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Meet Henny Wenkart: Holocaust Survivor, Supporter of Jewish Feminist Writers

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 Holocaust 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, Sarah‘s Daughters Sing: A Sampler of Poems by Jewish Women (KTAV 1990). She co-edited the anthology, Which Lilith?: 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.

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