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The Sami Rohr Prize goes to book on the fate of Kafka’s papers

A chronicle of the ultimate Kafkaesque court case. A history of Jewish children who found safe harbor in Iran. A personal journey back to Judaism, and a deep dive into Israel’s plan to stop Syrian nuclear proliferation. These are the books being honored by the 2020 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

Benjamin Balint, author of “Kafka’s Last Trial: The Case of a Literary Legacy” is the winner of the 2020 prize. His book plumbs the tribulations of Franz Kafka’s literary estate, from the posthumous publications by his friend and confidant, Max Brod, to high-profile international court cases that recently granted Kafka’s papers to the National Library of Israel.

“The news of this year’s award has left me stunned, as though a thunderbolt had struck from Jerusalem’s clear blue skies,” said Balint, who will receive $100,000.

The finalists, who will each receive $5,000, are Mikhal Dekel, author of “Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey;” former Obama speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz, for her book “Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life — in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There);” and Yaakov Katz for “Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power.”

The authors will be honored at an upcoming virtual ceremony.

“It is a distinct privilege, especially during these uncertain times, to share in the celebration of excellence and talent,” said Debra Goldberg, director of the Sami Rohr Prize.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected].

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