National Jewish Book Awards Cite Philly Authors


Several of the authors recently recognized by the National Jewish Book Awards have connections to the Philly area.


The recent announcement of the 2014 National Jewish Book Awards by the Jewish Book Council reveals a number of Philadelphia-area ties.
Kathryn Hellerstein, an associate professor of Germanic languages at the University of Pennsylvania, was named winner of the Barbara Dobkin Award for “Women’s Studies” for her A Question of Tradition: Women Poets in Yiddish, 1586-1987.
Hellerstein was delightfully “honored and surprised,” she said, to be named winner for a book she has been devoted to for the past 25 years. As for the sales effect the imprimatur will have, “we can only hope,” she added.
Most importantly, the award gives “a stamp of approval” to a tome of topics which encompass so much of her career interests: “I really care about Yiddish literature, Jewish women writers, especially about women who wrote in Yiddish,” said Hellerstein, a former director of the Jewish Studies Program at Penn.
Named as finalists in the same category were Rabbis Sue Levi Elwell and Nancy Fuchs Kreimer for their Chapters of the Heart: Jewish Women Sharing the Torah of Our Lives. Elwell, a contributing writer for the Jewish Exponent’s Torah commentary, is spiritual director, scholar-in-residence, at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. Fuchs Kreimer is chair of multicultural studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote.
Another finalist in the same  “Women’s Studies” category was  Elisheva Baumgarten, whose Practicing Poetry in Medieval Ashkenazi Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observation, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia-based Jewish Publication Society produced the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award winner in the “Scholarship” category: Outside the Bible, 3-Volume Set: American Jewish Writing Related to Scripture, edited by Louis H. Feldman, James L. Kugel and Lawrence H. Schiffman.
Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz, director of JPS, which joined forces with the University of Nebraska Press three years ago,  said he is “gratified that our commitment to the highest standards of accessible Jewish scholarship is once again recognized with this highest of awards. We are especially grateful to the Philadelphia area JPS staff, leadership and donors who were crucial in this decade-long endeavor.”
Rounding out the Philadelphia connections, Rabbi David Wolpe, who graduated from Akiba Hebrew Academy in 1976, was named a finalist for his entry in the “Biography, Autobiography, Memoir” category, David: The Divided Heart. Wolpe, senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, is the son of the late Elaine and Rabbi Gerald Wolpe, who was a nationally prominent longtime religious leader of Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley.
The awards will be presented on March 11 at the Center for Jewish History in New York. 


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