The Jewish Book Council announced its 66th annual selections for the National Jewish Book Awards winners and finalists today. Among them is Daniel Gordis, whose book Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn took home top honors for Book of the Year. In October, Gordis wrote about his approach to and motivation for writing the book, pondering if it was “possible to write a book about Israel where conflict is not the fulcrum of the Jewish state’s history?” (Gordis also wrote eloquently last year about the death of Shimon Peres, and Yom Kippur in Israel, amid heightened violence.) The Jewish Book Council has also awarded novelist Michael Chabon with its Modern Library Achievement Award for Moonglow, reviewed here by Adam Kirsch who called the book “Chabon’s Apollo mission to the past, launched with the same combination of ingenuity, dedication, and wonder.”
Other winners include poet Stanley Moss, who was awarded the Jewish Book Council’s inaugural Berru Award for his collection Almost Complete Poems. Susan Faludi’s In the Darkroom, “a haunting, urgent account of the life of her father, Steven Faludi, a teenage survivor of the 1944 Hungarian massacre of Budapest’s Jews” who became transgender, was a finalist in the category of biography, autobiography, and memoir. (This category was won by Marceline Loridan-Ivens for But You Did Not Come Back.) Here’s Tablet’s Literary Editor David Samuels in conversation with Faludi in November.
The winner in the category of Children’s Literature was Debbie Levy for I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark (illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley). Tablet columnist Marjorie Ingall, who also released her first book this year on Jewish motherhood and parenting, wrote that Levy and Baddeley’s picture book “provides a great opportunity to talk with kids about America’s evolving notions about the rights and capabilities of women, the notion of checks and balances, and the power of the judicial branch of government to create change.”
In the category of Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice, the winner is Rabbi David Jaffe for Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal and Social Change. A finalist in that category was Rav Danya Ruttenberg, the author of Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting. Ruttenberg and Ingall appeared on Tablet’s Unorthodox podcast together in August.
And in the category of Sephardic Culture, Sarah Abrevaya Stein won for Extraterritorial Dream: European Citizeship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century. Here’s Stein in 2012 on the Vox Tablet podcast. In the same category is finalist Devin Naar, a professor of Jewish studies and history at the University of Washington, for his book Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece. Naar also wrote about centennial celebration of the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America last September.
Winners of the Jewish Book Council Awards will be honored at a gala in March at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. You can view a complete list of winners and finalists here. And, of course, mazal tov to all!
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.