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2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Fellows Announced

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 12:00am
Jewish Book Council

Join Jewish Book Council Wednesday, May 3rd for the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Award Ceremony and Author Discussion.

The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature has announced the five Fellows who are eligible for the 2017 Prize of $100,000, the largest award of its kind. In addition, the second prize of $18,000 and three remaining presentations of $5,000 each will all be announced on May 3rd at a program open to the public to be held at the Jewish Museum.

The Sami Rohr Prize honors emerging writers who explore the Jewish experience in a specific work of non-fiction and fiction. Please join the Jewish Book Council in celebrating the 11th year of the Sami Rohr Prize and meet the 2017 Fellows at the award ceremony following a literary discussion with the authors, moderated by Rabbi David Wolpe as part of the Jewish Book Council Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation series. (RSVP requested.)

The 2017 Sami Rohr Prize Fellows are:

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Here and there: Leaving Hasidism, Keeping My Family by Chaya Deitsch

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 12:00am
Gloria Goldreich for Hadassah Magazine

The plethora of books about life in various Hasidic communities, written by self-described “escapees,” largely seethe with pain, anger and rejection. Chaya Deitsch’s chronicle of her life in the Lubavitch community, however, throbs with love and reveals an undisguised, wistful nostalgia for the culture she turned her back on. Perhaps that is because the Lubavitch, known for their outreach to secular Jews, are more open to the larger world than other Hasidic groups. 

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David Grossman, Amos Oz named on Man Booker longlist

Mon, 04/10/2017 - 12:00am
By Viva Sarah Press for Israel21c

13 novels are in contention for the prestigious 2017 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.

Israeli authors David Grossman and Amos Oz are among the contenders for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. There are 13 novels up for the 2017 prize, which celebrates the finest works of translated fiction from around the world.

Grossman’s A Horse Walks Into a Bar and Oz’s Judas are the two Israeli entries. 

The literary prize is awarded every year for a single book — novels or short-story collections – which have been translated in English.

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Passover guides serve up a side of social justice for the seder table

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 12:00am
BY RENEE GHERT-ZAND for The Times of Israel

From a fifth cup of wine to 11 spilled drops — and a call to action for dessert — Jewish organizations publish readings on refugees, immigration, converts and the settlements

Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers? For some Jews focused on social justice issues, it’s because of the world’s greatest refugee crisis since World War II. For others, it’s because this June marks the 50th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank. And for some it’s the mere fact that Donald Trump is president of the United States.

The themes of political freedom, refugees, immigration and racial justice have long figured prominently at seder table discussions. This year, in the weeks leading up to Passover, which starts on the evening of April 10, Jewish social justice organizations have published new haggadahs and hagaddah supplements for use at seders.

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For more great Passover ideas, check out our Passover Resource Kit.

The Good at Heart by Ursula Werner

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 12:00am
Jewish Book Council    

Based on the author’s discoveries about her great-grandfather, this stunning debut novel takes place over three days when World War II comes to the doorstep of an ordinary German family living in an idyllic, rural village near the Swiss border.

When World War II breaks out, Edith and Oskar Eberhardt move their family—their daughter, Marina; son-in-law, Franz; and their granddaughters—out of Berlin and into a small house in the quiet town of Blumental, near Switzerland. A member of Hitler’s cabinet, Oskar is gone most of the time, and Franz begins fighting in the war, so the women of the house are left to their quiet lives in the picturesque village.

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Recommended Passover Reading

Mon, 03/20/2017 - 12:00am



Passover…the season of matzah, maror and minding the minutes until you can get away from your family. Not anymore! Shimon Apisdorf’s fantastic Passover Survival Kit is the perfect solution for bringing meaning and movement to every Seder table.

Shimon Apisdorf draws his readers in with a light, conversational style to his writing: not lecturing to his readers, but rather holding a friendly dialogue with them.

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For more great Passover ideas, check out our Passover Resource Kit.

A Rebbe for Our Time

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 12:00am
By Liel Leibovitz for Tablet

A new book reminds us why Menachem Schneerson’s genius for community is more vital today than ever

My study, where I spend most of my days reading, moping, and constructing elaborate schemes designed to ward off the faintest threat of productivity, is a purgatory of piled-up objects. It’s the sort of place that would make Marie Kondo weep, especially if she spotted her lovely anti-clutter manifesto jammed in between three identical copies of the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, a small Stonehenge of lifeless iPhones, and official Richard Nixon 1972 campaign memorabilia. None of this stuff is random, though: Each huddled tchotchke is either a souvenir from where I’ve been or a signpost pointing somewhere I’d like to go. And above it all, looking down at me like a bemused elder on an errant boy, is a large black-and-white photograph of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe.

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Rejoicing on Purim with a Jewish Novel

Mon, 03/06/2017 - 12:00am
Prof. Lawrence M. Wills from


The Techniques and Motifs of the Book of Esther

The Book of Esther and the Holiday of Purim: What came first?


Festivals of revelry and release such as Purim are common cross-culturally.[1]   Yet, each such festival contains unique elements—in the case of Purim, this includes reading the Book of Esther.

Megillat Esther is both a book in its own right as well as the pretext for the raucous Purim festival.  But what is the origin and genre of the text? Was it composed as a reading for the festival, or did it originate separately as a pleasant story, influenced by international literary developments, and only later adapted for the holiday? It is difficult to say. Even if it was composed for the festival, it should be understood within the background of the Jewish and non-Jewish novellas of the Persian and Greek periods.

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Learn more about Purim with our Purim Resource Kit.

