From the cover of "Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art"
From the cover of "Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art"

Three local authors honored by 2017 National Jewish Book Awards

Three Bay Area authors have been recognized in the 2017 National Jewish Book Awards, announced Jan. 10.

Winner in the visual arts category was Rabbi Irvin Ungar for Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art (published by D Giles Limited, London, in association with Historicana and the Arthur Szyk Society).

Ungar, of Burlingame, is the leading dealer of and expert on the work of the Polish-born Jewish illustrator Arthur Szyk, whose works focused on subjects ranging from Nazism to the birth of the State of Israel. Last April, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life acquired 450 Szyk works from Ungar, funded by a $10.1 million gift from Taube Philanthropies.

Ungar has published four previous books on the artist, whom he described in an interview with J. as “…an artist who believed deeply in his own people, not only during World War II and the Holocaust, as a way of standing up to Nazism and fascism, but he also used his art to raise the prestige of the Jew in the world.”

Elizabeth Rosner’s Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory (Counterpoint Press) and Estelle Frankel’s The Wisdom of Not Knowing: Discovering a Life of Wonder by Embracing Uncertainty (Shambhala Publications, Inc.) were both finalists in the “contemporary Jewish life and practice” category.

Rosner, a Berkeley poet and novelist, is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She has previously written three novels, “Electric City,” “Blue Nude” and “The Speed of Light,” that explored the psychological legacy of the Holocaust in survivors and their children. In “Survivor Café” she expands the genre of memoir into a broader study of the impact of trauma on succeeding generations.

Frankel, a Berkeley psychotherapist and a longtime teacher at Berkeley synagogue Chochmat HaLev, has said that she wrote her book to explore her own fears of the unknown, which are possibly rooted in her parents’ Holocaust experiences. But although she intended to write a spiritual guide, she found that its publication less than a month after the inauguration of Donald Trump as president proved relevant to the political fears of her Berkeley client base. Her book is full of tools for managing anxiety.

The National Jewish Book Awards, bestowed by the Jewish Book Council since 1950, is the longest-running awards program of its kind.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor.