Women’s Prayer Publications

In addition to 2008’s A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book, a number of “women’s prayer” publications have been released in recent years.

Below is information about five volumes translating and collecting prayers from the last 300 years or so. Shaarei Simcha [Gates of Joy]: Traditional prayers, songs and modern inclusive rituals fills a different need.

Shaarei Simchabegan as a birkon [prayer book centering around blessings after meals; more commonly, “bencher” in Yiddish] “enabling women to feel included in the rituals themselves and not marginalized.” It is designed to be “faithful to halachah (Jewish law), inclusive of women’s spiritual needs, and sensitive to the needs of both singles and couples, those who are parents and those who are not, to Ashkenazim and Sephardim, to those eating alone or in a group.” An introduction reviews halachic issues of inclusion and obligation in reciting the blessing after meals and discusses a variety of practices.

Most prayers in Shaarei Simcha are presented in English and Hebrew with transliterations. Information about variant customs is included, along with a few contemporary poems and some suggestions for personalizing home rituals. Edited by Adena Berkowitz and Rivka Haut. Jersey City, NJ: KTAV, 2007.

Seyder Tkhines: The Forgotten Book of Common Prayer for Jewish Women. Devra Kay, translator and editor. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004. This volume is evenly split between commentary, from historical and liturgical perspectives, and a prayer text, based on a Yiddish work which first appeared in Amsterdam in 1648. The prayer text is rendered in English; (English) commentary includes occasional transliterations of Hebrew and Yiddish phrases. Reference material includes brief notes, an extensive bibliography and a glossary of foreign terms.

Hours of Devotion: Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women. Dinah Berland, editor. New York, NY: Schocken Books, 2007. Neuda’s is considered the “first full-length book of Jewish prayers written by a woman for women.” It first appeared in German in 1855. The Schocken edition includes the original preface as well as one by the editor, source notes and a bibliographic history. All text in English.

For slightly earlier English collections, Jennifer Breger provides a thorough review of the following volumes in her article “Techinas: A Voice from the Heart…” originally published in Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought, 1993.

The Merit of Our Mothers: A Bilingual Anthology of Jewish Women’s Prayers. Compiled by Tracy Guren Klirs. Cincinatti, OH: Hebrew Union College Press, 1992. Includes selections from 19th Century and earlier European collections of Yiddish women’s prayers, with translation, plus commentary from Klirs’ dissertation.

Out of the Depths I Call to You: A Book of Prayers for the Married Jewish Woman. Translated by Nina Cardin. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1991. (An edition of the 18th Century Hebrew, from Italy, with English translations).

Techinas: A Voice from the Heart, edited by Rivka Zakutinsky. Aura Press, 1992. Yiddish prayers taken from collections written by and for women with some English translations.

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Virginia hosts "Conversations Toward Repair" on We Act Radio, manages WeLuvBooks.org, blogs on general stuff a vspatz.net and more Jewish topics at songeveryday.org and Rereading4Liberation.com

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