The Jewish Book Council named On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore, co-authored by Eric L. Goldstein and Deborah R. Weiner, a finalist for the 2018 National Jewish Book Award in American Jewish Studies. Professor Goldstein is Judith London Evans Director of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and an associate professor of history and Jewish studies.
In this comprehensive history of Baltimore's Jewish community, Goldstein and Weiner examine life at both macro- and microcosmic levels, including the everyday lives of families such as the Brunns. Gustav Brunn and his family settled in Baltimore in 1938 after fleeing Nazi Germany. Family legend says that Gustav was fired from McCormick's Spice Company when it was discovered that he was Jewish. However, Gustav went on to create the successful Old Bay spice blend, which the family ultimately sold to MCormick.
The authors propose that Baltimore's unique position occupying the threshold between the North and the South, between agriculture and industry, and between border town and port city shaped Jewish life in distinctive ways. Furthermore, Baltimore's "middleness" created opportunities for immigrants who would later serve as influential government officials, entrepreneurs, and developers. On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore was published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
An alumna of the Graduate Division of Religion, Samira K. Mehta, was also named a finalist in the same category for Beyond Chrismukkah: The Christian-Jewish Interfaith Family in the United States (University of North Carolina Press). Professor Goldstein and Professor Gary Laderman (Chair and Goodrich C. White Professor, Department of Religion) served as advisers to Mehta during her time at Emory. Drawing on ethnographic and historical sources, she provides a fascinating analysis of wives, husbands, children, and their extended families in interfaith homes; religious leaders; and the social and cultural milieu surrounding mixed marriages among Jews, Catholics, and Protestants. Mehta currently holds a position as assistant professor of religious studies at Albright College.
The Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting Jewish interest literature. The National Jewish Book Awards were established by the Jewish Book Council in 1950 in order to recognize outstanding works of Jewish literature. It is the longest running awards program of its kind in the field of Jewish literature and is recognized as the most prestigious.