The Greatest Need
By Jasmine Donahaye
THE GREATEST NEED
the creative life and troubled times of Lily Tobias,
a Welsh Jew in Palestine
Born in Swansea of Polish-Jewish immigrant parents, Lily Shepherd spoke Yiddish at home, English at school and Welsh with friends and neighbours in the mining village of Ystalyfera where she grew up. This multi-lingual childhood gave Lily a special perspective on a world at a time of tumultuous change.
A unique woman in unique times – though small of stature and quiet of voice – Lily had the strength and determination to try to change the world. As a political activist and a writer, she fought for female suffrage, conscientious objectors, the rights of working people and a Jewish national home in Palestine.
From a mining village in the Swansea valley to the conflict of the British Mandate – via the cooperative housing movement in Cardiff, the London stage and on to wartime South Africa and the new-born State of Israel – The Greatest Need offers a fascinating insight into a vibrant writing and political life shattered by personal tragedy.
Praise for Lily Tobias’ novel Eunice Fleet
‘I crept away from this amazing book both quietly stunned and deeply enlightened’ Lynne Hatwell, www.dovegreyreader.co.uk
‘This is an important book … and I found myself wondering why it had ever been lost’ Myslexia
" ...I was gripped by the story of this fascinating writer and human and wondered how much we can learn from her... Donahaye's work in this book should be seen as a key document to thinking about self-determination, nationhood and pacifism particularly in the context of Wales, Palestine and Israel. Alongside the excellent, moving Losing Israel, it should also remind us that Donahaye is raising important questions and is certainly one of the most significant writers and thinkers working in Wales at the moment."
Nia Davies, click on Wales (IWA)
" Lily did not follow the traditional path set out for her by her parents and Jewish society. She made her own way, becoming a novelist, dramatist, essayist and fierce campaigner at a time where women did not have the vote. A complex and extraordinary individual, it's a wonder that she has not been written about more. In fact, if it wasn't for Jasmine Donahaye's discovery of one of her books 'with the Welsh dragon and Jewish Star of David' in the National Library fifteen years ago, she may never have been written about at all... The Greatest Need is more than a biography. The work spans all sorts of histories: industrial south Wales, London literary circles and British-occupied Palestine. Lily is at the centre of all this, and Donahaye expertly conveys a sense of her limitless, almost frenetic energy... The Greatest Need is an important step in returning such an impressive writer to the annals of literature. For me, the next step is to read her novels. And I'd urge anyone reading this to do the same.
Eluned Gramich, New Welsh Review
Categories: Biography, Non-Fiction
First Published by Honno: 19th March 2015