The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, a program of the Jewish Book Council, is pleased to announce that Michael David Lukas, author of The Last Watchman of Old Cairo (Spiegel & Grau, 2018), is the winner of the 2019 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. Impressive and beautifully written, the novel toggles between Cairo in the eleventh century, the nineteenth century, and the present day.
The largest literary prize of its kind – an award of $100,000 – the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors emerging writers who explore the Jewish experience in a specific work of fiction and non-fiction in alternating years. Dalia Rosenfeld, author of the collection of short stories The Worlds We Think We Know (Milkweed Editions, 2017), was named the Choice Award winner and will receive a prize of $18,000. The three remaining presentations of $5,000 each will be awarded to Sami Rohr Prize Fellows Rachel Kadish, Mark Sarvas and Margot Singer.
“The extraordinary work of each of these five emerging authors is a blessing to the Jewish world. We are delighted to be a part of this well-earned recognition” said George Rohr.
This year’s prize winner, Michael David Lukas, responded “What an honor to be chosen for this prize, and to have my name listed alongside such an amazing group of writers. I am deeply grateful to the administrators of the Sami Rohr Prize, the Jewish Book Council, and to the Rohr family.”
Choice award winner Dalia Rosenfeld added, “When Carolyn Hessel called to inform me that I had been chosen to receive the 2019 Sami Rohr Choice Award, I had just completed a scene of my novel in which one character responds to another’s reference to Walter Benjamin’s rejection of linking language to words with the quip, ‘He must have had a very wide range of facial expressions.’ During Carolyn’s congratulations, the expression on my face morphed from elated to earnest when I reflected on what this prize meant. There is nothing more gratifying for an emerging writer than to receive recognition for her work, and no body more supportive of Jewish writing than the Jewish Book Council. I am honored to be part of this community of writers, and grateful to the Rohr family for its generous support of cultivating Jewish fiction and the careers of writers who care about it.”
“The day I make the call to notify award recipients is the highlight of the year, as I know how much of a diﬀerence it will make for them. The Sami Rohr Prize recognizes these writers whose work demonstrates a fresh vision and evidence of future potential,” said Carolyn Starman Hessel, Director Emerita of the Jewish Book Council and now Director of its Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.
The 2019 Sami Rohr Prize Fellows are:
Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)
Mark Sarvas, author of Memento Park (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)
Margot Singer, author of Underground Fugue (Melville House, 2017)
The awards will be conferred at a private ceremony at the Moise Safra Center in New York City in May. Each author will participate in a “Conversation with the Authors” program moderated by Rabbi David Wolpe.
Any press inquiries regarding the prize should be forwarded to Stefanie Shulman: firstname.lastname@example.org and 212−786−5158.