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Meet National Jewish Book Award Winner Rebecca Erbelding

Monday, February 25, 2019| Permalink

In advance of the 68th Annual National Jewish Book Awards ceremony on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tickets for here), Jewish Book Council is sharing short interviews with the winners in each category.

Rebecca Erbelding’s Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe is the winner of the 2018 JDC-Katzki Award for Writing Based on Archival Material. Rescue Board is the first systematic, historical treatment of the War Refugee Board, the only official American response to the Nazi massacre of the Jews. Meticulously researched and utilizing almost exclusively archival resources, Erbelding has written a dramatic, poignant, and highly readable book. The panel judges write: “The book makes a critical and invaluable contribution to the historiography of World War II and the Holocaust, while further complicating our understanding of American responses to the murder of Europe’s Jews.”

Which three Jewish writers, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with?

Yehuda Amichai, Maurice Sendak, and Emma Goldman. I'd just love to listen to their stories.

What's your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

Very few people have read Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny. You can't call it a "favorite" but it haunts me.

Which Jewish writers working today do you admire most?

Particularly now, I'm grateful to journalists in general—and those I admire most almost all happen to be Jewish.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Esme Weijun Wang's The Collective Schizophrenias and am about to begin the late David Ceserani's final masterpiece, Final Solution: The Fate of the Jews 1933-1949.

What are your greatest creative influences (other than books)?

Baking and architecture (and Netflix shows about baking and architecture). Just like writing a book, baking and building are about taking pieces and putting them together in the right order to make something great.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope readers will be inspired by the story of the War Refugee Board, a group of dedicated Americans who altered U.S. policy towards European Jewish refugees and saved tens of thousands of lives during the Holocaust. It is a reminder that debates about refugees are not new—and that if we keep raising our voices, change is possible.

Image credit: Miriam Lomaskin

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