Image cred­it: Miri­am Lomaskin

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.