Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature is an annual prize awarded to an outstanding literary work of Jewish interest.

Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
Sami Rohr Prize Logo
Awarded forrecognising the unique role of contemporary writers in the transmission and examination of the Jewish experience, and to encourage and promote outstanding writing of Jewish interest.
CountryUnited States
Presented byJewish Book Council
First awarded2006


In 2006, the Jewish philanthropist Sami Rohr's descendants honoured his love of Jewish literature by inaugurating the Sami Rohr Prize on his 80th birthday.[1]

The annual award, alternating between fiction and non-fiction, seeks to promote writings of Jewish interest, and to encourage the examination of Jewish values among "emerging" writers.[2]

The $100,000 prize is among the richest literary prizes in the world. The runner-up award is called the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Choice Award, and is worth $25,000.

Eligibility and selection

The Prize is coordinated and administered by the Jewish Book Council. Works are sought and nominated by an advisory panel, and the finalists, runner-up and winner are selected by an independent panel of judges.

Translated works are eligible. Eligible non-fiction works are restricted to the domains of biography, history, Jewish current affairs, Jewish scholarship, or contemporary Jewish life.

Finalists and winners

The gold medal (Gold) marks the winner, while the silver medal (Silver) marks the runner-up.


The finalists were announced April 3, 2017.[3] The awardees were announced May 3, 2017.[4]

  • Gold Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
  • Silver The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel by Daniel Torday
  • Inherited Disorders: Stories, Parables & Problems by Adam Ehrlich Sachs
  • The Bed Moved: Stories by Rebecca Schiff
  • The Yid by Paul Goldberg


The finalists were announced in January 2015.[5] The awardees were announced in February 2015.[6]


The finalists were announced on November 7, 2013.[7] The winners were declared in January 2014.[8]

  • Gold The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, by Matti Friedman
  • Silver Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism, by Sarah Bunin Benor
  • Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition, by Marni Davis
  • Embodying Hebrew Culture: Aesthetics, Athletics, and Dance in the Jewish Community of Mandate Palestine, by Nina S. Spiegel
  • The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism, by Eliyahu Stern


The winners were announced on April 9, 2013.[9][10]


The winners were announced on February 15, 2012.[11]

  • Gold When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry, by Gal Beckerman
  • Silver Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero, by Abigail Green
  • The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education, by Jonathan B. Krasner
  • The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire, by James Loeffler
  • A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, by Ruth Franklin


The winners were announced on March 24, 2011.[12]


The winners were announced on January 26, 2010. The judges were unable to decide on the top honour, so the prize was shared and the runner-up prize eliminated.[13]

  • Gold Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution, by Kenneth B. Moss
  • Gold Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce, by Sarah Abrevaya Stein
  • Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the United States, by Ari Y. Kelman
  • Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion, by Danya Ruttenberg
  • Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals, and the Creation of an American Public Identity, by Lila Corwin Berman


The winners were announced on March 25, 2009.[14][15]


The winners were announced on February 13, 2008.[16][17]

  • Gold The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit, by Lucette Lagnado
  • Silver Houses of Study, by Ilana Blumberg
  • Silver The Price of Whiteness, by Eric Goldstein
  • A Crack in the Earth, by Haim Watzman
  • Churchill's Promised Land, by Michael Makovsky


The winners were announced in March 2007.[18][19]


