Nora Gold was a storyteller from the time she was very little. She can remember the time when she was six years old, sitting on the floor of her living room and making up stories for her family. Today, Gold is awaiting the publication of her first novel, Fields of Exile, about a student combating anti-Israelism at a university.
In response to many years of trying to get her stories onto bookshelves, Gold began jewishfiction.net, an online journal for first-rate writers telling inherently Jewish stories.
“Jewish fiction is considered by many a kind of niche writing,” Gold says. “It puts many writers of Jewish fiction in a very difficult position, and I wanted to do something about that.
“People [have either stopped writing] or their work is getting lost, it’s sitting in their drawers. I wanted to be able to support first-rate Jewish fiction and Jewish writers. I didn’t want people to feel there’s nowhere for them.”
It is currently the only English-language journal in the world devoted to publishing Jewish fiction, and it is free to sign up. Gold launched the site in 2010 and writers can send works of up to 6,000 words.
The story they submit must be “Jewish,” in that it deals extensively with Jewish characters, history, identity or experiences. Gold says that a story is considered Jewish to her if there would be nothing left without this Jewish content.
Since launching the site, Gold and her small team of manuscript reviewers have read thousands of stories. She estimates that writers submit around 50 new stories a month.
The site’s 12th issue came out on Dec. 3. The stories are either originally written in English or translated into English from another language. To date, stories from 12 languages have appeared on the site, including Russian, Turkish, Serbian, Croatian, Yiddish and Hebrew.
“The diversity of our journal is one of the things that I’m proud of,” Gold says. “Everything we publish has never before been published in English.” She adds that the work coming in from around the world come from a variety of perspectives: left wing and right wing; Israeli and from the Diaspora; from gay and straight writers; as well as authors known and unknown.
Jewishfiction.net has published close to 200 works of short fiction since its launch.
Although the site draws some of the biggest Jewish authors – including Elie Wiesel, A.B. Yehoshua and Chava Rosenfarb, nobody is paid for their work.
“This is entirely a labour of love. Everybody working on it does so on a volunteer basis, me included,” Gold says, explaining that the site subsists on donations but that the only person paid for their work is the website technician.
Gold is also an Israeli citizen and does a lot of volunteer work and activism when she visits. Fields of Exile came out of the anti-Israelism she noticed after returning to Canada in the early 1980s, after spending six years in Israel.
“I saw things out of one eye as a Canadian Jew and out of my other eye, I saw everything as an Israeli,” Gold says.
Before starting Fields of Exile, she conducted a nationwide study of Canadian Jewish women, exploring their experiences of anti-Semitism and sexism. She says that without this research, Fields of Exile, which will come out in May, would be a much different book.
“Nothing is lost on a writer,” she says. “I really couldn’t have written this novel without all that background.”
Gold’s first book, Marrow and Other Stories, won a Canadian Jewish Book Award. She is also looking for a publisher for another novel, The Dead Man, which is set in Jerusalem.
Beyond her writing, she is a community activist for Jewish and women’s issues. In Israel, she is on the board of the Dafna Fund, an organization that helps advance women’s rights and positions within Israel.
Gold, who lives in Toronto, collaborates closely with publishing houses in the United Kingdom and the United States. This collaboration ensures that jewishfiction.net often publishes novel excerpts from upcoming books before they are released.
She is now in discussions with Canadian publishers, hoping that more national writers will submit works for the site. She hopes that more Jewish-Canadian voices can come to the fore and help to bridge connections between other Jewish writers around the world.
“It’s a particular joy for me to be able to help foster and encourage new writers of Jewish fiction,” she says.