Freema Gottlieb


Born in London and raised in Glasgow, Freema Gottlieb was awarded the top scholarship to Girton College at Cambridge University, where she studied English literature, and received a BA and M.Phil. The first to have access to the Leonard Woolf papers, she received a PhD from University College, London, for her research on Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

After editing for the Soncino Press, reporting for the Jewish Chronicle, and working for BBC World News, she left the UK for New York, to teach literature and to do public relations and speechwriting for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, an international relief organization.

In addition to contributing literary reviews for such periodicals as the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Times Book Review, Freema ghost-wrote Jewish Folk Art (Summit Books) for Joy Ungerleider-Mayerson, the former curator of the Jewish Museum in New York.

Through the Joint Distribution Committee, Freema volunteered for two years to teach midrash in the Near East Department of Charles University and at the Jan Hus Theological Seminary in Prague, where she collaborated with photographer Alois Haljan on Mystical Stonescapes of Prague Jewish Town and Village Graveyards.

An occasional contributor to the Jewish Week’s column on the weekly Sabbath Bible reading, she is the author of The Lamp of God:a Jewish Book of Light, a meditation on over 3,000 years of Jewish sources to which the light metaphor is key.

She is at work on a “midrashic” memoir in progress about the gut renovation of an old pre-1948 Jerusalem apartment and has recently been researching her father's role in saving the lives of many hundreds of Jewish youth through founding the Vienna Youth Aliyah School in the early days of the Anschluss.

Selected Works

“Why the Figure of Honi the Circle Drawer Resembles That of Moshe Our Teacher.” European Judaism 15, no. 1 (Summer 1981).
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR French antisemitism
“The French Record,” Letters, the French Embassy and Gottlieb, about Vichy, France, Mitterand, etc. Washington Post Book World, September 12, 1993.
“A masterful work, and so timely; there is a spiritual yearning in the country, which The Lamp of God will help to satisfy.” —Bill Moyers, Public Affairs Television, Inc. “Freema Gottlieb’s beautiful book The Lamp of God is written in black fire on white fire; it is the kind of book that had to be written, that comes from the deep sources of both the author and the Jewish tradition, and whose brilliance blazes off its rough edges.” “Both a very conservative book, in love with roots, with nuances of orthodox tradition, immersed in sources, and an entirely radical, free-thinking one, that gives one a sense of understanding stories in the Bible, and mitzvoth, in a way that they have never been understood before. —Francis Landy, professor of Religious Studies, University of Alberta, Midstream,. “Of deep interest to all who want to know more about the extraordinary achievements of those who, through so many ages, have given their poetic and imaginative power to the enrichment of an ancient tradition. A dedicated performance and an admirable book.” —Frank Kermode, Fellow of the British Academy, professor emeritus of English Literature at Cambridge, member of the working party on interpretation, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, coauthor The Literary Guide to the Bible, and author of The Oxford Anthology of English Literature and many other works “Freema Gottlieb weighs into history, the history of our beginnings, like a true poet. Light in her hands is tangible; it can be felt, it can be held. Her art is truly transformational in the best sense: it treats its subject as though for the first time, and will certainly cause a stir.” —James Ellison, former executive editor, Book-of-the-Month Club, and book editor of Psychology Today “Freema Gottlieb is a truly talented storyteller gifted with a luminous and original imagination.” —Judith Rossner, novelist, author August, Looking for Mr. Goodbar and other novels. “The writing is not linear and expository, but associative and reflective. Some passages appear to have been written in a meditative consciousness and might serve as the objects of spiritual contemplation.” —Nehemia Polen, associate assistant professor of Jewish Thought, Boston Hebrew College ,and author of Esh Kodesh, the Warsaw Ghetto writings of Rabbi Kalonymos Shapiro.
Visionary Nonfiction
A meditation on 3,000 years of Jewish sources to which the light metaphor is key. Newly available internationally and affordably in a Kindle edition.
Creative or visionary midrashic nonfiction, newspaper column
Jewish Week, March 13, 2017

Example(s) of occasional column(s) in Jewish Week’s Sabbath Week.
Gut Renovation is a memoir-in-progress about the transformation of an apartment that originally was a Jerusalem water well.

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