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National Jewish Book Awards Go to Two Faculty Members

February 9, 2016 – Two Georgetown professors – Bruce Hoffman and Dennis Ross – have won prestigious 2015 National Jewish Book Awards (NJBA), the longest running awards program in North America.

Hoffman, the director of the university’s Center for Security Studies who has studied terrorism and insurgency for 40 years, won the NJBA’s Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award for Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947 (Knopf, 2015). 

Ross, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, won NJBA’s Gerrard and Ella Berman Memorial Award for Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015). 

Both professors are affiliated with Georgetown’s Program for Jewish Civilization (PJC). 

“I am so proud of professors Hoffman and Ross,” said PJC director Jacques Berlinerblau. “I'd be hard-pressed to think of any other Jewish studies faculty in America that can claim affiliation with two NJBA winners.”

Zionism’s History

Bruce HoffmanHoffman’s widely lauded book chronicles the three decades of growing anticolonial unrest that culminated in the end of British rule and the creation of the State of Israel. “This award reflects the enormous capacity of the American Jewish community to examine Zionism’s history and confront controversial and even discomforting issues with objectivity and dispassion,” he said.

Anonymous Soldiers reveals previously unknown details of Britain struggling and ultimately failing to reconcile competing Arab and Jewish demands and uprisings.

“Throughout my four decades of studying terrorism I have been preoccupied by the question of whether terrorism works and what are the circumstances and factors that enable some terrorist campaigns to succeed and others to fail,” Hoffman said. “The case of the Jewish underground movements in pre-state Israel was especially well-suited to examine these questions because of the volume and accessibility of archival material and private personal papers collections available in Britain, the United States and Israel.”

Misreading Priorities

Dennis RossRoss, who was the United States’ point man on the Middle East peace process for both the George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations, wrote his award-winning book about the relationship between the U.S. and Israel since Truman took office just before the end of World War II.

“The Middle East continues to be the focus of much of our national security policy and yet we have repeatedly misread the priorities of Arab leaders,” Ross said. “We will not get our policies right in this troubled region until we understand what drives their priorities. As I show over and over again in different administrations, security and survival was uppermost in the minds of Arab leaders.”

He said the U.S. didn’t understand that the threats key Arab allies were most concerned about came from regional rivals, such as Saddam Hussein, not from the Israelis. “For example, today we want the Arabs to focus on ISIS but most of our traditional Arab partners are far more concerned about Iran,” Ross explained.

Outstanding Literature

The two professors’ work will be honored along with other 2015 National Jewish Book Awards winners on March 9 at a gala awards celebration at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. According to its website, the Jewish Book Council has awarded the National Jewish Book Award or Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature to more than 680 books over 65 years.

“These prestigious awards recognize outstanding literature in the field and aim to encourage authors to continue to write on themes of Jewish interest,” the Jewish Book Council said in a statement.