International Jewish literature collaboration

February 18, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the National Library of Israel (NLI) have announced a new collaboration that will promote their shared vision to further cultivate a vibrant international Jewish literary culture and community.

Sami Rohr

The Sami Rohr Prize is the premier award of its kind, recognizing the unique role of contemporary writers in the examination and transmission of the Jewish experience. The annual $100,000 prize is presented to an emerging writer, for fiction and nonfiction in alternating years, who demonstrates the potential for continued contribution to the world of Jewish literature. Since its inception in 2006, the Prize and the prestige that it evokes, has increased the status of Jewish writers in all spheres across the globe. Recent winners have included Benjamin Balint, Michael David Lukas and Ilana Kurshan. In 2021, Nicole Krauss became the first recipient of the Prize’s Inspiration Award for Fiction.

The annual award ceremony takes place alternately in Israel and the United States. With the opening of the new National Library of Israel campus in Jerusalem later this year, the Israeli prize ceremony and festivities will take place at the new NLI. The Sami Rohr Prize will be officially announced as the “Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature awarded in association with the National Library of Israel”. In previous years, the Prize was only awarded for original works in English. Now, for the first time ever, works that have been translated into English will also be eligible for consideration.

Home to the largest collection of textual Judaica ever amassed and mandated to serve as the national library for both the State of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community, the National Library of Israel offers singular assets for the preservation, promotion, and cultivation of the fruits of Jewish literary creativity. Those peerless collections, as well as NLI experts and connections to leading Israeli literary and intellectual figures, publishers and scholars, will be harnessed to further shared goals. The National Library of Israel and the Sami Rohr Prize, in collaboration with NLI USA, the National Library’s American affiliate, are developing a range of joint programming and collaborative initiatives. These include professional networking between fellows of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute and of the National Library of Israel writers-in-residence programs, the Pardes literary incubator and the intercultural Bustan poetry incubator.

George Rohr, son of Sami Rohr and Prize Co-Founder said: “We are extremely excited about the potential of this new association. The Sami Rohr Prize and the National Library of Israel share a vision of encouraging the growth of a prolific global Jewish literary culture and are committed to working together towards this common goal. Our collaboration will inform, encourage and enrich each other’s work, and we hope that it will help nurture ever-growing Jewish literary excellence and creativity.”

Shai Nitzan, the Rector, of the National Library of Israel added: “The passionate vision and activities of the Sami Rohr literary initiatives, paired with the unparalleled collections, mission, and setting of the National Library of Israel, present exceptional opportunities for the joint cultivation of a vibrant literary culture and community.”

In 2006, in honor of Sami Rohr’s 80th birthday, his children, George, Evelyn and Lillian, were determined to find a way to honor two of their father’s driving values – the importance of encouraging emerging talent and his lifelong love of Jewish learning and great books. The family’s passionate belief in the transformative power of literature led the way to the creation of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

A unique feature of the Prize is its mission to create and maintain a community for Jewish literature. Together with winners and finalists, judges and advisors become Fellows of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute.  Fellows maintain contact, share ideas and critique one another’s work through virtual and live networking events. Past winners and finalists have acknowledged the impact of the Prize on their careers and professional pursuits.

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