Ayelet Tsabari wins 2015 Sami Rohr Prize

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Ayelet Tsabari, author of “The Best Place On Earth: Stories,” is the winner of the 2015 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

Tsabari takes home $100,000 for winning the prize, which was announced Monday.


Tsabari explores Israeli history through Jewish characters of Middle Eastern and North African descent.

“I grew up not seeing myself and my family in literature, so writing “The Best Place on Earth” was a way to create the characters that were missing from my childhood stories,” Tsabari said in a statement issued by the Rohr Prize. “By portraying characters of Mizrahi background I was hoping to complicate readers’ perceptions of Israel and Jewishness, and to expand and broaden their ideas of what a Jewish story and Jewish experience can be.”

The runner-up was Kenneth Bonert, author of “The Lion Seeker: A Novel. He receives a   prize of $25,000.

The Rohr Prize, which has been given annually since 2007, considers works of fiction and nonfiction in alternating years.

It was created by the late businessman and philanthropist Sami Rohr to recognize emerging writers who articulate the Jewish experience as determined by a specific work, as well as the author’s potential to make significant ongoing contributions to Jewish literature.

Matti Friedman, author of “The Aleppo Codex,” won the prize last year.

This year, for the first time, the winners and finalists will be celebrated at a public program, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council together with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, on May 6.