Book of Jewish women's prayers brings local authors closer to their faith
May 29, 2008 10:00 AM
Leslie Golomb, left, and Barbara Broff Goldman pose for a portrait inside Ms. Broff Goldman's studio in Squirrel Hill with a copy of their book, "To Speak Her Heart," a collection of Jewish women's prayers and artwork by the two women.
By Moriah Balingit Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In Orthodox and some Conservative Jewish traditions, one of the prayers that starts the day begins: "Thank you God for not making me a woman."
It was something that made Leslie A. Golomb, an artist from Point Breeze, uncomfortable when she rejoined a Conservative congregation 12 years ago.
"All these patriarchal things were hitting me in the face," said Ms. Golomb. "I started feeling a need to sort of search out women's voices."
So she sought out tkines, prayers, written for women most often by women, to help her find her place in a religion in which most traditional prayers are male-centric.
She compiled her decade or so of research in "To Speak her Heart," an anthology of prayers that she worked on with friend and fellow artist Barbara Broff Goldman of Squirrel Hill. Both women created art to go with each prayer.
The two women will present the book for a book-signing at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Rodef Shalom Congregation in Oakland. The signing will be followed by lunch and a prayer-writing workshop at noon led by Hebrew Union College professor Wendy I. Zierler, who wrote the introduction for the book.
The workshop and lunch cost $18. To make reservations, call 412-681-1537.
The two women came up with the idea for the book two years ago when Ms. Goldman was teaching Ms. Golomb book-binding. Both were raised in the Reform tradition and had largely lost touch with the religion until they were adults.
Ms. Goldman shared Ms. Golomb's sentiment about the male-centrism of parts of Judaism.
"Prayer was very much wrapped around God and men," she said.
Ms. Golomb told Ms. Goldman about the tkines she was researching and the two decided to collaborate on a book.
"I didn't even know about [them] before," Ms. Goldman said. "And it just rolled, like a dust ball, from there."
Tkines are not prescribed prayers that are said in synagogues and are not widely known. In fact, much of the tkines contained within the book would only be available in a scholarly setting, the women said.
The book grew, in part, out of their desire to make the prayers more accessible to women of all backgrounds.
In creating the compilation, the women said they wanted to capture as diverse a set of voices as possible. So the 25 tkines in the book come from a variety of places and eras and address everything from baking bread to the Holocaust to coming out as a lesbian.
One prayer, which addresses the emotionally unavailable, begins, "Thank God I was born a woman."
"We sat for hours and hours ... going back and forth to find which ones spoke to us," said Ms. Golomb. "We didn't want it to all be about defiant women ... I wanted to get some feeling about the lives of women throughout the diaspora, throughout all the places they ended up."
The illustrations that accompany the prayers are mixed medium and contain lithography, photography and etchings that were digitally scanned and compiled on computers.
Ms. Golomb said she felt she developed a connection with each of the women she wrote about and each of the prayers she illustrated. The book also contains biographical information about all of the authors.
"I feel like each prayer that I studied and illustrated, I got to know each of these women and that they became a friend in some way," she said. "I tried to learn as much as I could about their lives and tried to approach it as if we were having a conversation."
She added that she believes the book can appeal to women of all religious backgrounds because the prayers address concerns that are universal.
Putting together the book has helped her find her place in Judaism, she said, but she added that it's going to be a life-long search.
"I'm still trying to question where the heck I am," she said.