By Reporter staff
Rabbi Rachel Esserman, executive editor of The Reporter Group, won first place in the American Jewish Press Association Rockower Awards for her book review “Turning Jews into Americans” in the Award for Excellence in Arts and Criticism News and Features – Critical Analysis/Review category for newspapers with a circulation of 14,999 and under. The judges’ comment on the review was “very well written and gives a good insight into narratives about Jews in the U.S. and the myths that have been passed down.” The review can be found by visiting https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-131/2/march29%252C2019.pdf?v=1570827190 and looking at page 4 of the PDF.
“I’m very excited to have won a Rockower,” Esserman said. “This is only the third time I’ve won that award and the first time I took first place.”
The two scholarly works featured in the review were Jessica Cooperman’s “Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism” and “A Rosenberg By Any Other Name: A History of Jewish Name Changing in America” by Kirsten Fermaglich. In her review, Esserman noted that “together, the two books offer insights into American Jewish history and the changing perception of Jews by their fellow citizens.”
“I love reviewing books on related subjects in the same article,” Esserman said. “That gives me an opportunity to learn more than if I reviewed the books at different times. The works in this review offered a glimpse of how Jews and Judaism became part of mainstream America. The authors’ research also showed how popular conceptions of Jewish life – even within the Jewish community – are not always true.”
Esserman noted that she doesn’t expect most people to read the books, but thinks her reviews of scholarly works serve an educational purpose. “I have a friend who said she likes to read these reviews, even though she knows she’ll never read the books,” she added. “It gives her a chance to learn about a topic she would otherwise not know about. And I love having the opportunity to learn something about Judaism or Jewish history I might never had known.”