  1. ^ Dennis Hevesi (August 10, 2012). "Sami Rohr, Jewish Philanthropist Remembered by a Writing Prize, Dies at 86". New York Times. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  2. ^ Jessica Weinberg (March 15, 2013). "A Dispatch from the National Jewish Book Awards Ceremony". Tablet. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  3. ^ "2017 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Fellows Announced". Facebook: Jewish Book Council. April 3, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  4. ^ "Idra Novey wins Sami Rohr prize for Jewish literature". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. May 3, 2017. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
  5. ^ "Sami Rohr Prize 2015". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  6. ^ "Ayelet Tsabari Wins Sami Rohr Prize". The Jewish Daily Forward. February 23, 2015.
  7. ^ Adam Chandler (November 7, 2013). "'The Aleppo Codex' Nabs the Sami Rohr Prize". Tablet. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  8. ^ Beth Kissileff (January 23, 2014). "2014 Sami Rohr Prize Awarded In Jerusalem". Tablet.
  9. ^ Joe Winkler (April 10, 2013). "Novelist Francesca Segal wins Sami Rohr Prize with 'The Innocents'". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  10. ^ "2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature" (Press release). Jewish Book Council. April 9, 2013. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  11. ^ "Gal Beckerman Wins $100,000 Sami Rohr Prize". Publishers Weekly. February 15, 2012.
  12. ^ Marcy Oster (March 24, 2011). "Austin Ratner wins Rohr prize for first novel". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  13. ^ "2010 Sami Rohr Prize Winners Announced". Jewish Book Council. January 26, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  14. ^ "Sana Krasikov wins Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature". The Jerusalem Post. March 25, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  15. ^ "Sami Rohr Prize 2009". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  16. ^ Sarah Crown (February 13, 2008). "Exile's tale takes $100,000 Jewish book prize". The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  17. ^ "Sami Rohr Prize 2008". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  18. ^ Juliet Lapidos (March 30, 2007). "A Chat With Tamar Yellin, Winner of New Fiction Prize". The Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  19. ^ "Sami Rohr Prize 2007". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved November 11, 2013.

External links

Anne Landsman

Anne Landsman (born 14 April 1959) is an award-winning novelist. She was born in Worcester, the daughter of a country doctor, and is a graduate of the University of Cape Town and Columbia University. Until 2001, she lectured at The New School university in New York, where she still lives with her husband, architect James Wagman, and children.She is the author of the novels The Devil's Chimney and The Rowing Lesson. The first novel developed from one of her short stories published in the American Poetry Review; the second is more autobiographical, telling the story of a Jewish South African woman.Her novels have been published in the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, as well as the U.S. She has contributed essays to the anthologies Touch, An Uncertain Inheritance and The Honeymoon’s Over and has written for numerous publications including The Washington Post, The American Poetry Review, The Believer, The Guardian and The Telegraph. She has taught writing at Columbia University, Brooklyn College and The New School for Social Research. Landsman is on the Board of Trustees at The Writers Room in New York City.

Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari is an Israeli-Canadian writer. She was born in Israel into a large family of Yemeni descent. She studied at the Simon Fraser University Writers' Studio and the University of Guelph MFA program in Creative Writing. Her collection of short stories The Best Place on Earth was published by HarperCollins Canada in 2013, and by Penguin Random House in the USA in March 2016.The book was the recipient of the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize.

Danya Ruttenberg

Danya Ruttenberg (born February 6, 1975) is an American rabbi, editor, and author. She was named one of The Jewish Week's "36 Under 36" in 2010 (36 most influential leaders under age 36), and the same year was named one of the top 50 most influential women rabbis by The Jewish Daily Forward. When she was in college her mother died of breast cancer, and Ruttenberg practiced Jewish mourning rituals, which she said allowed her to "make friends with Judaism, to be open to it"; in 2008 she published a memoir of her spiritual awakening titled "Surprised by God: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Religion" (Beacon Press). This memoir was a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. She was ordained in 2008 by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles. In 2016, she published Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration, Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting with Flatiron Books, which was named a National Jewish Book Award finalist and a PJ Library Parents' Choice selection.

Ruttenberg is the editor of the 2001 anthology "Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism," and the 2009 anthology "The Passionate Torah: Sex and Judaism." She is also a contributing editor to Lilith and Women in Judaism. She and Rabbi Elliot Dorff are co-editors of three books for the Jewish Publication Society’s Jewish Choices/Jewish Voices series: "Sex and Intimacy", "War and National Security", and "Social Justice".

She served as the Senior Jewish Educator at Tufts University Hillel, and subsequently Campus Rabbi at Northwestern Hillel and Director of Education for the campus dialogue program Ask Big Questions. She is currently serving as Rabbi-in-Residence.

Disobedience (novel)

Disobedience is the debut novel by British author Naomi Alderman. First published in the UK in March 2006, the novel has since been translated into ten languages. Disobedience follows a rabbi's lesbian daughter as she returns from New York to her Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, London. Although the subject matter was considered somewhat controversial, the novel was well received and earned Alderman the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers and the 2007 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.

