TOI’s Matti Friedman wins prestigious literary award

‘The Aleppo Codex,’ a true-life detective story about how the ancient Biblical manuscript was smuggled out of Syria, garners $100,000 Rohr Prize

Matti Friedman's The Aleppo Codex (photo credit: Courtesy)
Matti Friedman's The Aleppo Codex (photo credit: Courtesy)

The Times of Israel’s Matti Friedman has won the prestigious 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Non-Fiction for his book, The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible.

The Aleppo Codex also garnered the 2013 Sophie Brody Medal for outstanding achievement in the field of Jewish literature.

The true-life detective story traces how the invaluable Aleppo Codex manuscript — “the most perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible” — was smuggled from its hiding place in Syria into the newly founded State of Israel, and how and why many of its most sacred and valuable pages went missing.

The five finalists for the $100,000 literary prize were announced last month by the Jewish Book Council. The runner-up, Sarah Bunin Benor, author of “Becoming Frum,” will receive a $25,000 prize.

The other three finalists were Marni Davis’ Jews and Booze, Nina Spiegel’s Embodying Hebrew Culture and Eliyahu Stern’s The Genius.

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

It was created by the late businessman and philanthropist Sami Rohr, who died in July 2012 at age 86.

The award “honors emerging writers, who explore the Jewish experience in a specific work of non-fiction. The author’s potential to make significant ongoing contributions to Jewish literature is a primary factor in the award,” according to the announcement of the award by the Jewish Book Council.

The award ceremony will take place in Jerusalem on January 21.

Francesca Segal won the prize last year for her novel The Innocents.

The Aleppo Codex has been translated into Hebrew, French, German and Dutch and Czech. Last year, The Times of Israel published an exclusive excerpt from the book, available here.

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