A Spiritual Life : A Jewish Feminist Journey

Merle Feld

Publisher: SUNY

Explores the complex facets of a Jewish woman’s spiritual coming-of-age, capturing the emotional and spiritual reality of contemporary Jews as well as religious seekers of all types.

A unique memoir that interweaves poetry, narrative, meditation, and social history, A Spiritual Life explores the complex facets of a Jewish woman’s spiritual coming-of-age, capturing the emotional and spiritual reality of contemporary Jews as well as religious seekers of all types. From the experiences of early childhood, to the spiritual awakening of a secular adolescent encountering Jewish tradition, to the alternately funny and searing tales of new-found independence, early married life, young motherhood, and midlife, Feld comments with remarkable honesty and clarity on the many stages of spiritual and artistic exploration and growth. Overarching all these accounts is the picture of how the cycle of the Jewish calendar year comes to provide an ever-renewing source of sustenance for the author’s deepening spiritual expression.

“This is a book full of heart and intelligence, rich with humor and emotion, no punches pulled. Honoring the past, it turns our faces finally toward a future—hopefully—of change and growth in Jewish life.” -Alicia Ostriker, author, Nakedness of the Fathers and The Little Space: Selected and New Poems

“Merle Feld captures the feelings, frustrations, and hopes of a generation of American Jewish women, and her words will forever be the anthem, the emblem, of the late-twentieth-century Jewish feminist movement.”- Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, editor and translator of Out of the Depths I Call to You: A Book of Prayers for the Married Jewish Woman

“This book cannot be pigeonholed-it evokes recognition and assent in relation to the complex experiences of being a child, being a child dealing with aging parents, being a friend and a lover, being a mother, being a (Jewish) woman at the end of the twentieth century, being a human being seeking a spiritual life. In describing her effort to live a spiritually meaningful life and to find spirituality in everyday experience, Feld names experiences shared by many women, yet seldom fully articulated, or articulated this clearly and well.” — Judith Plaskow, author of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective

“You stop by Merle’s house one morning. You have a cup of coffee with her at the kitchen table. She tells you a few of her stories. You look at your watch: it’s late afternoon. Or, she brings out a poem she just finished. Your eyes fill with tears; it’s Yom Kippur. Stories and poetry so captivating, powerful, wise, you will never be the same. An extraordinary achievement!” — Lawrence Kushner, author of Invisible Lines of Connection

“Merle Feld speaks honestly about the lives of all women in this deep and penetrating volume. A Spiritual Life is a delight to the mind and the heart.” — Sharon Strassfeld, author of Everything I Know and co-editor of The Second Jewish Catalog: Sources and Resources

“Feld breaks new ground in spiritual autobiography-locating spiritual growth in the daily life of a daughter, wife, mother, and friend. Her distinctive voice is characterized by a simplicity and honest humility that makes the profundity of her insights all the more startling. She has a gift for making that which may seem esoteric, accessible; and that which may seem ordinary or mundane, transcendent. This book is one of a kind.” — Gail Twersky Reimer, Director, Jewish Women’s Archive, and coeditor of Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story

“Interweaving poems with personal reflections, Merle Feld takes the reader on a spiritual journey through well-known paths not often associated with the sacred. In search of a meaningful Jewish self-identity, she draws on her own experiences as wife, mother, and Jewishly-committed feminist, transforming everyday events into occasions for spontaneous prayer. Feld’s honest, sometimes irreverent poems are witty, wise, and religiously insightful. Worthy of a wide audience, this book should be of particular interest to feminist theologians and historians; to Jewish women who, like Feld, struggle to find their place in the Jewish world; and to anyone seeking new paths towards the holy.” — Ellen Umansky, coeditor of Four Centuries of Jewish Women’s Spirituality: A Sourcebook

“Feld gives voice to a generation of American Jewish women.” — Rabbi Jane Litman, co-editor of Lifecycles Vol. 2: Jewish Women on Biblical Themes in Contemporary Life

Merle Feld is an award-winning playwright and poet whose work has appeared in numerous anthologies and prayer books. Her plays Across the Jordan and The Gates Are Closing have been staged and read at synagogues and universities across the country and internationally.

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