Natan and the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil are thrilled to announce the Fall 2020 Natan Notable Book: Dr. Nan­cy Sinkoffs From Left to Right: Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz, The New York Intel­lec­tu­als, and the Pol­i­tics of Jew­ish His­to­ry (Wayne State Uni­ver­si­ty Press, March 2020).

Twice a year, Natan Notable Books rec­og­nizes recent­ly-pub­lished or soon-to-be-pub­lished non-fic­tion books that promise to cat­alyze con­ver­sa­tions aligned with the themes of Natan’s grant­mak­ing: rein­vent­ing Jew­ish life and com­mu­ni­ty for the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, shift­ing notions of indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, the his­to­ry and future of Israel, under­stand­ing and con­fronting con­tem­po­rary forms of anti­semitism, and the evolv­ing rela­tion­ship between Israel and world Jewry.

In mak­ing the Fall 2020 selec­tion, Natan is rec­og­niz­ing not only Pro­fes­sor Sinkoff’s work of wide-rang­ing, dili­gent his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship, which emanates from a deep under­stand­ing of a cen­tu­ry of Jew­ish his­to­ry in Amer­i­ca and East­ern Europe; but also the life, work and intel­lec­tu­al con­tri­bu­tions of an under-appre­ci­at­ed and near­ly-for­got­ten his­to­ri­an and pub­lic intel­lec­tu­al, Lucy S. Daw­id­ow­icz (19151990).

The par­al­lels between today’s Jew­ish and Amer­i­can con­ver­sa­tions and those that Daw­id­ow­icz nav­i­gat­ed in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s are uncan­ny. The list of sub­jects she tack­led in her schol­ar­ship, writ­ing and pub­lic speak­ing could be those of any coura­geous thinker today: strug­gling with ways of express­ing, retain­ing, and edu­cat­ing for Jew­ish par­tic­u­lar­ism in an Amer­i­ca that prizes uni­ver­sal­ism; the place of reli­gion in the Amer­i­can pub­lic square and the nego­ti­a­tion of church-state” rela­tions for par­tic­u­lar­ist com­mu­ni­ties; the com­plex rela­tion­ship between Black peo­ple and Jews in Amer­i­ca; the increas­ing­ly wide­spread accep­tance on the left of crit­i­cism of Zion­ism as racism” and of Israel as a geno­ci­dal” state; the uni­ver­sal­iza­tion of both anti­semitism and the Holo­caust as expres­sions of hate” and big­otry” rather than of spe­cif­ic, inten­tion­al ani­mus toward the Jews as a par­tic­u­lar group; and the chal­lenges of com­mem­o­rat­ing, under­stand­ing and deriv­ing lessons from the Holocaust.

The Natan Notable Books com­mit­tee is proud to shine a spot­light on Dawidowicz’s stead­fast­ness, men­tal acu­ity, prac­ti­cal intel­li­gence, and courage in express­ing forth­right, con­tro­ver­sial — yet high­ly edu­cat­ed and researched — views. As Sinkoff so bril­liant­ly doc­u­ments, Dawidowicz’s expe­ri­ences, schol­ar­ship, and polit­i­cal evo­lu­tion not only illu­mi­nate the crit­i­cal issues of 20th cen­tu­ry Jew­ish life, but they also offer guid­ance for nav­i­gat­ing our own com­pli­cat­ed times as Jews in Amer­i­ca in the 21st century.

Final­ly, in an era of pithy Tweets and hot-takes,” when evi­dence and data often seem in short sup­ply, Sinkoff offers us a mod­el for a life devot­ed to com­plex­i­ty, rig­or, and care­ful think­ing. In nam­ing Sinkoff’s work the Natan Notable Book for Fall 2020, Natan is proud to echo the sen­ti­ments that Daw­id­ow­icz her­self offered to a fel­low his­to­ri­an in 1975: I am very grate­ful to you, for you are among that small com­pa­ny of schol­ars that take ideas seriously.”

Pro­fes­sor Sinkoff will receive a $5,000 cash prize, as well as cus­tomized sup­port for pro­mot­ing the book and its ideas, draw­ing on Natan’s and Jew­ish Book Council’s exten­sive net­works through­out the Jew­ish phil­an­thropic and com­mu­nal worlds. Natan, Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, and oth­er part­ners will be host­ing a series of vir­tu­al pub­lic events in the com­ing months to deep­en and expand con­ver­sa­tions around the book and to engage with the ideas it rais­es, such as the diver­si­ty of polit­i­cal opin­ions in Jew­ish pub­lic life, evolv­ing con­cep­tions of Zion­ism and Israel on the Jew­ish and Amer­i­can left, and the chang­ing ways that the Holo­caust is under­stood and used in acad­e­mia and pub­lic discourse.

The dead­line for sub­mis­sion for Spring 2021 Natan Notable Books is Dec. 31, 2020, open to non-fic­tion titles pub­lished between July 1, 2020 — June 30, 2021. For more infor­ma­tion or to sub­mit a title, click here. Inquiries can be direct­ed to natannotable@​jewishbooks.​org.