Ilana Kurshan Wins Sami Rohr Prize For ‘If All The Seas Were Ink’
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Ilana Kurshan Wins Sami Rohr Prize For ‘If All The Seas Were Ink’

Her memoir chronicles her years studying Talmud.

The details of Kurshan’s life unfold, not in a linear way, but through her engagement with all of the Talmud’s sections.
Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press
The details of Kurshan’s life unfold, not in a linear way, but through her engagement with all of the Talmud’s sections. Courtesy of St. Martin’s Press

Ilana Kurshan has been named winner of the 2018 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for her highly-praised memoir, “If All The Seas Were Ink.”

The award, for an emerging writer exploring the Jewish experience, carries a cash prize of $100,000. In addition, Sara Hirschhorn was named the Choice Award winner for “City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement” and awarded $18,000. Yair Mintzker (“The Many Deaths of Jew Suss”), Shari Rubin (“Jews on the Frontier”) and Chanan Tigay (“The Lost Books of Moses”) were named Sami Rohr Prize Fellows and awarded $5000 each. The annual award — given in alternate years to fiction and non-fiction writers – will be presented at a ceremony in Jerusalem in July.

“The extraordinary work of each of these five emerging authors is a blessing to the Jewish world. We are delighted to be a part of this well-earned recognition” said George Rohr, whose family funds the prize, in memory of their father Sami Rohr.

Kurshan’s unusual memoir recounts her 7 ½ years of studying Talmud on a daily basis, taking part in Daf Yomi. She poetically moves back and forth between Talmudic stories and teachings and her own life, weaving in other literary texts. When she begins her own story, she had recently moved to Jerusalem, now her home, and is struggling to move forward after a divorce – she is now remarried, raising four young children and continuing her learning and writing.

Last fall when the book was published, Kurshan told The Jewish Week, “I’m trying to model a way of reading the text, where the personal is paramount. Not many people have done it – I wonder if that’s because women read in a different way, in the context of life.”

Read some of her writing here and more on her memoir here.

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