Image cred­it: Tamir Platzmann

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.

Leon Wiener Dow’s The Going: A Med­i­ta­tion on Jew­ish Law is the win­ner of the 2018 Myra H. Kraft Memo­r­i­al Award for Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Life and Prac­tice. Bring­ing togeth­er qual­i­ties of mem­oir, mod­ern Jew­ish thought, and halachic lit­er­a­ture, The Going rep­re­sents an inno­v­a­tive force in Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. Dow presents a vision of halacha (Jew­ish law) that can speak to Jews regard­less of where they place them­selves on the denom­i­na­tion­al spec­trum. He explores halacha with an eye that bal­ances rev­er­ence for tra­di­tion with a pas­sion for what its future man­i­fes­ta­tions could be like. Judges say: To read this book is to feel encour­aged to embrace the chal­lenge of locat­ing traces of the divine in the world. [Dow’s’] pow­er­ful writ­ing brings to the fore a fresh voice that is bound to influ­ence the con­ver­sa­tion of Jews around the world.”

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

Franz Rosen­zweig, Rab­bi Abra­ham Isaac HaCo­hen Kook, and Rab­bi Nach­man of Breslov. I would savor the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get a sense of the extent to which they live their writing.

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

Jean Amery, At the Mind’s Lim­its. Every time I read one of Amery’s essays I feel as if I have received a blow to the tor­so. I also have to include my broth­er Mark’s unbe­liev­able book of poet­ry, Plain Talk Ris­ing.

Which Jew­ish writ­ers work­ing today do you admire most?

I’m priv­i­leged to be able to go with my friends and col­leagues — in Eng­lish, Ilana Kur­shan and in Hebrew, Dov Elbaum.

What are you read­ing right now?

I’m final­ly pay­ing an out­stand­ing debt to one of Daniel Boyarin’s ear­ly works, Car­nal Israel. My fun” read­ing is David Fos­ter Wallace’s A Sup­pos­ed­ly Fun Thing I’ll Nev­er Do Again.

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

With­out a doubt, my great­est cre­ative influ­ence is cer­tain peo­ple — friends, rel­a­tives, and teach­ers who are mod­els of human­i­ty for me. But the lov­ing caress of nature and soul­ful music wield a pro­found cre­ative influ­ence on me as well.

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

I hope that upon fin­ish­ing the book, read­ers will sense that the halacha offers a hori­zon of thought­ful, spir­i­tu­al prac­tice — one that nur­tures and ful­fills, even while it demands.