Obama honors Jewish writer on secularism with humanities medal


WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Barack Obama awarded the National Humanities Medal to a Jewish writer who has through fiction and philosophical writings chronicled the transition from religious orthodoxy to secularism.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is one of 10 2014 medalists who will receive the award in a ceremony on Sept. 10, according to a White House statement released Thursday. Another 10 National Medal of Arts winners will also be honored at the ceremony.

Goldstein has won a number of Jewish book prizes for her work, among them the 2006 Koret Jewish Book Award for “Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew who Gave Us Modernity.”

In its statement, the White House cited this work, a biography of Baruch Spinoza, the 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher who was excommunicated for his writings on secularism. The National Endowment for the Humanities manages the nomination process.

Newberger will join the New York University faculty next year.

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