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Goldstein-Goren Prize for Best Jewish Thought Book

Goldstein-Goren Prize for Best Jewish Thought Book

May 14, 2013

Israel Studies, Culture & Jewish Thought, Press Releases

D2_JTbookThe Goldstein-Goren International Center for Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) awarded The Goldstein-Goren International Prize for the Most Important Book in Jewish Thought to two authors last week.

The prize of $30,000 will be shared by Ephraim Kanarfogel for The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz(Wayne State University Press) and Roni Weinstein for Break the Vessels: Kabbalah and Jewish Modernity (Tel Aviv University Press).

The center offers an award every three years for the best book in the field of Jewish thought published either in English or Hebrew. This award, covering books published between 2010 and 2012, marks the fifth one to be presented since the prize was established.

“I was very pleasantly surprised by this year’s competition, for we had a record number of submissions, over 80 in both Hebrew and in English, most of them of exceptionally high quality,” said Prof. Haim Kreisel, chair of the Goldstein-Goren International Center for Jewish Thought, who announced the prize recipients at the opening plenary of BGU’s 43rd Annual Board of Governors Meeting in Beer-Sheva.

“Both winners blaze new trails in the study of Jewish thought, yet in many ways they reflect conflicting currents that characterize the field,” Kreisel explained.

“One book was written in English, the other in Hebrew, one is much more anchored in traditional forms of scholarship and presents the definitive study, at least for the time being, of the area which the author researched (the English book), while the other book is interested in developing an entirely new way of looking at an area while raising new questions,” he said.

The blue ribbon panel that judged the books consisted of three internationally recognized experts in the field: Prof. Larry Kaplan from McGill University, Prof. Ada Rapoport Albert from the University of London and BGU’s own Israel Prize laureate Prof. Gerald Blidstein who served as chair of the competition.

Regarding The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz, the judges wrote: Ephraim Kanarfogel’s book is an unusual, exceptionally thorough and learned treatment of the full range of tosafist [medieval commentaries on the Talmud] intellectual activity, laying down the claim that the tosafists are not to be read as legists or even as Talmudists alone, but are rather best appreciated with a view to their broader intellectual and cultural activity — as Biblical exegetes and even philosophers. Kanarfogel’s work will become a standard reference in the field.

In regard to Break the Vessels: Kabbalah and Jewish Modernity, the judges wrote: Roni Weinstein challenges the common assumption that the kabbalistic worldview owes its popularity to its theological and metaphysical content. Rather, he argues, the social context of kabbalistic thought is at least as significant. Weinstein has written an exciting and groundbreaking book which raises important new questions. If he is correct, his book is a landmark breakthrough.

The fifth Goldstein-Goren Prize was presented in the presence of Alex Goren, BGU’s board chair and former president of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and his sister, Micaela Goren-Monti. Their late father, Avram Goldstein-Goren, established the Goldstein-Goren International Center for Jewish Thought at BGU shortly after reaching his 100th birthday.

“Avram was a proud Jew in the best sense of the word. He was committed to disseminating an appreciation of Jewish tradition to the outside world, that is to say, he was interested in fostering a critical appreciation of the contribution of Jewish tradition to world civilization, as well as to Jewish survival,” Kreisel said.

About American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion’s vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University’s expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) celebrates its 50th birthday this year, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond.

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