Hours of Devotion
Fanny Neuda's Book of Prayers for Jewish Women
By Dinah Berland
(Schocken, Hardcover, 9780805242454, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 28, 2007
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Written in the nineteenth century, rediscovered in the twenty-first, timeless in its wisdom and beauty, Hours of Devotion by Fanny Neuda, (the daughter of a Moravian rabbi), was the first full-length book of Jewish prayers written by a woman for women. In her moving introduction to this volume--the first edition of Neuda’s prayer book to appear in English for more than a century--editor Dinah Berland describes her serendipitous discovery of Hours of Devotion in a Los Angeles used bookstore. She had been estranged from her son for eleven years, and the prayers she found in the book provided immediate comfort, giving her the feeling that someone understood both her pain and her hope. Eventually, these prayers would also lead her back to Jewish study and toward a deeper practice of her Judaism.
Originally published in German, Fanny Neuda’s popular prayer book was reprinted more than two dozen times in German and appeared in Yiddish and English editions between 1855 and 1918. Working with a translator, Berland has carefully brought the prayers into modern English and set them into verse to fully realize their poetry. Many of these eighty-eight prayers, as well as Neuda’s own preface and afterword, appear here in English for the first time, opening a window to a Jewish woman’s life in Central Europe during the Enlightenment. Reading “A Daughter’s Prayer for Her Parents,” “On the Approach of Childbirth,” “For a Mother Whose Child Is Abroad,” and the other prayers for both daily and momentous occasions, one cannot help but feel connected to the women who’ve come before.
For Berland, Hours of Devotion served as a guide and a testament to the mystery and power of prayer. Fanny Neuda’s remarkable spirit and faith in God, displayed throughout these heartfelt prayers, now offer the same hope of guidance to others.
Dinah Berland is a poet whose work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Ploughshares, and The Iowa Review, among other journals and anthologies. She lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a book editor for the J. Paul Getty Museum. Visit her on the Web at www.dinahberland.com.
"Dinah Berlan has given us a treasure. Her English rendering of Fanny Neuda's book of prayers for Jewish women is elegant as well as capable of opening hearts. It stirred mine."
--Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, coauthor of Jewish with Feeling
"Berland has been preparing all her life to re-create Fanny Neuda's deeply useful and soulful Hours of Devotion. She has given us a woman's book of illuminations, a compilation of prayers that moves from suffering to gratitude, a work that sanctifies life."
--Edward Hirsch, author of Lay Back the Darkness
"This rich, spiritually vital collection shines with integrity and wisdom. Contemporary Jewish life as a whole is immeasurably enriched by Berland's graceful restoration of Neuda's prayers--prayers that had long articulated the deep yearnings of Jewish women. A book every Jewish home should have, to be cherished and transmitted from generation to generation."
--Rabbi Miriyam Glazer, editor of Dancing on the Edge of the World
"Hours of Devotion is, among other splendid things, a book about fate: the fate of these prayers treasured by generations of Jewish women; the intersecting fates of Fanny Neuda and Dinah Berland, who has made the prayers available again; and how fate itself is shaped by prayer, which carries the wisdom of individuals and communities backwards and forwards through time. This is a remarkable book, one that will move the reader both to reflection and to prayer."
--Brigit Pegeen Kelly, author of The Orchard
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