Jewish Book Council Announces 2020 National Jewish Book Awards

2020 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award Winners

JBC Staff January 27, 2021


Book of the Year Award­ed to Rab­bi Jonathan Sacks for Moral­i­ty

Lau­ra Arnold Leib­man Wins Three Awards with The Art of the Jew­ish Family

Colum McCann Wins Fic­tion Award with Apeirogon

New York, Jan­u­ary 27, 2021—Jew­ish Book Coun­cil announced the win­ners of the 2020 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards, now in its sev­en­ti­eth year. The win­ners include Moral­i­ty: Restor­ing the Com­mon Good in Divid­ed Times by Rab­bi Jonathan Sacks (z”l) (Basic Books), which was named the Everett Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Book of the Year. Rab­bi Sacks’s (z”l) final book draws on his own expe­ri­ences, as well as texts by Jew­ish philoso­phers and schol­ars, to illus­trate the impor­tance of chang­ing our world by shift­ing our focus to the col­lec­tive good. This book will help ground Sacks’s lega­cy as one of the great Jew­ish thinkers of the twen­ty-first century.

Lau­ra Arnold Leib­man wins awards in three dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories with her impres­sive book The Art of the Jew­ish Fam­i­ly: A His­to­ry of Women in Ear­ly New York in Five Objects (Bard Grad­u­ate Cen­ter): the Ger­rard and Ella Berman Memo­r­i­al Award for His­to­ry, the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Stud­ies Cel­e­brate 350 Award, and the Women Stud­ies Bar­bara Dobkin Award.

The sec­ond Jane and Stu­art Weitz­man Fam­i­ly Award for Food Writ­ing and Cook­books goes to Now for Some­thing Sweet by the Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club, which rec­og­nizes the tra­di­tion of Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty cook­books and their role as social his­to­ry, with this par­tic­u­lar title high­light­ing sto­ries from the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty in Australia.

Top hon­ors for fic­tion have been giv­en to nov­els writ­ten by authors who are all receiv­ing their first Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards. The win­ners include Colum McCann’s Apeirogon (Ran­dom House), which was giv­en the JJ Green­berg Memo­r­i­al Award for Fic­tion; Max Gross’s The Lost Shtetl (Harper­Via), the recip­i­ent of the The Miller Fam­i­ly Book Club Award in Mem­o­ry of Helen Dunn Wein­stein and June Keit Miller; and Rachel Beanland’s Flo­rence Adler Swims For­ev­er (Simon & Schus­ter), the win­ner of the Gold­berg Prize for Debut Fiction.

The win­ner of the Holo­caust Award in Mem­o­ry of Ernest W. Michel is The Unan­swered Let­ter: One Holo­caust Fam­i­ly’s Des­per­ate Plea for Help by Faris Cas­sell (Reg­n­ery His­to­ry)Nau­tilus and Bone by Lisa Richter (Fron­tenac House) wins the Berru Poet­ry Award in Mem­o­ry of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash.

Arthur Green is award­ed his first Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Judaism for the World: Reflec­tions on God, Life, and Love (Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press) in the cat­e­go­ry of Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Life and Prac­tice in Mem­o­ry of Myra H. Kraft. In addi­tion to being select­ed as the Everett Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Book of the Year, Rab­bi Sacks’s Moral­i­ty: Restor­ing the Com­mon Good in Divid­ed Times also receives the Mod­ern Jew­ish Thought & Expe­ri­ence Dorot Foun­da­tion Award in Mem­o­ry of Joy Unger­lei­der May­er­son.

The Krauss Fam­i­ly Auto­bi­og­ra­phy & Mem­oir Award in Mem­o­ry of Simon & Shu­lamith (Sofi) Gold­berg is pre­sent­ed to Ari­ana Neu­mann for her mem­oir, When Time Stopped: A Mem­oir of My Father’s War and What Remains (Scrib­n­er). The third annu­al Biog­ra­phy Award in Mem­o­ry of Sara Beren­son Stone is giv­en to From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, the New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish His­to­ry (Wayne State Uni­ver­si­ty Press) by Nan­cy Sinkoff, which was also named a Natan Notable Book from Natan Fund and Jew­ish Book Coun­cil in fall 2020.

