Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harold U. Ribalow Prize Awarded

Author of Pictures at an Exhibition  receives  annual literary award
NEW YORKHadassah Magazine  presents  the 2010 Harold U. Ribalow Prize at a 3:30 p.m. ceremony on January 31 in New York. Every year, Hadassah Magazine honors an author who has created an outstanding work of fiction on a Jewish theme.
This year’s winner is Sara Houghteling, author of Pictures at an Exhibition, which was published in 2009. Set in Paris in the 1930s and 1940s, Houghteling’s first book tells the story of Max Berenzon, the son of a French Jewish art dealer, as he searches the city for his father’s art, stolen by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Houghteling was chosen by an independent panel of judges that included Elie Wiesel, N. Scott Momaday and Peter Manseau, the 2009 Ribalow Prize winner. A nominating committee consisting of three members of the Ribalow family and three representatives from Hadassah Magazine identified the initial list of nominees, which was then sent to the judges.
“It’s a humbling honor to receive this award and to know that Dr. Wiesel read my novel – his writings have been a moving, powerful presence throughout my life,”Houghteling said. “One of the wonderful aspects of receiving this award is that my parents and I have heard from our family and friends all over, some long-lost and far-flung. It gives me a renewed sense of my connection to other members of the Jewish community.”
Among the writers who have received the prestigious Harold U. Ribalow Prize since its inception in 1983 are Aharon Appelfeld, Louis Begley, Joseph Epstein, Jonathan Safran Foer, Todd Gitlin, Dara Horn, Anne Michaels, Francine Prose and Tamar Yellin.
About the Author: Sara Houghteling, originally of Brookline, Mass., graduated from Harvard College, then received a master’s in fine arts from the University of Michigan. She spent a year in Paris as a Fulbright scholar, and recently from a fellowship at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. Pictures at an Exhibition was a National Jewish Book Award finalist and was named a New York Timeseditors’ pick. She is the recipient of the Moment Magazine Emerging Writer Award, a Wallant Award and first prize in the Avery and Jules Hopwood Awards, as well as a John Steinbeck Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicleand the New York Times. She currently lives in Berkeley with her husband, fellow author Daniel Mason.
About the Award: Hadassah Magazine’s annual literary award for outstanding Jewish fiction was established in 1983 by the friends and family of the late Harold U. Ribalow, an editor and writer known for his passion for Jewish literature and his interest in promoting the work of many now-famous Jewish writers. Ribalow was inducted posthumously into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 for his contributions to society through Jewish sports writing.
Founded in 1912, Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, is the largest women’s, largest Zionist, and largest Jewish membership organization in the United States. In Israel, it supports medical care and research, education and youth programs, and reforestation and parks projects. In the United States, Hadassah promotes health education, social action and advocacy, volunteerism, Jewish education and research, Young Judaea and connections with Israel. For more information, visit

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jerusalem Maiden

Jerusalem Maiden
By Talia Carner

Jerusalem Maiden, is about a young ultra orthodox Jewish girl, Esther Kaminsky. She is living in Jerusalem before the fall of the Ottoman Empire(this is today known as Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel, etc). Young Ultra orthodox girls, are known as Jerusalem Maidens. They become of age at the age of 12 in the Jewish religion. Once they hit this age it is their duty to marry young and have many male children to hasten the arrival of the messiah.

Esther, the main character of the story has a artistic hand. Her art teacher notices her passion. She encourages her to pursue her art. But, the Jewish religion,
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"
She continues to draw without any one's knowledge. Her cousin Asher has a plan. Asher also wants to follow his art, music. He has a plan, marry me and we both can pursue our dreams and passions.

But, then tragedy strikes her mother, she dies. She believes it is her fault. G-d has punished her, because her mother dies. She puts down her art. Her father has arranged a marriage to a wealthy gentleman. At the wedding, just like Jacob, in the bible she thinks she is marrying Asher. Until her veil is lifted.

She becomes a dutiful married ultra orthodox woman, with many children and household chores. But, it is not as bad as the other women because she has married a wealthy man. Most women in Jerusalem are poor, and suffer the hands of the Ottoman empire, and their brutal husbands. . She does not understand the traditions and rituals of her husband. Because he doesn't follow them he isn't as strict with the traditions and rituals of the Jewish traditions.

Then opportunity knocks, she gets the chance to go on a trip to France. Then everything changes. Does she pursue her dream and passion of art? Should she forget about her responsibilities at home in Jerusalem? Live as how she was raised a Orthodox woman? or as a gentile?

My Thoughts: I did enjoy reading this book. I think this is a good Jewish book read. I will most likely recommend this to our book club. It is a great jumping off point to talk about women(especially Orthodox vs. other jewish women).

It did bother me when something tragic or something that did go the way she planned. This was g-d's plan. The synagouge, I attended since I was a young girl, always taught us you make your choices don't blame it on g-d. You can always do something about it.

I am a Jewish feminist. I don't believe religion and men should dictate and tell you what to do. Me, myself I don't think g-d wants to restict women. I think he wants women to express themselves and do what you believe in, as long as it does not hurt anyone else. I think the entire message of the book, BE TRUE TO YOURSELF!!! thats it...

When I was reading this book, I knew where this book was leading. Talia Carner, believes in women's rights in other countries. She also has worked for women's magazines.

The novel, reminded me of a book, Loving Frank. In both books the main character's left their children for their passion. In loving Frank, it was a man. In Jerusalem Maiden, it was her art.

But, that was the point of the story. I am sure there are many people that do pick up, at times in their life and are reckless and not take responsibility.

I enjoyed reading what life was like in pre-Israel, the religion, the culture. I was aware of traditions and rituals of the Jewish religion in the middle east compared to the United States is different.

I found it interesting to read about life in Paris for the art community in the early 20th century. This is very interesting to me because modern art was just starting to take off. I enjoyed reading about the incident of Picasso.

Also around this time in history, literary authors were coming from the U.S. to France, such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other famous authors.

But, most of all I enjoyed reading about the character's, and the different people that lived in pre-Jerusalem. There is a love interest and there are explicit sexual scenes. But, I think this is necessary for the book.

The book is separated in different sections of Esther's life, How the story intensified in different sections. I don't think I have ever read a book like this before. Jerusalem Maiden held my interest and won't be forgotten for a long time. I wanted to keep reading and not stop. I am sorry the book ended. I loved the surprise ended.

This is not a beach read, and at times sad. The novel is based on the author's grandmothers life. I don't know if this book was aimed at the Jewish community. But, because I am Jewish, I immediately connected and knew the traditions and rituals of Jewish girls, and women.

But, I think for the general public, a glossary of Jewish terms is needed. Perhaps the author on her website can put a short glossary there. But, there is another option, the book does change the type on words that do need translation. You need a computer handy, just google it.

Thank you Talia, for the review copy.
Imagination Designs
Images from the Glamor Amour by Irene Alexeeva