2010 Sami Rohr Prize Winners Announced


Judges in Deadlock; Second Place Category Suspended

Sarah Abrevaya Stein and Kenneth B. Moss split $125,000 Prize

Award Ceremony to be held March 31 in Jerusalem

January 26. 2010 (New York, NY) – While meeting last month to decide the winner of the $100K Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the judges found themselves unable to eliminate one of the two outstanding final candidates. After much deliberation, an unusual solution was found.

The two contenders would share the top honor, the runner-up category would be eliminated, and the monies allocated for the winner and runner-up prizes would be combined into one award, to be split by the two winners, with each author taking home $62,500.

The 2010 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature will be awarded to two distinguished authors: Sarah Abrevaya Stein, for her book Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce (Yale University Press) and Kenneth B. Moss for his book Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Harvard University Press).

“The term ‘embarrassment of riches’ was coined to describe the situation we encountered,” said Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, one of the judges for the Prize. “Our admiration for these two books and writers – and for the three other finalists as well – eventually made it so hard to choose one over the other that we finally decided we couldn’t. They both deserve to win.” This decision marks the first and last time the honor would be shared by two writers.

One month ago, the five finalists for the 2010 non-fiction Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature were named. The most significant and largest monetary award of its kind, the Sami Rohr Prize typically awards $100,000 to its winner, with a $25,000 award given to its first runner-up. It is administered under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council. Fiction and non-fiction books are considered in alternate years.

Last month’s announcement capped a competitive year-long review by a select panel of judges of books published during 2008 and 2009. The 2010 award ceremony will be held in Jerusalem on March 31st.

The other finalists for the fourth annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature are:

Lila Corwin Berman – Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity (University of California Press)
Ari Y. Kelman — Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the United States (University of California Press)
Danya Ruttenberg — Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion (Beacon Press)

By virtue of having been named a Rohr Prize finalist, these writers are welcomed into the fellowship of writers who participate in all forthcoming Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute events.

Chosen from a pool of twenty-five entries, this year’s winners and finalists represent important emerging voices in Jewish life and thought. The subject matter of the finalists’ work includes the role that rabbis and Jewish intellectuals have played in forming American public identity, a candid and quirky spiritual memoir, the Jewish renaissance in Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution, the previously-unknown role of Jews in the transatlantic ostrich feather trade and the sub-culture of Yiddish radio in the United States during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Established in 2006 and hailed as a transformative award for emerging writers, the annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature recognizes writers who have demonstrated a fresh vision and evidence of future potential. The books must show exceptional literary merit and stimulate an interest in themes of Jewish concern.

In 2008, Lucette Lagnado was awarded the first non-fiction Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her book The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World, a memoir of her family’s exodus from Egypt and resettlement in Brooklyn. The top fiction winners have included first-ever Rohr Prize recipient Tamar Yellin for her novel The Genizah at the House of Shepher and Sana Krasikov for her short story collection, One More Year.

Past Rohr Choice Award winners include Amir Gutfreund for Our Holocaust ; Michael Lavigne for Not Me ; Ilana M. Blumberg for Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman Among Books; Eric L. Goldstein for The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race and American Identity and Dalia Sofer for The Septembers of Shiraz.

The winners, finalists, judges and advisory board members of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature meet biannually at the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature. The Institute, conducted under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council, creates an environment in which established and emerging writers can meet and exchange ideas and perspectives. Within a short period of time, the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute has become an important meeting place for the leading lights of the American Jewish literary world.


After spending his early years in post WWII Europe, Sami Rohr moved to Bogota, Colombia, where he was a leading real estate developer for over 30 years. He currently lives in Florida and continues to be very active in various business endeavors internationally. His philanthropic commitment to Jewish education and community-building throughout the world is renowned. This prize is a gift by his family to honor his love of Jewish writing, and to help encourage the continuation of the magnificent legacy of the People of the Book.

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3 responses to “2010 Sami Rohr Prize Winners Announced

  1. Pingback: 2010 Sami Rohr Prize Winners Announced | JewPI.com

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