The Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture, a pro­gram of the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, is pleased to announce that Michael David Lukas, author of The Last Watch­man of Old Cairo (Spiegel & Grau, 2018), is the win­ner of the 2019 Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture. Impres­sive and beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten, the nov­el tog­gles between Cairo in the eleventh cen­tu­ry, the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, and the present day.

The largest lit­er­ary prize of its kind – an award of $100,000 – the Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture hon­ors emerg­ing writ­ers who explore the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence in a spe­cif­ic work of fic­tion and non-fic­tion in alter­nat­ing years. Dalia Rosen­feld, author of the col­lec­tion of short sto­ries The Worlds We Think We Know (Milk­weed Edi­tions, 2017), was named the Choice Award win­ner and will receive a prize of $18,000. The three remain­ing pre­sen­ta­tions of $5,000 each will be award­ed to Sami Rohr Prize Fel­lows Rachel Kadish, Mark Sar­vas and Mar­got Singer. 

The extra­or­di­nary work of each of these five emerg­ing authors is a bless­ing to the Jew­ish world. We are delight­ed to be a part of this well-earned recog­ni­tion” said George Rohr.

This year’s prize win­ner, Michael David Lukas, respond­ed What an hon­or to be cho­sen for this prize, and to have my name list­ed along­side such an amaz­ing group of writ­ers. I am deeply grate­ful to the admin­is­tra­tors of the Sami Rohr Prize, the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, and to the Rohr family.”

Choice award win­ner Dalia Rosen­feld added, When Car­olyn Hes­sel called to inform me that I had been cho­sen to receive the 2019 Sami Rohr Choice Award, I had just com­plet­ed a scene of my nov­el in which one char­ac­ter responds to another’s ref­er­ence to Wal­ter Benjamin’s rejec­tion of link­ing lan­guage to words with the quip, He must have had a very wide range of facial expres­sions.’ Dur­ing Carolyn’s con­grat­u­la­tions, the expres­sion on my face mor­phed from elat­ed to earnest when I reflect­ed on what this prize meant. There is noth­ing more grat­i­fy­ing for an emerg­ing writer than to receive recog­ni­tion for her work, and no body more sup­port­ive of Jew­ish writ­ing than the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. I am hon­ored to be part of this com­mu­ni­ty of writ­ers, and grate­ful to the Rohr fam­i­ly for its gen­er­ous sup­port of cul­ti­vat­ing Jew­ish fic­tion and the careers of writ­ers who care about it.”

The day I make the call to noti­fy award recip­i­ents is the high­light of the year, as I know how much of a differ­ence it will make for them. The Sami Rohr Prize rec­og­nizes these writ­ers whose work demon­strates a fresh vision and evi­dence of future poten­tial,” said Car­olyn Star­man Hes­sel, Direc­tor Emeri­ta of the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and now Direc­tor of its Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Literature.

The 2019 Sami Rohr Prize Fel­lows are:

Rachel Kadish, author of The Weight of Ink (Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2017)

Mark Sar­vas, author of Memen­to Park (Far­rar, Straus and Giroux, 2017)

Mar­got Singer, author of Under­ground Fugue (Melville House, 2017)

The awards will be con­ferred at a pri­vate cer­e­mo­ny at the Moi­se Safra Cen­ter in New York City in May. Each author will par­tic­i­pate in a Con­ver­sa­tion with the Authors” pro­gram mod­er­at­ed by Rab­bi David Wolpe.

Any press inquiries regard­ing the prize should be for­ward­ed to Ste­fanie Shul­man: stefanie@​jewishbooks.​org and 2127865158.