Obama awards humanities medal to Jewish secularist

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama awarded the National Humanities Medal to a Jewish writer who has through fiction and philosophical writings chronicled the transition from Orthodoxy to secularism.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein was one of ten 2014 medalists who will receive the award in a ceremony on Sept. 10, according to a release Thursday. Another ten National Medal of Arts winners will also be cited at the ceremony.

She has won a number of Jewish book prizes for her work, among them the 2006 Koret Jewish Book Award for her 2006 work, “Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew who Gave Us Modernity.”

The White House release cited her work on Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher who was excommunicated for his writings on secularism. The National Endowment for the Humanities manages the nomination process.

Newberger will join the New York University faculty next year.

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