Chaim Bermant Prize for Jewish Journalism Is Launched

A new prize has been created in memory of Chaim Bermant, one of British Jewry's best loved writers.

The first "Chaim Bermant prize for journalism" will be awarded at the Jewish Book Week in London in February 2008 to two journalists writing about Jewish themes or Israel. One prize of 3,000 British pounds ($5,900) will go to a published writer for "outstanding achievement in the field of journalism," according to the Jewish Book Week Web site . Another award will go to an "aspiring journalist," aged 18-30, on the basis of a previously unpublished non-fiction article of 500-1000 words. This winner will receive 1,000 British pounds ($1,970) and the opportunity to intern at the London-based Jewish Chronicle, which is sponsoring the competition along with the Jewish Book Council.

Bermant, who died in 1998 at the age of 68, published over 30 books and was a leading light at the Jewish Chronicle for 40 years. Born in Poland and raised in Latvia before moving to Scotland when he was 8, Bermant said he spoke the "Queen's Yiddish."

Described by the late Lord Jakobovits, former chief rabbi of the U.K., as "Anglo-Jewry's voice of conscience" and by himself as a "licensed heretic," Bermant's witticisms frequently chastised and infuriated the Anglo-Jewish establishment. "If you want to write in a manner offensive to many Jews," he is quoted as saying, "it is not enough to be a Jew; you've got to write in a Jewish newspaper."

The Guardian journalist and Jewish Chronicle columnist Jonathan Freedland will select the winners of the first award together with literary agent and author Jonny Geller and editor of The Jewish Chronicle, David Rowan. They will be looking for journalists whose writing best reflects the qualities that made Bermant so outstanding, according to the Web site.