Page 223 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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u d a h
a d ic h
Following is the substance of the presentation of literary
awards by Dr. Nadich at annual meeting of the Jewish
Book Council of America on May 4, 1969, a t the Park
Avenue Synagogue, New York City.
Harry and Florence Kovner Memorial Awards
The Florence and Harry Kovner Memorial Awards for poetry
have been given annually as a memorial by their children, as the
late Harry Kovner was a poet in his own right and made a number
of significant contributions to Jewish poetry. The judges for the
Hebrew poetry award were Dr. Eisig Silberschlag, president of the
Hebrew Teachers College, Boston, Dr. Jacob Kabakoff of the
Department of Hebrew, Lehman College, and Dr. Milton Arfa,
professor of Hebrew at Hun ter College, to all of whom we express
our appreciation for their services. They selected for this award an
American now living in Israel—Reuven Ben Yosef. When he was
advised he had won the Kovner award for his book of poetry
Derekh Eretz
(Ha-Kibbutz he-Meuhad), and was asked to submit
biographical data, he wrote as follows:
“I was born in 1937 in New York City, and was named Robert
Reiss. My childhood was spent in Manhattan, where I attended
P. S. 187 and later, the High School of Music and Art, for I had
studied piano, trumpet and music theory, intending to be a com­
poser. But at the age of fifteen I switched to jazz, and after a two-
year stint as a bop pianist in sundry night-spots, I quit music for
literature, especially poetry. I attended Oberlin College bu t left
after a year, despite good marks and encouragement from the foot­
ball coach—I played varsity football in high school and college—
for I felt that as a writer I needed some time to drift. After a
while I entered the army, served in intelligence and spent two
years in Germany. During this time I published poetry in Amer­
ican literary magazines; but partly through the influence of a
soldier friend, a young painter named Barry Fogelson whose early
death I mourned in my book,
Derekh Eretz,
my thoughts were
directed towards Israel and my Hebrew heritage. I felt rootless
in English, and though at the time I knew neither Hebrew nor
anything of Jewish tradition—my family was quite Americanized—