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Book Review: Hours of Devotion – Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women by Dinah Berland

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As an avid reader of Judaica, I have a special liking for women's prayer books. Poet Dinah Berland happened upon an unknown author's Hours of Devotion in a used book store in LA.  Having just been estranged from her son, Berland connected to "A Mother's Prayer Whose Child Is Abroad" and bought the book.  She loved the book, loved the prayers, and began to use it every day – morning and evening.

Miracles began occurring.  Her son Adam reappeared in her life; she joined a wonderful new synagogue; and Berland just kept thinking about updating Hours Of DevotionBut first she needed to know the author.  She turned to a colleague and bibliographer who uncovered the name of Fanny Neuda (1819-1894), wife of a Moravian rabbi, whose story is as interesting as the prayers.

Fanny Neuda was a brillaint rebbitzen who wrote an essay regarding the importance of religious education and the understanding of the Hebrew language to young women and published two volumes of short children's stories.  She married a progressive rabbi and scholar, Abraham Neuda, who passed away in 1854, leaving Fanny a young widow and mother. 

In 1855, with the support of Baroness Louise von Rothschild, Neuda published the first edition of Hours of Devotion.  The book was immediately acclaimed, and the original version remained continuously in print through a 28th edition published around 1918.

This volume was considered "'the authoritative women's prayer book of its time.'" It was republished in a newly edited edition by Martha Wertheimer in 1936 Frankfurt and remained in print in Switzerland until 1968.  This book survived concentration camps and great diaspora, passed hand to hand by Jewish women in hiding.  Berland selected prayers from several editions of the book and restored them into verse, also reinstating the short biblical epigraphs that introduced each prayer.

The book is divided into daily prayers, sabbath prayers, holiday prayers, women's prayers, memorial prayers, healing prayers, and special prayers. Every life experience is addressed from working, poverty, prosperity, traveling, illness, death, success of children, recovery, childbirth, and the simple acts of awakening and sleeping.  This is a beautiful book full of solace and understanding for Jewish women of all backgrounds and levels of faith.

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About Lynda Lippin

  • http://www.dinahberland.com Dinah Berland

    Hi Lynda! Thanks for your beautiful review of my book. Love your web site, too! How awesome to live and work on a tropical island. Thanks for transporting me there!
    Warm Regards, Dinah

  • http://pilatesandreikiinparadise.com Lynda Lippin

    Thanks for the comment Dinah. I am honored that you read and commented on my review.