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2015 Israel Writing Award

Martha Cramer and Myra Sklarew
Martha Cramer, SIS '15 (2015 Israel Writing Award winner), pictured with Myra Sklarew (literature professor emerita)

Congratulations to Martha Cramer, BA international studies and history, winner of the 2015 Center for Israel Studies Israel Writing Award.

Cramer’s paper, “Identity in Question: The Development of the Hybridized Identities of Second and Third Generation Beta Israel,” examined the multiple identities of contemporary Ethiopian Israelis, called Beta Israel, who now number 135,000 and comprise about 2% of the Jewish population. 

“As an African American I wanted to explore how second and third generation Beta Israel, a minority population, have integrated into wider Jewish society,” Cramer explained. The Beta Israel, judged by some Israeli rabbis to have descended from the biblical tribe of Dan, were brought to Israel in several waves beginning in the late 1970s, including two airlifts, Operation Moses and Operation Solomon.

Cramer first heard about and became interested in this population as a student in professor Michael Brenner’s History of Israel class. “I was fascinated by the history of the country. So often, we only read and hear about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is so much more to the story, and I am glad that I had the privilege to learn about many of the different parts that make up Israel.” 

Cramer’s winning paper was written for an independent study for professor Pamela Nadell, director of the Jewish Studies Program.

According to Cramer’s research, the second and third generations of the Beta Israel consider themselves to have an identity primarily comprised of three parts. In some order, they consider themselves to be Jewish, Ethiopian, and Israeli. Additionally, some young Ethiopian Israelis consider blackness a part of their identities, while others prefer to focus on their Jewishness or membership in Israeli society.

Cramer graduated magna cum laude and was recently inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. While attending AU she was an intern for the U.S. House of Representatives, where she has accepted a permanent position. She has always been passionate about social justice and her long term plan includes law school and using the law to protect vulnerable populations.

Israel Writing Award

The annual writing award was created in 2008 by literature Professor Emerita Myra Sklarew, in honor of Benjamin and Eva Wolpe Reinkel and in memory of Harry Rinkel. Submissions range from poetry and personal essays to lengthy research papers, and are judged through a blind review process. Said Michael Brenner, Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and director of the AU Center for Israel Studies, “we are always impressed by the variety of submissions which reveal the complexity of Israel: its people, its place in the larger world, its history, and its future.”

Submissions for the 2016 Israel Writing Award will be accepted in spring 2016.