Jewish Journal Book award announced
The making of a memorable book requires the skills of an alchemist. Every author starts with the raw material of his or her own experience and expertise, but it can take a certain secret ingredient — passion, vision, inspiration — to transform the dross into gold. That is a fair description of what Baruch Sterman and Judy Taubes Sterman have accomplished in “The Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered,” published last year by Lyons Press and reviewed in these pages on Dec. 21, 2012.
Because the Stermans possess precisely that alchemical genius, the Jewish Journal Book Prize for 2013 is awarded to “The Rarest Blue,” the second-annual prize given in recognition of a book of exceptional interest, achievement and significance. This award is presented each January to an author or authors for a book published during the previous calendar year, and it includes a $1,000 honorarium.
“The Rarest Blue” starts with a 2,000-year-old mystery: How did the Israelites make thread a blue color known as tekhelet that they were required by the Torah to wear on their fringed garments? The formula for making the blue dye was lost in the early centuries of the Diaspora, and generation after generation of observant Jews have been unable to comply with the biblical commandment. “And now we have only white,” the compiler of the Midrash complained in the eighth century, “for tekhelet has been hidden.” Ironically, it was only during the era of the scientific and industrial revolution that the biblical secrets began to emerge. And now the Stermans have revealed how to make what they called “the sacred, rarest blue.”