On Turpentine Lane

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 12:00am

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman 

Review by Nat Bernstein for Jewish Book Council    

It’s been kind of a topsy-turvy week, so the image of a quaint suburban house ripped from the earth and spun like Dorothy Gale’s twister-borne home feels about right at the moment.

As bizarrely inviting as the picture is, it’s the details that make this book cover special: the flying SOLD sign, the sensible brown shoe flying off the foot one of the three figures rattling around inside the suspended house, the sheet of paper blown against the leg of another, the plaid lining of the open trench coat… The detail of the illustrations translates the care with which Elinor Lipman has crafted the Jewish family at the heart of her latest novel. On Turpentine Lane follows private school director of stewardship Faith Frankel as she struggles with an absent fiancée, a cloying mother, an unfaithful father with illusions of artistic grandeur, and an officemate whose friendship might be growing a little too close…

Our Kind of Traitor

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00am
By Amy Newman Smith for Jewish Review of Books


"I am not a fan of spy thrillers,” Uri Bar-Joseph said recently. “The only good spy novel author is John le Carré.” That gives readers fair warning not to expect exploding wristwatches and car chases from the Haifa University professor and former intelligence analyst’s latest book, The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel. Even the subtitle might be a bit inflated, he said, since there’s no way of really knowing what the outcome of the Yom Kippur War would have been without the spy code-named The Angel. What Bar-Joseph does offer is a comprehensive account of how a well-placed Egyptian became Israel’s most valuable intelligence asset, and how disagreements between Israeli spymasters over the information he provided ultimately led to his death.

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The 26 Books We’re Sure To Be Reading This Year

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00am
Talya Zax for The Forward

Winter is theoretically a fabulous time for curling up with a hot drink and a book, although that’s a peculiar sentence to write on a 60-degree day in New York. Still, the cold weather will inevitably return, and with it the need to read, read, read. Our favorite picks for the endeavor —in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry — below.



Enigma Variations
By Andre Aciman

Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel “Call Me By Your Name” — imagistic, languid, perceptive — has long been admired for its depiction of queer sexuality; reviewing the book in The New Yorker, Cynthia Zarin pronounced Aciman “an acute grammarian of desire.” His new collection of linked stories promises to be a similarly deft examination of love and lust, tracking a man named Paul’s affairs throughout his lifetime.

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Inaugural Book Club Award Winner and Finalists

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:00am
Jewish Book Council



Book Clubs



Every month, JBC Book Clubs offers weekly email subscribers a dedicated email with special book club features that will enhance a book club or add to your personal reading experience.  


Whether your book club is formal or informal; social or educational; interested in reading only books of Jewish content, just a few Jewish books throughout the year, or good literature that happens to have Jewish themes, JBC has a book for you and the resources to take you to the next level.


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Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn by Daniel Gordis

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 12:00am
Review by Philip K. Jason for Jewish Book Council    

Winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards - Book of the Year

Daniel Gordis’s new history of Israel should become a standard for years to come, perhaps even a classic. At 576 pages, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn can indeed be considered concise, as so much more could be and has been written about each era and associated issues addressed in the book. Clear, forceful, frank, and often inspiring, this mighty tome of both academic and personal writing explores the ups, downs, and turning points in a history that begins with Theodore Herzl’s vision and ends with tomorrow’s challenges.

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Long, Long Ago in a Jewish Fantasyland Far, Far Away

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 12:00am
Raphael Magarik The Forward

The Book of Esther; By Emily Barton

The medieval kingdom of Khazaria has long been used as a Jewish Zembla, or fantasyland, a shadowy alternative to unpleasant realities. In the 12th century, the Spanish philosopher Judah Halevi dreamed up a Khazar king who converted to Judaism, imagining an upside-down world in which Judaism trumped its regnant rivals, Christianity and Islam. In 1940, the Zionist poet Shaul Tchernichovsky wrote a Hebrew ballad about the fall of the last Khazar king to the emperor of Rus, wishfully reimagining the Jewish victims of the Holocaust as militant heroes. More recently, the Hungarian Jewish writer Arthur Koestler serendipitously “discovered” the Khazar roots of modern Jewry, an unlikely genealogy that he hoped would disarm anti-Semitism by showing Jews never to have been Semites (for Koestler, conveniently, we were instead Hungarians).

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The Rabbi's Atheist Daughter by Bonnie S. Anderson

Mon, 01/16/2017 - 12:00am
Jewish Book Council    

Known as "the queen of the platform," Ernestine Rose was more famous than her women's rights co-workers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. By the 1850s, Rose had become an outstanding orator for feminism, free thought, and anti-slavery. Yet, she would gradually be erased from history for being too much of an outlier: an immigrant, a radical, and an atheist. 

In The Rabbi's Atheist Daughter, Bonnie S. Anderson recovers the unique life and career of Ernestine Rose. The only child of a Polish rabbi, Ernestine Rose rejected religion at an early age, successfully sued for the return of her dowry after rejecting an arranged betrothal, and left her family, Judaism, and Poland forever. 

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Let My People Go

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 12:00am
By Unorthodox for Tablet Magazine 

This week on Unorthodox, biblical scholar Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg offers a new look at Moses, and linguist and Columbia professor John McWhorter breaks down ‘safe spaces’

This week on Unorthodox, Jared and Ivanka go shul shopping in Washington, D.C.

Our Jewish guest is renowned biblical scholar Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, whose latest book examines the life of Moses, one of the most enigmatic biblical figures (you can read an excerpt here). She tells us about exploring the often overlooked aspects of Moses’s life—his speech impediment, for example, and the outsize role it played in his engagement with God and other people–and why she believes Moses is one of the most compelling literary characters of all time. (This segment is sponsored by Yale Jewish Lives.)

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