This Sunday, at the Ethical Society in Philadelphia, Ritualwell goes offline to celebrate Jewish women writers with a special program called “Embodied Ritual, Embodied Writing.” The very special woman who inspired the endowment of this program is a poet named Henny Wenkart. The Wenkart Writer-in-Residence program was established through Kolot: The Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies, at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. The program was originally created to bring a prominent feminist Jewish woman writer to the college to give a reading and teach a workshop for rabbinical students. This Sunday’s event expands that original vision by bringing the event to the public, and featuring three Jewish women poets and a writing workshop.
Born in Vienna in 1928, Henny Wenkart was rescued from the The genocide of millions of European Jews--as well as other ethnic, religious and minority groups--by the Nazis during World War II. The tragic events of the Holocaust are now commemorated each year on Yom HaShoah; established in 1952 by the Israeli government. Shoah (calamity) has become the term used to describe the systemic mass slaughter that occurred during World War II. by Gilbert and Eleanor Kraus. Her rescue story is featured in the 2013 HBO documentary “50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus.” Many years later, Henny founded the Jewish Women’s Poetry Workshop in New York, became editor of the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, and edited an anthology of Jewish women’s poetry, The first matriarch, wife of Abraham, and mother of Isaac, whom she birthed at the age of 90. Sarah, in Rabbinic tradition, is considered holy, beautiful, and hospitable. Many prayers, particularly the Amidah (the central silent prayer), refer to God as Magen Avraham – protector of Abraham. Many Jews now add: pokehd or ezrat Sarah – guardian or helper of Sarah.‘s Daughters Sing: A Sampler of Poems by Jewish Women (KTAV 1990). She co-edited the anthology, Which In the midrash (rabbinic story about the Torah story), Lilith is imagined as Adam's first wife. Because she wanted equality, she wss ultimately banished, and God provided Adam with a more obedient wife. Lilith, according to tradition, lives on as a kind of demon, causing men to have wet dreams and stealing infant boys from their cribs. Today, Lilith has been reclaimed by Jewish feminists as a symbol of women's equality.?: Feminist Writers Recreate the World’s First Woman (Jason Aronson 1998). And she has also published her own book of poetry, Love Poems of a Philanderer’s Wife (Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishers, Jewish Women’s Resource Center, co-publisher 2005).
Henny Wenkart will be in attendance at the poetry reading on Sunday. As the Ritualwell team began organizing the event and choosing poets to feature, Elana Bell and Maya Pindyck quickly came to mind as two contemporary Jewish women poets who explore both Jewish and feminist ideas in their work. I knew that Elana was an exceptional workshop leader, and we are thrilled to have her offer a writing workshop with a ritual angle. I was honored when Elana suggested I present as one of the poets at the reading. We hope you will join us for this exciting event. Henny’s legacy of supporting and celebrating Jewish women writers will be in good hands!
Registration closes on April 29th for “Embodied Ritual, Embodied Writing,” and space is limited—register now. Photo: Henny Wenkart. Courtesy HBO.