Ilana Kurshan has won the 2018 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her book “If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir.”
The $100,000 prize, a program of the Jewish Book Council, was announced Tuesday. It recognizes emerging writers who articulate the Jewish experience as determined by a specific work, as well as the author’s potential to make significant ongoing contributions to Jewish literature.
As a finalist, Chanan Tigay of Oakland, received $5,000, as did two other finalists, Yair Mintzker and Shari Rabin.
Also, Sara Hirschhorn, author of “City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement,” was picked as the Choice Award winner, which carries an $18,000 prize.
Kurshan’s memoir details how she recovered from her divorce through the daily study of the Talmud. It also describes her experiences as a child and as a parent, and as an immigrant to Israel. Kurshan organizes the memoir in loosely chronological fashion, arranging the story by Talmud tractates, enabling her to draw connections between her personal story and Talmudic anecdotes.
“I am honored and humbled to have been selected for this prize, and I am so grateful for the extraordinary generosity of the Rohr family,” Kurshan said. “I hope that my book will inspire more people to study Jewish texts and to take part in the ever-evolving Jewish literary tradition.”
Hirschhorn in her work provides a deeply researched account of the 1960s generation, aiming to demonstrate that those who crossed the line from Israel’s 1967 borders were progressive idealists rather than right-wing extremists.
The author said she was “deeply humbled” to be recognized.
“I am sincerely grateful to the Sami Rohr Prize, the Rohr Family, and the Jewish Book Council for recognizing the leadership potential of Jewish literature and empowering early career scholars to take part in serious and critical conversations about Jewish ideas,” she said.
Tigay’s entry, “The Lost Book of Moses,” published in 2016, is an account of the quest to find the world’s oldest Bible, and to solve the riddle of the man accused of forging it.
The Rohr Prize, which has been awarded annually since 2007, considers works of fiction and nonfiction in alternating years. It was created by the late businessman and philanthropist Sami Rohr.
Last year’s winner was Idra Novey, author of the novel “Ways to Disappear.”
The Jewish Book Council, which traces its roots to 1925, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting Jewish interest literature.