Our People

Festival Director

Debbie Lee
In a publishing career spanning over 30 years, Debbie has worked in trade sales, and as a commissioning editor and publishing manager in the vocational, academic and professional sectors. More recently Debbie was a senior executive in a print-on-demand environment, assisting publishers large and small, from multinationals, to Australian-owned operators and independent authors, with their local and global distribution needs. She has witnessed the monumental shifts that have occurred with the advent of new technology and is excited by the democratisation this has created in the industry. In 2023 she launched ‘The Book Maven’ to cater to the small press and independent author community.

General Manager
Debbie Strauch

Programming Committee
Morry Frenkel
Elissa Goldstein
Julie Grossbard
Dina Kluska
Emma Kranz
Bram Presser
Shoshy Rockman
Renata Singer

Programming Manager
Janine Schloss

Morry Frenkel

Esther Kister

Facilities & Events
Julie Grossbard

Hannah Greenberg

Dina Kluska

Schools Program
Helen Raik

Studio Sometimes

Volunteer Co-Ordinator
Ellen Frajman

General Volunteers
Andrea Bliss
Hannah Fagenblat
Margaret Fischer
Randi Grose
Yvonne Kay
Rita Kornhauser

MJBW Board

Joe Reich AM (Chair)
Joe is an ophthalmologist whose professional roles have included Chairmanship of The Senior Medical Staff at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and is a current board member of Vision Eye Institute.  He has also been past president of the Australian Jewish Medical Federation and Australian Friends of the Israel Medical Association.  Joe has published three works of fiction and a biography and has two novels accepted for future publication. He has enjoyed being a supporter of past programs of MJBW and its predecessor and has been involved in comedy debates for various Jewish community groups over many years. In 2019 he was awarded an AM for services to ophthalmology. Joe became a MJBW Board member in 2019.

Nicolas Brasch
Nicolas Brasch is a writer, teacher, workshop facilitator and manuscript assessor. He is the author of more than 400 books (mainly for children and young adults) that have been published by many of the world’s leading publishers. He teaches professional and creative writing at Swinburne University; writes corporate histories; ghost writes biographies; runs business writing workshops; presents workshops and seminars on writing and storytelling; and runs a corporate writing business. He is also currently undertaking a PhD in creative writing.

Sharon Cohen
Sharon is a special counsel at law firm Clayton Utz. She specialises in intellectual property and technology law, with a particular focus on advertising and marketing matters. She is also a privacy law specialist. When Sharon is not working or spending time with her family, she enjoys settling down with a good book. She previously served on the Board of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Sharon joined the MJBW Board in 2019 and has the role of Company Secretary.

Bram Presser
Bram is a multiple award-winning writer whose stories first appeared in Best Australia Stories, Award Winning Australian Writing, and Higher Arc. His debut novel, The Book of Dirt, won the 2018 Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction in the US National Jewish Book Awards, and in Australia the same year, the Voss Literary prize and three awards in the 2018 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and The People’s Choice Award. He has appeared in major literary events and acts as the liaison between the board and the programming committee. Bram joined the MJBW Board in 2019.

David Slucki
David Slucki is the Loti Smorgon Associate Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life and Culture at Monash University. He is, additionally, the Director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation. A historian, he has written widely on Jewish life after the Holocaust, focusing particularly on survivors and their descendants, and on representations of the Holocaust. He is also a scholar of Jewish humour. His publications include Sing This at my Funeral: A Memoir of Fathers and Sons (2019) and The International Jewish Labor Bund after 1945: Toward a Global History (2012). He is also the coeditor of Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust (2020) and In the Shadows of Memory: The Holocaust and the third-generation (2016). 

Fiona Sweet
A cultural leader, Fiona Sweet is the Executive Director and co-CEO of Stella, the major voice for gender equality and cultural change in Australian literature. She is the past Artistic Director and CEO of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Australia’s leading contemporary photographic event and the inaugural Director of National Centre for Photography. Fiona is an influential and in-demand public speaker, industry judge, photographic portfolio reviewer and assessor in Australia and internationally. She was the director and founder of Sweet Creative, and is recognised for her inspiring and intelligent delivery of uniquely crafted festivals and arts events. She is also a former Board Director of the Australian Graphic Design Association, the Melbourne Fringe, and co-founded Melbourne’s Acland Street Projection Festival. Fiona currently sits on the LCI University Photographic Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Committee for the Discipline of Photography at RMIT. She was the recipient of an Ian Potter Travel Grant in 2018 for her research on international art festival best practice. Fiona is the recipient of many prestigious design awards, and was identified by her peers, in 2016, as one of the top 25 women to have made a significant contribution to Australian graphic design. She is listed on the afFEMation.com website which aims to firmly place and celebrate these women as heroes in their industry.

Esther Kister (Founding Director and Founding Chair)
Esther was the founder and inaugural Festival Director of Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival (2013-2015) and became the Emeritus Director of Melbourne Jewish Book Week which replaced MJWF in 2016. After a stint in social work where she couldn’t improve the world, she lists her career highlights as her work on significant government and NGO projects including a leading role in the introduction of the Victorian Seniors Card in 1991. She has been involved in a range of Jewish cultural and educational organisations and in the broader community, in welfare related areas. Esther was appointed Chair of the Board in 2019.

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