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March 6: Hours of Devotion

Lawrence Bush
March 5, 2017
Fanny Schmiedl Neuda, who wrote Stunden der Andacht, “Hours of Devotion” -- subtitled “A Book of Prayer and Moral Uplift for Jewish Women and Girls,” and the first Jewish prayerbook for women written by a woman -- was born into a family of rabbis in Moravia on this date in 1816. Published in 1855 after her rabbi husband had died, her book was a bestseller that ran into some thirty editions (including one as recently as 1968) and became the standard women’s siddur of its time. It featured more than 50 prayers relating to many aspects of Jewish women’s lives. According to Bettina Kratz-Ritter at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “Apart from being composed in a particularly fervent and intimate style of prayer, the texts are characterized by a conservative theology and a middle-class morality typical of the time. Thus Fanny Neuda recommends that in bringing up Jewish girls the moral qualities of the German classics should be applied, as well as the deliberate encouragement of innate female religiosity; they should strive for ‘ennoblement of the heart, enhancement and strengthening of religious feeling.’ ” Neuda lived to 78. “Neuda also wrote stories about the domestic life of Jews of Bohemia and Moravia. Two of her other books appeared in Prague: Noami: Erzählungen aus Davids Wanderleben (Noami: Tales from David’s Life of Wandering; 1864), and Jugend-Erzählungen aus dem israelitischen Familienleben (Tales of Jewish Family Life for Youngsters; 1876).” —YIVO Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.