In the world of Jewish studies, the books that define the standards have often been written by members of the faculty of The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). This year, the Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) presented the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award to Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer. Books by Dr. Edna Nahshon and Dr. Richard Kalmin were named Notable Selections—thus, three of the five books honored this year by the AJS were written by JTS faculty.
AJS President Marsha Rozenblit presented the honors and the 2009 Jordan Schnitzer award—which is given for only two books each year, bestowing the award in a given category once every four years—in a ceremony at the Center for Jewish History in New York City on June 7, 2010.
The judges deemed Dr. Sommer's The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel the best book in the category of Biblical Studies, Rabbinics, and Archaeology of the last four years, calling it "an original, wide-ranging, and accessible work of scholarship . . . a cross-cultural tour-de-force" and noting that his "thesis has implications for understanding not only the theology of ancient Israel but also the theologies of its surrounding world, whether in Mesopotamia or the Levant, as well as those of rabbinic Judaism and Christianity."
The Prize Committee also commended Jewish Babylonia Between Persia and Roman Palestine, by Dr. Kalmin, as a Notable Selection in Biblical Studies, Rabbinics, and Archaeology, saying, "This book may be regarded as a crowning achievement of a lifetime devoted to the vast sea of rabbinic literature." In its citation of Dr. Nahshon's From the Ghetto to the Melting Pot: Israel Zangwill's Jewish Plays, a Notable Selection in the field of Jews and the Arts, the committee wrote, "This critical edition of three important plays by this prolific Anglo-Jewish writer is suitably weighty as almost to constitute a monograph on Zangwill with the plays as an accompaniment."
See photos from the ceremony held June 7, 2010:
Watch a video of Dr. Sommer's acceptance speech: