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A Religious Studies professor has been recognized by the Jewish Book Council for her work this past year.

Last Monday, Talya Fishman was awarded a 2011 National Jewish Book Award for her book “Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures.”

“I feel numbed with honor,” Fishman said when she found out about the award. “I am enormously gratified and mostly feel very lucky.”

For her work, Fishman received the Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award, which is part of the annual award program’s scholarship category. This award had special significance for Fishman, who knew Sarna personally.

“Nahum Sarna was a really fine Bible scholar known for the breadth and accuracy of his scholarship,” Fishman said. “It is a high bar to be a scholar of his caliber and that makes this award especially meaningful.”

Fishman’s book attempts to solve the riddle of how the Talmud — a body of writing that preserves Jewish tradition and establishes guidelines on how to live life in Jewish society — shifted in meaning when it changed from oral transmission to written presentation. Researching and writing the book took Fishman 11 years.

“The book is a very ambitious attempt to chart what the function of the Talmud was and how it functioned in different times and places,” Fishman said.

Fishman’s colleagues and students said she was a worthy recipient of the award.

“She is very deserving,” said Ronit Engel, coordinator of the Modern Hebrew Language Program. “She is bright, courageous, a dedicated teacher admired by her students and this book is a breakthrough in her field.”

Akhmad Sahal, a graduate student in religious studies who has Fishman as his adviser, agreed.

“Her new book completely deserves to win the award,” he wrote in an email. “She successfully shows us to look at the Talmud in a new and fresh perspective by historicizing it and highlighting the importance of context and specific incidents in its formative periods as determinative.”

Fishman said she hopes to pursue a new book project in the near future that explores “the exertionary mental practices that are recorded in medieval Jewish texts.”

“Life moves on quickly after one project,” Fishman said. “It’s important to have perspective … and to continue to pursue scholarship because it is a luxury.”

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