SOAS University of London

SOAS scholar finalist for 2017 National Jewish Book Award

16 January 2018

Dr Naomi Leite, Lecturer in Social Anthropology at SOAS University of London, has been selected as a finalist for the 2017 National Jewish Book Award, awarded by the Jewish Book Council for her work Unorthodox Kin: Portuguese Marranos and the Global Search for Belonging .

Unorthodox Kin is finalist for the Modern Jewish Thought and Experience award and is a ground-breaking exploration of identity, relatedness, and belonging in a global era. In urban Portugal today, hundreds of individuals trace their ancestry to 15th century Jews forcibly converted to Catholicism, and many now seek to rejoin the Jewish people as a whole. For the most part, however, these self-titled Marranos (“hidden Jews”) lack any direct experience of Jews or Judaism, and Portugal's tiny, tightly knit Jewish community offers no clear path of entry. The book explores the lives and experiences of a network of urban Marranos who sought contact with foreign Jewish tourists and outreach workers as a means of gaining educational and moral support, ending in an unexpected path to belonging.

In an early review, Prof Edward Bruner of the University of Illinois writes, “This book is a gem. Leite's book speaks to profound contemporary problems of group identity, of how peoples with different interests conceive of others and themselves, and how they interact. Unorthodox Kin is written for scholars, but so beautifully and clearly that it will be accessible to a wide and divergent audience.”

The Jewish Book Council is one of the oldest organizations providing continual service to the American Jewish community. Awarded annually, the National Jewish Book Awards, which began in 1950, is the longest running awards program of its kind in the field of Jewish literature and is recognized as the most prestigious, giving recognition to outstanding books. Past award winners include Elie Weisel, Pope John Paul II, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks MBE, and Allen Ginsberg.