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Author Jenna Blum Wins 2005 Ribalow Prize

Lee Abramowitz

(New York, NY -- November 09, 2005) -- November, Jewish Book Month, kicked off with yesterday’s award of the 2005 Harold U. Ribalow Prize to Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us. Administered by the award-winning Hadassah Magazine, the Ribalow Prize is given annually to an author who has created an outstanding work of fiction on a Jewish theme.

This year’s panel of judges included Elie Wiesel, N. Scott Momaday, and last year’s Ribalow recipient, Joseph Epstein. The award was established in 1983 by friends and family of Harold U. Ribalow, an editor, author and humanist, to honor his memory. Recent winners have included Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Everything is Illuminated, and Myla Goldberg, author of Bee Season, two writers whose books were just released as movies.

Those Who Save Us, Blum’s debut novel, published by Harcourt in 2004, is a mother-daughter drama that chronicles protagonist Trudy Brandt’s investigation into her mother’s wartime experience in Germany.

In accepting the award, Blum said that her novel “examines a crucial time period from a slightly different perspective, from the point of view of how the Nazi regime affected an average German woman. Growing up steeped in the Holocaust, I have found historical explanations, but have not yet found an emotional explanation for it…. My novel explores the gray area between heroism and culpability. When history is lost, imagination steps in, which is why I wrote this novel. ”

Blum is a Boston-based writer whose prize-winning short fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines. She currently teaches creative writing at Boston University and runs a novel workshop at grub street, inc.

Inspiration for her book included work for the Steven Spielberg Survivors of the Shoah Foundation, filming interviews with Jewish Holocaust survivors. Of German and Jewish descent herself, Blum has traveled to Germany four times with her mother to explore her own heritage, as well as deepen her knowledge of the country and its past.

According to June Walker, National President of Hadassah, reading and celebrating novels in this fast-paced world is a significant act. “It’s very important that we take time to examine the stages of Jewish history and life. It especially behooves us to look at the Holocaust from many, many points of view. We must look into our history and memory and reflect on what was, what is and what should be.”

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