title page to the 1868 edition of Fanny Neuda's 'Hours of Devotion'
title page to the 1868 edition of Fanny Neuda’s Hours of Devotion

Poet Dinah Berland discovered Hours of Devotion—a collection of prayers for Jewish women first published in Moravia in 1855—by accident. Wandering the aisles of a used bookstore in Los Angeles, she noticed a book with an unmarked spine, pulled it off the shelf, and began reading. She was immediately struck by the intimacy of the prayers, which were written by a woman named Fanny Neuda.

Berland went on to research Neuda’s life—she came from a family of rabbis, several of whom were pioneers of the Reform movement—and then to commission and edit a new translation of the prayers, which were originally written in German. Berland speaks with us about these tkhines (supplications) as the prayers are known, and reads one of her favorites, “On the Approach of Childbirth.”