After I enlisted the prominent Christian philanthropist John Mancini as the sponsor of the Mancini Prize for the best paper on the archaeology of early Christianity and the patristic period presented at the annual meetings of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), I telephoned the great Jewish philanthropist Sami Rohr to convince him to sponsor a similar award on the Jewish side, the Sami Rohr Prize for the best paper on Late Antique Judaism and the Talmudic Period.
Sami was adamant. He would not permit it to be called the Sami Rohr Prize. He insisted it be called the Hershel Shanks Prize. So whenever we refer to it, we call it the Hershel Shanks Prize supported by Sami Rohr.*
Sami passed away last August at the age of 86.
He was born in 1926 in Berlin, Germany, where his family lived until 1938. Fleeing the Nazis just days after Kristallnacht, Rohr lived in Belgium, France and Switzerland before settling in Bogota, Colombia, in 1950 and going into the real estate business. He met and married his wife, Charlotte, while in Colombia, and they lived there until moving to Miami, Florida, in the late 1970s. Charlotte Rohr passed away in 2007. Rohr is survived by his three children, George Rohr, Evelyn Katz and Lillian Tabacinic, 12 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.
In 2006, on his 80th birthday, Rohr’s children surprised him with the announcement of a new literary prize named in his honor: the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish literature, awarded annually to foster the careers of young, unknown writers.—H.S.
* For prize winners, see Strata: “Werlin Wins Hershel Shanks Prize,” BAR, July/August 2010; Strata: “Leibner and Gardner Win Hershel Shanks Prize,” BAR, November/December 2009.
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