-Joseph, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo


Carolyn Starman Hessel

Director Emerita


The format in which you are receiving this message is one I could only have dreamed about when the Sami Rohr Prize was established. Appropriately, this website is being launched at the beginning of a new year: a time of new beginnings, exciting initiatives and a fresh image as SRP enters the digital arena. Our director, Debra Goldberg, has made this effort a top priority. With your help, the website and social media platforms are making their debuts in record time. I was honored when Debra asked me to write the first column. It gives me the opportunity to let you know that your turn is coming. Debra will reach out to invite you to write a piece. Please accept the offer. She is also open to your suggestions for additions to the site.

The written word is our focus, and it reaches us in many formats. Happily, books are still a top selection. Recently Debra and I attended the Association of Jewish Studies (AJS) annual conference. In cooperation with AJS, we displayed 108 new books written or edited by AJS members in 2019. Among them were new titles by SRP chevra, Erika Dreifus, Ari Kelman, Pamela Nadell, Jonathan Sarna and Sarah Abrevaya Stein. The outpouring of titles on subjects of current interest attests to the continuing strength of the book. Each of you is contributing to this endeavor. Continue to do so!


There are many, many book prizes awarded worldwide, including a large number within the English-speaking Jewish world. Among them, SRP stands out as the largest monetary award of its kind.  The truly unique aspect of the Prize is membership in the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute.  Numbering over one hundred fellows, the Institute is an illustrious group limited to winners, finalists, judges and advisors. Through participation in our bi-annual retreat and ongoing personal interaction, SRP is creating a community for great writers and great writing. The website and social media platforms will further your ability to stay in touch with each other.

I hope these outlets also will provide forums for shared resources, engagement and inspired conversation.

During this period of transition for the SRP program, I will walk alongside Debra as she takes the organization to new heights. I will continue to meet with as many of you as possible to maintain your personal connection to SRP and to one another. For those outside of the New York metropolitan area, please let me know when you are planning a visit so we can arrange to get together.

I look forward to hearing about your next book.

Happy 2020 to all!

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