This is the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year Lesléa New­man has won a Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, this year for the Children’s Pic­ture Book cat­e­go­ry for her new book Wel­com­ing Eli­jah: A Passover Tale with a Tail illus­trat­ed by Susan Gal (Charles­bridge). Gavriel Sav­it receives the Young Adult Award for The Way Back (Ran­dom House Chil­dren’s Books), his sec­ond Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award. For the first time, Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is proud to present a Mid­dle Grade Lit­er­a­ture Award, with this year’s prize going to Anne Blankman for The Black­bird Girls (Viking Chil­dren’s Books, Penguin/​Random House).

This year, we are pleased to present the Men­tor­ship Award in Hon­or of Car­olyn Star­man Hes­sel to Deb­o­rah Har­ris. Har­ris is Israel’s pre­mier lit­er­ary agent. She has dis­cov­ered and nur­tured authors for decades, and her ros­ter ranges from Israel’s acknowl­edged lumi­nar­ies to up-and-com­ing writ­ers in every genre and for every age. Beyond her work with­in Israel, Har­ris is tire­less in her effort to put Israeli books in trans­la­tion into inter­na­tion­al mar­kets, many of which are dif­fi­cult to pen­e­trate. She has said that the ​“trans­la­tor is the gate­way to learn­ing about the world.”

A com­plete list of the 2020 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award win­ners and final­ists can be found below, and addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion is avail­able at www​.Jew​ish​Book​Coun​cil​.org.

JBC’s web­site fea­tures a data­base of cur­rent and past Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award win­ners and final­ists; judges’ remarks on the 2020 win­ners and final­ists will also be avail­able after the April 2021 vir­tu­al celebration.

The win­ners of the 2020 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards will be hon­ored on Mon­day, April 12, 2021 at 7:00PM ET at a vir­tu­al awards cer­e­mo­ny. Click here to buy tickets.

About Jew­ish Book Coun­cil: Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to edu­cat­ing, enrich­ing, and strength­en­ing the com­mu­ni­ty through Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. With over 250 tour­ing authors each year, 2,000 book clubs, 1,300 events, the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards, Natan Notable Books, the pop­u­lar lit­er­ary series Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Con­ver­sa­tion, a vibrant dig­i­tal pres­ence, and an annu­al print pub­li­ca­tion, Paper Brigade, JBC ensures that Jew­ish-inter­est authors have a plat­form, and that read­ers are able to find these books and have the tools to dis­cuss them with their community.

About the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards: The Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards were estab­lished by Jew­ish Book Coun­cil in 1950 in order to rec­og­nize out­stand­ing works of Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. It is the longest-run­ning awards pro­gram of its kind.

Jew­ish Book of the Year

Everett Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Award


Moral­i­ty: Restor­ing the Com­mon Good in Divid­ed Times

Rab­bi Jonathan Sacks

Basic Books

Men­tor­ship Award in Hon­or of Car­olyn Star­man Hessel

Deb­o­rah Harris

Deb­o­rah moved to Jerusalem from the Unit­ed States in 1979, after work­ing at Viking Pen­guin in New York. She cofound­ed The Domi­no Press and The Harris/​Elon Agency, which in 1991 became The Deb­o­rah Har­ris Agency. She has been a mem­ber of the Board of Direc­tors of the Jerusalem Inter­na­tion­al Book Fair for twen­ty-five years, as well as a found­ing board mem­ber of The Jerusalem Film and Tele­vi­sion Fund. In 2011, she received the Friend of Jerusalem Award. In 2018, Deb­o­rah was named Agent of the Year by the Lon­don Book Fair and The Inter­na­tion­al Pub­lish­ers Association.

Amer­i­can Jew­ish Studies

Cel­e­brate 350 Award


The Art of the Jew­ish Fam­i­ly: A His­to­ry of Women in Ear­ly New York in Five Objects

Lau­ra Arnold Leibman

Bard Grad­u­ate Center


Hid­den Heretics: Jew­ish Doubt in the Dig­i­tal Age

Ayala Fad­er

Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Well Worth Sav­ing: Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ties’ Life-and-Death Deci­sions on Refugees from Nazi Europe

Lau­rel Leff

Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immi­grant House­wives and the Riots That Shook New York City

Scott D. Seligman

Potomac Books

Auto­bi­og­ra­phy and Memoir

The Krauss Fam­i­ly Award in Mem­o­ry of Simon & Shu­lamith (Sofi) Goldberg


When Time Stopped: A Mem­oir of My Father’s War and What Remains

Ari­ana Neumann

Scrib­n­er (Simon & Schuster)


