History professor earns 2021 National Jewish Book Award for look at New York Hasidic Jewish community

Nathaniel Deutsch
Nathaniel Deutsch, faculty director for UC Santa Cruz’s The Humanities Institute and professor of history

Nathaniel Deutsch, faculty director for UC Santa Cruz’s The Humanities Institute and professor of history, was recently announced as a winner of a 2021 National Jewish Book Award in the category of American Jewish Studies for his recently-published work, A Fortress in Brooklyn: Race, Real Estate, and the Making of Hasidic Williamsburg. He shares the award with his co-author Michael Casper. 

"It's an immense honor to receive this award along with my co-author Michael Casper,” Deutsch said. “We spent more than a decade researching and writing the book and it's wonderful to have that work recognized and, most importantly, to get the extraordinary story of the Hasidic community in Williamsburg to a broader audience."

Published by Yale University Press, A Fortress In Brooklyn looks into the history and present state of the Hasidic Jewish community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The members of this sect arrived in the U.S. shortly after WWII as Holocaust survivors, settling in a working class New York neighborhood with a determination to hold on to their Orthodox religious practices and isolate themselves from modern influences. Despite the challenges of living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City, their numbers grew exponentially and, more recently, they have struggled to maintain their insular community while also dealing with the skyrocketing cost of living in the city and the impact of intense gentrification.  

Since the book’s publication last May, A Fortress in Brooklyn was praised as “groundbreaking” by critic Laura E. Adkins in the LA Review of Books. She wrote, “To fully understand Satmar. . . it would be wise to start with this outstanding book."

The National Jewish Book Awards, which were established by the Jewish Book Council in 1950, will hold a virtual ceremony honoring all the 2021 winners on April 6, 2022 at 7pm ET.