The 2011 National Jewish Book Awards have been awarded to Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi, Professor of Bible at HUC-JIR/Los Angeles, for her new book, The JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth, published by the Jewish Publication Society; and to Dr. Jonathan Krasner, Associate Professor of the American Jewish Experience, HUC-JIR/New York, for his new book, The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education, published by Brandeis University Press.
Dr. Eskenazi and Dr. Krasner received their award at the gala ceremony on March 14 at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. Click here for information about the Jewish Book Council and click here for information about the Jewish Book Council's National Jewish Book Awards.
Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi -- The JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth
The moving story of Ruth, with its themes of loyalty, lovingkindness (hesed), and redemption, is one of the great narratives of the Bible. Socially, the Israelites were aware of their responsibility to protect the weak and unprotected among them. Redemption secures the life of the people as a community, not just as individuals. In this story, Boaz fills the familial obligation to marry the widow of a deceased relative who never was able to father children, both to continue the family line and protect an otherwise vulnerable woman. This volume provides a critical, line-by-line commentary of the biblical text, presented in its original Hebrew, complete with vocalization and cantillation marks, as well as the 1985 JPS English translation. The extensive introduction places the book within its historical, literary, and critical context, discusses contemporary interpretations of the story of Ruth, and examines its major motifs and themes, among them: family, marriage and levirate marriage in biblical and ancient Israel, redemption and inheritance, hesed, and the book’s connection with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.
Dr. Eskenazi received her P.D. University of Denver and the Iliff School of Theology. Prior to joining HUC-JIR, she taught at the University of Denver and was also Director of its Institute for Interfaith Studies. Her research focuses on the reconstruction of Jewish life after exile in the sixth century B.C.E., on the role of women in the biblical world, and on the implications of the Bible for the Jewish community today. She is the editor of The Torah: A Woman's Commentary, with Andrea L. Weiss (URJ, 2008), which won the National Jewish Book of the Year Award in 2008. She has served on the executive committee of the Society of Biblical Literature, and her numerous published articles include: In an Age of Prose: A Literary Approach to Ezra-Nehemiah (1988) and Second Temple Studies 2: Temple and Community in the Persian Period (1994). An expert in postexilic history and literature and in the Bible, Dr. Eskenazi has presented papers national and international at scholarly conferences.
Dr. Jonathan Krasner -- The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education
Dr. Krasner's book tells the story of how Samson Benderly and his protégés revolutionized Jewish education in the United States between 1910 and 1970. Samson Benderly was the first director of the Bureau of Jewish Education in New York and a champion of progressive education, American-Jewish integration, Zionism and the promotion of modern Hebrew. Benderly sought to modernize Jewish education by professionalizing the field, creating an immigrant-based, progressive supplementary school model, and spreading the mantra of community responsibility for Jewish education. He realized that his best hope for transforming the educational landscape nationwide was to train a younger generation of teachers, principals, and bureau leaders. These young men – and a few women – became known collectively as the "Benderly Boys," who, from the 1920s to the 1970s, were the dominant force in Jewish education—both formal and informal—in the United States. Dr. Krasner's book was highlighted in an article by Barry Holtz in the Jewish Daily Forward: How One Man Shaped American Jewish Education.
Dr. Krasner's areas of research include the history of American Jewish education, American Jewish culture, American Jewish youth and gender and sexuality. He recently gave a paper at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on about the gay ordination and the mainstreaming of LGBT Jews in the Reform movement. Dr. Krasner’s article on Hebrew language education in the New York City public schools will appear in this spring in American Jewish History. Other recent articles have appeared in the American Jewish Archives Journal, Jewish Social Studies, and the Journal of Jewish Education. Dr. Krasner teaches in both the rabbinic and education programs at HUC-JIR. Among his courses are “Teaching the Shoah,” “Why Israel Matters” (co-taught with Dr. Lisa Grant), “Film and American Jewish Identity,” and the “Problems in American Jewish Life,” “The History of American Jewish Education,” and “Modern Jewish History” (co-taught with Dr. Carole Balin). Dr. Krasner received his Ph.D. in Jewish history from Brandeis University in 2002. He and his partner Frank Tipton have two children, Ariel and Gideon.