Friend­ly Fire: How Israel Became Its Own Worst Ene­my and the Hope for Its Future Ami Ayalon and Antho­ny David

Steer­forth Press

I Want You to Know We’re Still Here

Esther Safran Foer

Crown Pub­lish­ing Group

Here We Are: My Friend­ship with Philip Roth

Ben­jamin Taylor

Pen­guin Books


In Mem­o­ry of Sara Beren­son Stone


From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, the New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish History

Nan­cy Sinkoff

Wayne State Uni­ver­si­ty Press


Andrea Dworkin: The Fem­i­nist as Revolutionary

Mar­tin Duberman

The New Press

Rab­bi Leo Baeck: Liv­ing a Reli­gious Imper­a­tive in Trou­bled Times

Michael A. Meyer

Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia Press

The Sun and Her Stars: Sal­ka Vier­tel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Gold­en Age of Hol­ly­wood Don­na Rifkind

Oth­er Press

Book Club

The Miller Fam­i­ly Award in Mem­o­ry of Helen Dunn Wein­stein and June Keit Miller


The Lost Shtetl: A Novel

Max Gross



Han­nah’s War: A Novel

Jan Elias­berg

Lit­tle, Brown (Back Bay)

The Book of Lost Names

Kristin Harmel

Gallery Books

The Yel­low Bird Sings: A Novel

Jen­nifer Rosner

Flat­iron Books

The Tun­nel

A. B. Yehoshua

Houghton Mif­flin Harcourt

Children’s Pic­ture Book


Wel­com­ing Eli­jah: A Passover Tale with a Tail

Lesléa New­man, illus­trat­ed by Susan Gal



Judah Touro Did­n’t Want to Be Famous

Audrey Ades, illus­trat­ed by Vivien Mildenberger

Kar-Ben Pub­lish­ing

No Steps Behind: Beate Siro­ta Gor­don’s Bat­tle for Wom­en’s Rights in Japan

Jeff Gottes­feld, illus­trat­ed by Shiel­la Witanto

Cre­ston Books

Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Life and Practice

Myra H. Kraft Memo­r­i­al Award


Judaism for the World: Reflec­tions on God, Life, and Love

Arthur Green

Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press


The Mus­sar Torah Com­men­tary: A Spir­i­tu­al Path to Liv­ing a Mean­ing­ful and Eth­i­cal Life Rab­bi Bar­ry H. Block

CCAR Press

Pre­pare My Prayer: Recipes to Awak­en the Soul

Rab­bi Dov Singer

Koren Pub­lish­ers Jerusalem

Debut Fic­tion

Gold­berg Prize


Flo­rence Adler Swims For­ev­er: A Novel

Rachel Bean­land

Simon & Schuster


The Orchard: A Novel

David Hopen


The Yel­low Bird Sings: A Novel

Jen­nifer Rosner

Flat­iron Books

Edu­ca­tion and Jew­ish Identity

In Mem­o­ry of Dorothy Kripke


Hebrew Infu­sion: Lan­guage and Com­mu­ni­ty at Amer­i­can Jew­ish Sum­mer Camps

Sarah Bunin Benor, Jonathan Kras­ner, and Sharon Avni

Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty Press


The Unstop­pable Start­up: Mas­ter­ing Israel’s Secret Rules of Chutzpah

Uri Adoni

Harper­Collins Leadership


JJ Green­berg Memo­r­i­al Award


Apeirogon: A Novel

Colum McCann

Ran­dom House


House on End­less Waters

Emu­na Elon

Atria Books

The Last Inter­view: A Novel

Eshkol Nevo, trans­lat­ed by Son­dra Silverston

Oth­er Press

Evening: A Novel

Nes­sa Rapoport

Coun­ter­point Press

The Mem­o­ry Monster

Yishai Sarid, trans­lat­ed by Yardenne Greenspan

Rest­less Books

Food Writ­ing & Cookbooks

Jane and Stu­art Weitz­man Fam­i­ly Award


Now for Some­thing Sweet

Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club



The Dairy Restaurant

Ben Katchor

Schock­en Books


Ger­rard and Ella Berman Memo­r­i­al Award


The Art of the Jew­ish Fam­i­ly: A His­to­ry of Women in Ear­ly New York in Five Objects 

