Finalists vie for 4th annual Koret Jewish Book Awards

Edelman's book competes in the fiction category with "The Complete Works of Isaac Babel," edited by Nathalie Babel and translated by Peter Constantine, and "Returning Lost Loves: A Novel by Yehoshua Kenaz," translated by Dalya Bilu.

The awards were established in 1998 by the San Francisco-based Koret Foundation in cooperation with the National Foundation for Jewish Culture in New York to highlight the best contemporary Jewish writing in English, said Stanford University Professor Steven J. Zipperstein, chair of the awards contest

"Our goal is to help readers better negotiate bookstore shelves, to distinguish the best, the most original work from the rather more conventional,'' said Zipperstein, co-director of the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford. "The awards are meant to provide a road map for the curious reader — a map designed by a very diverse, often fractious, but talented group of literary judges who lend their expertise to the [awards]."

Winners in four categories will receive a $10,000 prize at a New York City awards reception in April.

Books were nominated by their publishers, and finalists were selected by four panels of distinguished scholars and writers chaired by Alvin H. Rosenfeld (fiction), Frances Malino (biography, autobiography and literary studies), Todd Endelman (history) and Ellen Umansky (philosophy and thought).

Finalists in the biography, autobiography and literary studies category are: "Not One of Them in Place: Modern Poetry and Jewish American Identity" by Norman Finkelstein; "How I Came Into My Inheritance and Other True Stories" by Dorothy Gallagher; "Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered" by Ruth Kluger; and "A Past in Hiding: Memory and Survival in Nazi Germany" by Mark Roseman.

History finalists are: "Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500-1750" by Elisheva Carlebach; "Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia" by ChaeRan Y. Freeze; and "New York Jews and The Decline of Urban Ethnicity, 1950-1970" by Eli Lederhendler.

In the fourth category, philosophy and thought, the finalists are: "When A Jew Dies: The Ethnography of a Bereaved Son" by Samuel C. Heilman; "Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity" by Ken Koltun-Fromm; "Spinoza and the Irrelevance of Biblical Authority" by J. Samuel Preus; and "On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig" by Eric L. Santner.

Last year's winners of the Koret book awards were:

Fiction: Philip Roth, "The Human Stain."

History: David B. Ruderman, "Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry's Construction of Modern Jewish Thought."

Biography, Autobiography and Literary Studies: Cynthia Ozick, "Quarrel & Quandary: Essays."

Philosophy and Thought: Kenneth Seeskin, "Searching for a Distant God: The Legacy of Maimonides."

For additional information on the contest, consult the Web site bookawards/index.html