By Reporter staff
When the Syracuse Press Club sends out a list of its finalists, it always notes that the list is scrambled and that the first, second and third place winners will be announced at the annual awards banquet. This year, however, Rabbi Rachel Esserman, executive editor of The Reporter, will not have to wait until September to know which awards she’ll receive. That’s because she’s the only finalist in the Critique category for two of her book reviews.
The two reviews Esserman will receive awards for are “Hollywood and Jewish refugees” and “Family and finding a home.” (The reviews can be found on The Reporter website at www.thereportergroup.org/streams/executive-editor/executive-editor-stream/off-the-shelf-hollywood-and-jewish-refugees and www.thereportergroup.org/past-articles/feature-book-review/feature-book-review-stream/book-review-stream/off-the-shelf-family-and-finding-a-home-by-rabbi-rachel-esserman.)
“It’s exciting to win two awards in one category,” Esserman said. “Both reviews are nonfiction, which I enjoy reading because it gives me a chance to learn something new.”
That’s true of her review of “The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood” by Donna Rifkind. Esserman noted in her review that “before I read the press release for [Rifkind’s book], I’d never heard of Salka Viertel. While I knew that many Jewish and non-Jewish refugees who were actors, writers and directors worked in Hollywood or New York, her name was completely unfamiliar.” In the end, Esserman wrote, “Rifkind does an excellent job not only bringing Viertel’s accomplishments to light and proving she was a remarkable woman, but portraying the lives of those refugees who felt lost in the New World and those who found success.”
The “Family” review features two memoirs, which Esserman thought offered different sides of an interesting issue.