Alter, smiling, seated in a sunlit office full of books
Robert Alter in the home office where he does most of his translating. (Photo/David A.M. Wilensky)

Jewish Book Council awards recognize Cal prof Robert Alter, book on history of Jewish women

The Jewish Book Council announced the winners of the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards on Wednesday.

UC Berkeley professor Robert Alter received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades-long project “The Hebrew Bible: A Trans­la­tion with Com­men­tary.” Alter’s once-in-a-generation translation of the entire Hebrew Bible into English began in 1997 with the publication of his translation of Genesis. In 2018, with the last few books complete, a three-volume box set of the complete translation was released.

“I’d been reading the Bible in Hebrew since my teens, and the beauty of the Hebrew spoke to me in all sorts of ways,” he told J. in 2018. “I wanted to see if I could get more of that into English than English readers have been able to see so far.”

America’s Jew­ish Women: A His­to­ry from Colo­nial Times to Today,” by Pamela S. Nadel, was recognized with the Jewish Book of the Year Award, the council’s top award. Her book breaks down the path of American Jewish women from colonial ​“Jew­ess­es” to 19th-century domestic mothers, turn-of-the-cen­tu­ry immigrants, mid-20th-cen­tu­ry semi-assim­i­la­tion­ists and today.

RELATED: Robert Alter’s epic, literary one-man Bible

Two books on anti-Semitism received top honors. Deb­o­rah Lip­stadt’s “Anti-Semitism: Here and Now” was recognized with the Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion and Iden­ti­ty Award in Mem­o­ry of Dorothy Krip­ke, and Bari Weiss’ “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” was named in the Contemporary Jew­ish Life and Prac­tice in Mem­o­ry of Myra H. Kraft category.

Jew­ish Cui­sine in Hun­gary: A Cul­tur­al His­to­ry with 83 Authen­tic Recipes,” by András Koern­er, which the council calls “a com­pre­hen­sive and unique con­tri­bu­tion to the field,” received top honors in a new category, the Jane and Stu­art Weitz­man Fam­i­ly Award for Food Writ­ing and Cook­books.

Winners in the fiction categories include “Fly Already: Sto­ries,” by Etgar Keret, for the JJ Green­berg Memo­r­i­al Award for Fic­tion; “The World That We Knew,” by Alice Hoffman, for the Miller Fam­i­ly Book Club Award in Mem­o­ry of Helen Dunn Wein­stein and June Keit Miller; and “Naamah,” by Sarah Blake, for the Gold­berg Prize for Debut Fiction.

Other categories included biography, Holocaust literature and children’s literature. See the complete list of award recipients here.

The win­ners will be hon­ored March 17 at a din­ner and cer­e­mo­ny in New York City host­ed by Jef­frey Yoskowitz, author of “The Gefilte Man­i­festo.”


Content distributed by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service.