The annual prize, worth £4,000, is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader.
This year’s shortlisted books are: The Immortalists by Benjamin, which traces the dramas of four Jewish American siblings, wartime memoir No Place To Lay One’s Head (Pushkin Press) by Françoise Frenkel (translated by Stephanie Smee), Halliday’s critically-lauded debut Asymmetry, Dara Horn's New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2018 Eternal Life (W.W. Norton &Co Ltd), Tel-Aviv set Evacuation (Text Publishing) by Raphael Jerusalmy (translated by Penny Hueston) and Mark Sarvas’ 20th century-set novel Memento Park (Farrar, Straus & Giroux).
Chair of judges Shoshana Boyd Gelfand said: “This year’s Wingate longlist was so strong it was an almost impossible task to agree on just six titles for a short list.
“Throughout our process we agreed to consider each book on its own merit, based on our agreed criteria. The result is that five of our six chosen books are works of fiction – something we believe reflects the extraordinarily high quality of fiction submissions this year, which we found to be an exciting development for the field of Jewish writing. The judges felt that many of our chosen short list have used the power of fiction to address important historical, political and ethical themes in ways which are usually addressed by works of non-fiction.
“In addition, four of our six books are written by women, another positive development and one that we hope continues. When we started our judging process, we hoped to discover books that explored Jewish issues in novel and compelling ways. Without exception, these short list books fulfill those expectations. We hope all readers will feel similarly.”
The 2019 judging panel comprises past JQ Wingate Literary Prize winner Thomas Harding together with best-selling children’s author Francesca Simon; JHub Director and JDOV founder Shoshana Boyd Gelfand and critic and literary editor Arifa Akbar.
The winner will be announced announced during an event with the judges at JW3 on Monday February 25. The evening will be chaired by the BBC’s Emily Kasriel.