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Reed Prof. Leibman Wins National Jewish Book Award


Portland, Ore (January 17, 2013)--Laura Arnold Leibman, Reed College Professor of English and Humanities, is a National Jewish Book Award winner for Messianism, Secrecy and Mysticism: A New Interpretation of Early American Jewish Life (Vallentine Mitchell Publishers).

Leibman’s portrait offers a complex understanding of Jewish life in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Her book expands the history of early American religion and restores the importance of mysticism to American Jewish history. She writes about the culture, beliefs, spaces, and objects embraced by the Jewish people of the Atlantic world and weaves together conversos’ ideas about redemption, Kabbalah, and messianism while resuming their lives as Jews as they build economic and religious worlds.

Reed students helped with archival work and photographing material culture in Newport, Rhode Island; Amsterdam, and the Caribbean.

"I am honored by the award but also deeply aware of how much writing the book was a collaborative process. In addition to students who worked in the field, colleagues in my writing group patiently read and reread chapter drafts, and college librarians, technology staff, and students helped create the database of images that accompanied the book and made much of my analysis possible. The life of the mind need not be a solitary venture," said Leibman.

The National Jewish Book Awards program began in 1950 when the Jewish Book Council presented awards to authors of Jewish books at its annual meeting. Awards are presented in over 18 categories. Past notable literary winners include Chaim Grade, Deborah Lipstadt, Bernard Malamud, Michael Oren, Chaim Potok, Philip Roth, and Elie Wiesel.