I was delighted to learn last week from Publishers Weekly that two writers whose work I admire quite a lot have been recognized by those administering a significant new award: the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. (PW’s Daisy Maryles calls this award “the largest-ever Jewish literary prize.”)
According to the Jewish Book Council, which is administering the award, the new prize honors “an emerging writer whose work has demonstrated a fresh vision and evidence of future potential. Recipients must have written a book of exceptional literary merit that stimulates an interest in themes of Jewish concern.” Works of fiction and nonfiction will be recognized in alternate years. This year, the $100,000 prize ($7,500 to each of two runners-up) will celebrate fiction.
The inaugural nominees (you can’t apply on your own for this award) include Amir Gutfreund (you can read my Chattahoochee Review essay discussing Gutfreund’s nominated novel, Our Holocaust, here), and Tamar Yellin (you can read my review of Yellin’s short story collection [I have yet to read her nominated novel] here).
This first set of nominees also includes three writers whose work I confess I have yet to get to know: Naomi Alderman, Yael Hedaya, and Michael Lavigne.
I’ll be watching for more news on this, as well as for updates about another initiative honoring Sami Rohr: Publishers Weekly also notes that the Rohr family will establish a “Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to nurturing quality Jewish writing and maintaining the continuity of Jewish literature. The Institute, also under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council, will convene a biennial gathering where established and emerging writers can meet and exchange ideas.”