Lau­ra Arnold Leibman

Bard Grad­u­ate Center


Stepchil­dren of the Shtetl: The Des­ti­tute, Dis­abled, and Mad of Jew­ish East­ern Europe, 1800 – 1939

Natan M. Meir

Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Res­cue the Sur­viv­ing Souls: The Great Jew­ish Refugee Cri­sis of the Sev­en­teenth Century

Adam Teller

Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press


In Mem­o­ry of Ernest W. Michel


The Unan­swered Let­ter: One Holo­caust Fam­i­ly’s Des­per­ate Plea for Help

Faris Cas­sell

Reg­n­ery History

Mid­dle Grade Literature


The Black­bird Girls

Anne Blankman

Viking Chil­dren’s Books, Penguin/​Random House


No Vacan­cy

Tzi­po­rah Cohen

Ground­wood Books

Anya and the Nightingale

Sofiya Paster­nack

Houghton Mif­flin Harcourt

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust 

Uri Shule­vitz

Far­rar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers/​Macmillan

Mod­ern Jew­ish Thought and Experience

Dorot Foun­da­tion Award in Mem­o­ry of Joy Unger­lei­der Mayerson


Moral­i­ty: Restor­ing the Com­mon Good in Divid­ed Times

Rab­bi Jonathan Sacks

Basic Books


Esther: Pow­er, Fate, and Fragili­ty in Exile

Dr. Eri­ca Brown

Koren Pub­lish­ers Jerusalem

The New Jew­ish Canon: Ideas & Debates 1980 – 2015

Yehu­da Kurtzer and Claire E. Sufrin

Aca­d­e­m­ic Stud­ies Press


Berru Award in Mem­o­ry of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash


Nau­tilus and Bone

Lisa Richter

Fron­tenac House


How to Love the World

Elvi­ra Basevich

Pank Books

Asy­lum: A per­son­al, his­tor­i­cal, nat­ur­al inquiry in 103 lyric sections

Jill Bialosky

Alfred A. Knopf


Adam Kam­mer­ling

Out-Spo­ken Press


Nahum M. Sar­na Memo­r­i­al Award


Time and Dif­fer­ence in Rab­binic Judaism

Sar­it Kat­tan Gribetz

Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press


Nah­manides: Law and Mysticism

Moshe Hal­ber­tal, trans­lat­ed by Daniel Tabak

Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Demons, Angels, and Writ­ing in Ancient Judaism

Annette Yoshiko Reed

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Sephardic Cul­ture

Mimi S. Frank Award in Mem­o­ry of Becky Levy


Forg­ing Ties, Forg­ing Pass­ports: Migra­tion and the Mod­ern Sephar­di Diaspora

Devi Mays

Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press


The Jews of Ottoman Izmir: A Mod­ern History

Dina Danon

Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press

The Con­vert

Ste­fan Hert­mans, trans­lat­ed by David McKay

Alfred A. Knopf

The Con­ver­so’s Return: Con­ver­sion and Sephar­di His­to­ry in Con­tem­po­rary Lit­er­a­ture and Culture

Dalia Kandiy­oti

Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Women Stud­ies

Bar­bara Dobkin Award


The Art of the Jew­ish Fam­i­ly: A His­to­ry of Women in Ear­ly New York in Five Objects 

Lau­ra Arnold Leibman

Bard Grad­u­ate Center


Her Sto­ry, My Sto­ry? Writ­ing About Women and the Holocaust

Edit­ed by Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz and Dalia Ofer

Peter Lang Publishers

The Rebel­lion of the Daugh­ters: Jew­ish Women Run­aways in Hab­s­burg Galicia 

Rachel Manekin

Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Writ­ing Based on Archival Material

The JDC-Her­bert Katz­ki Award


Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Anti­se­mit­ic Myth

Mag­da Teter

Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press


The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue

Mari­na Rustow

Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Leav­ing Zion: Jew­ish Emi­gra­tion from Pales­tine and Israel after World War II

Ori Yehu­dai

Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty Press

Young Adult Literature


The Way Back

Gavriel Sav­it

Ran­dom House Chil­dren’s Books


What I Like About You

Marisa Kan­ter

Simon & Schus­ter Chil­dren’s Publishing

Today Tonight Tomorrow

Rachel Lynn Solomon

Simon & Schus­ter Chil­dren’s Publishing

About Barbara Krasner

History writer and award-winning author Barbara Krasner writes Jewish-themed poetry, articles, nonfiction books, and novels for children and adults.
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