Among her leadership qualities as Israel’s prime minister, Golda Meir had great integrity, author and Jewish Week columnist Francine Klagsbrun noted at the National Jewish Book Council’s annual awards dinner and celebration last week at the Prince George Ballroom on the East Side.
“When she left her office at night she would turn off the lights” to save the government money, Klagsbrun said, and after she retired from government, Golda, as she was widely known, preferred taking buses home rather than being driven.

When the author noted that the contrast to current national leaders here and in Israel did not need to be spelled out, there were nods of recognition from the more than 200 guests in attendance.

Klagsbrun, whose sweeping and thoroughly researched biography, “Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel,” was 10 years in the making, received the Jewish Book of the Year Award, sponsored by the Everett Family Foundation, at the March 6 event.

David Fishman, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, received the inaugural Holocaust Book Award in Memory of Ernest Michel, the Holocaust survivor who was executive vice president of New York UJA and a founding trustee of the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

Fishman was cited for “The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures from the Nazis.”

Michel’s widow, Amy Goldberg, thanked those who joined her in sponsoring the prize.

In his remarks, Fishman described how many courageous Jews in Vilna, a center of Yiddish literature, risked their lives to preserve the written word for future generations.

Another new award, for mentorship, was presented to Jewish Week editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt; it is named in honor of Carolyn Starman Hessel, the former longtime executive director of JBC who now directs the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and sponsored by business executive Scott Shay. Rosenblatt praised Starman Hessel as a true mentor for many writers, and described the ideal Jewish journalist as one who possesses grit and compassion, and thick skin to ward off criticism from readers.

In all, awards were presented in more than 18 categories, ranging from fiction, poetry, history and Sephardic culture to scholarship, Modern Jewish Thought and Experience and Children’s Literature.

Among the winners: David Grossman for “A Horse Walks into a Bar” (JJ Greenberg Memorial Award for Fiction), Rachel Kadish for “The Weight of Ink” (Book Club Award), Eve Krakowski for “Coming of Age in Egypt: Female Adolescence, Jewish Law and Ordinary Culture” (Barbara Dobkin Award in Women’s Studies) and Dov Weiss for “Pious Irreverence: Confronting God in Rabbinic Judaism” (Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award for Scholarship).

For a complete list of awards click here.