2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature

Francesca Segal Wins
$100,000 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
For Debut Novel The Innocents
Award Ceremony to Be Held May 30 in New York City



April 9 (New York, NY) - The Jewish Book Council today named Francesca Segal the winner of the $100,000 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature in fiction for her debut novel The Innocents (Voice/Hyperion). The Jewish Book Council is also pleased to announce Ben Lerner, author of Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House Press), the 2013 runner-up and recipient of the $25,000 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature Choice Award. Established in 2006, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature is the largest monetary award of its kind given to writers of exceptional talent and promise in their career.

Hailed as a transformative award for emerging writers, the annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors the contribution of contemporary writers in the exploration and transmission of Jewish values and is intended to encourage and promote outstanding writing of Jewish interest in the future. Fiction and non-fiction books are considered in alternate years.

Austin Ratner, the winner of the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for fiction, believes that the prize provided him with critical validation and support at a fledgling stage of his career. "It raised the public awareness of my work enormously and helped bring in a series of new contracts, but it also offered me membership in a warm and intellectually vibrant community of writers. In that way it was a tonic to the isolation of the writing life. The Prize came to me at a time when I could not have needed it more. It made a vital difference professionally and personally and I will be forever grateful for it," he writes.

Segal's book is set in the modern-day upper-crust Jewish community of North West London, a community still under the shadow of the Holocaust and where the bonds of family and tradition run deep. The Innocents is inspired by the stifling fin-de-siècle New York society immortalized in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Slyly humorous and deeply satisfying, The Innocents illuminates the conflict between responsibility and passion, security and exhilaration, tradition and independence.

Segal's attention to the details of Jewish traditions will deeply resonate with Jews of all communities. "There was no life event—marriage, birth, parenthood, or loss—through which one need ever walk alone. Twenty-five people were always poised to help. The other side of interference was support," she writes. From the preparation of Shabbat dinners to the ritual of tashlich to the recitation of Kaddish, The Innocents beautifully captures why the practices of the Jewish people are so meaningfully and deeply felt.

The finalists for the sixth annual Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature are:

Shani Boianjiu - The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth/Crown).

Stuart Nadler - The Book of Life (Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books).

Asaf Schurr - Motti, translated by Todd Hasak Lowy (Dalkey Archive Press).

By virtue of being named a Rohr Prize finalist, these writers are welcomed into the fellowship of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, the foremost Jewish literary community of its kind. The winners, finalists, judges and advisory board members of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature meet biennially at the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, a forum devoted to the continuity of Jewish literature. The Institute, run under the auspices of the Jewish Book Council, creates an environment in which established and emerging writers can meet and exchange ideas and perspectives. Within a short period of time, the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute has become an important meeting place for the leading lights of the American Jewish literary world.

Sami Rohr, a noted philanthropist and businessman, who died in July of 2012 at age 86, viewed his philanthropy as an investment in the Jewish people and an investment in the rich culture of Jewish literature and scholarship. In 2006, in celebration of Sami Rohr's 80th birthday, his children and grandchildren inaugurated the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature to honor his lifelong love of Jewish writing.