Francesca Segal

Francesca Segal (born 1980) is a British author and journalist. She was brought up in a Jewish community in north-west London where she still lives today. She is best known for her novel, The Innocents, which won several book awards. She is the daughter of American author, Erich Segal.

George Rohr

George Rohr is an American businessman and philanthropist. He is the co-founder and President of NCH Capital Inc, a private equity firm.

Idra Novey

Idra Novey is an American novelist, poet, and translator. She translates from Portuguese, Spanish, and Persian and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Ilana Kurshan

Ilana Kurshan is an American-Israeli author who lives in Jerusalem. She is best known for her memoir of Talmud study amidst life as a single woman, a married woman, and a mother, If All the Seas Were Ink.

Jewish Book Council

The Jewish Book Council (Hebrew: הפרס הלאומי לספרים יהודיים) founded in 1944, is an organization encouraging and contributing to Jewish literature. The goal of the council, as stated on its website, is "to promote the reading, writing and publishing of quality English language books of Jewish content in North America". The council sponsors the National Jewish Book Awards, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, the JBC Network, JBC Book Clubs, the Visiting Scribe series, and Jewish Book Month. It publishes an annual literary journal called Paper Brigade.As of January 1, 1994 the Jewish Book Council broke off from the JCC Association and became an independent not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation chartered in the State of New York. Its primary support is from individuals, and from organizations and foundations in the Jewish community.

Joseph Skibell

Joseph Skibell (born October 18, 1959) is a novelist and essayist living in Atlanta, Georgia and Tesuque, New Mexico.

Skibell is the author of three novels, which use elements of history and fantasy, a collection of true stories, and a forthcoming mythopoetic study of the tales in the Talmud:

A Blessing on the Moon (1997)

The English Disease (2003)

A Curable Romantic (2010)

My Father's Guitar & Other Imaginary Things (2015)

Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud (2016).

Lucette Lagnado

Lucette Lagnado is an Egyptian-born American journalist and memoirist. She is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Matti Friedman

Matti Friedman (Hebrew: מתי פרידמן‎) is an Israeli Canadian journalist and author. He is an op-ed contributor for the New York Times.

Michael Lavigne

Michael Lavigne is the author of two books of fiction. His first novel, Not Me, published by Random House, was the recipient of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Choice Award for emerging Jewish writers, was an American Library Association Sophie Brodie Honor Book, a Book of the Month Club Alternate, and was translated into three languages. Lavigne's second novel, The Wanting, was published by Pantheon under the Schocken imprint early in 2013. He has a third novel that will be published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint in October 2016 under a pseudonym.


Molly Antopol

Molly Antopol is an American fiction and nonfiction writer. In 2013 the National Book Foundation named her a 5 under 35 honoree. In 2014 she was longlisted for the National Book Award.

Sana Krasikov

Sana Krasikov (born Ukraine) is a writer living in the United States. She grew up in the Republic of Georgia, as well as the United States. She graduated from Cornell University in 2001 where she lived at the Telluride House, and from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 2017 she was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists.

Shani Boianjiu

Shani Boianjiu (Hebrew: שני בוינג'ו‎; born 1987) is an Israeli author. Her debut novel, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, was released in 2012, and has been published in 23 countries. In 2011 the National Book Foundation named her a 5 under 35 honoree.

Tamar Yellin

Tamar Yellin is an author and teacher who lives in Yorkshire. Her first novel, The Genizah at the House of Shepher, won the 2007 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

The Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible is a 2012 book by Matti Friedman published by Algonquin.

The book tells the story of how the Aleppo codex, one of the world's oldest extant Bibles , was saved from destruction during the 1947 Aleppo pogrom, how it was smuggled into Israel, and what became of the missing pages. The Wall Street Journal calls Friedman's book "a detective thriller," noting that, "not everything about the codex is as it seems."

The Septembers of Shiraz

The Septembers of Shiraz (2007) is a debut novel by Iranian American author Dalia Sofer.It narrates the lives of a well-to-do Iranian family during and after the Iranian revolution which additionally overthrew the Shah and ushered in the Islamic republic. There is also a subplot involving a Hasidic family in New York.

The book's new cover is designed by Claire Vaccaro.

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