore that painful challenge through the stories they tell in their books.

Other international authors include historical fiction writer Louisa Treger, who writes the fascinating true story of the world’s first female investigative journalist, Nellie Bly, who undertakes the brave mission of writing an article about the horrendous conditions in an asylum on Blackwell’s island by pretending to be mad herself. .

We will also hear from authors whose political consciousness has shaped their personal stories which they share in their memoirs. This includes apartheid activist John Schlapobersky, who joins us from the UK, and Denis Hirson, from France.

And moving from the past we look to the present and future with a session called Disruption: looking at who and what is changing our world. ‘Beyond Bitcoin’ author Steven ‘Boykey’ Sidley and ‘Breach’ author Ronen Aires will chat to Ran Neuner, entrepreneur and popular host of CNBC’s Crypto Trader show.

And for those of us who are wondering where the ANC and our country go from here, political adviser and global business leader Colin Coleman chats with former member of parliament and founder of the Democratic Alliance, Tony Leon.

Entrepreneurs Allen Ambor (Spur Steak Ranch founder) and Rael Levitt have both written books on their colourful and brave business journeys to success and we are lucky enough to be hearing from them. Talented local authors like Gail Schimmel, Kate Sidley, Jonathan Ancer, Nechama Brodie, Joanne Jowell, and Patricia Schonstein join the line–up along with Hedi Lampert, Angela Rothbart and more.
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For those who have followed and loved Evita Bezuidenhout, you will be excited that her alter-ego Pieter-Dirk Uys will be part of a panel on breaking boundaries through the arts. He joins Aviva Pelham and Des Lindberg as Gus Silber probes their careers.

The 27 sessions will run over five timeslots and a plenary session. Patrons can enjoy each one with ample time in between to continue conversations with like-minded booklovers. The Book Lounge is manning a popup bookstore; a delicious boxed lunch is part of the ticket price as is a cappuccino!

JLF has become a highlight on the local literary calendar, joining such iconic events as the Franschhoek Literary Festival and the Open Book Festival – it makes a welcome in-person return at the Gardens Community Centre.

Partners for the Festival include  the Jacob Gitlin Library, The Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre, the SA Jewish Museum, Fine Music Radio, the Cape Jewish Chronicle, The Book Lounge, ChaiFM and Lift Airlines.

Date: March 21, 2023

Time: 9am to 5pm (last session at 4pm)

Venue: Gardens Community Centre, Hatfield Street, Cape Town

Ticket price: R350 which includes lunch, access to all sessions and a coffee voucher.

Patrons may purchase tickets online through Quicket: or by visiting the Gitlin Library during business hours.