I am excited to share Evelyn Goldfinger’s creative work, WORDS FROM MY HEART: THE HANDS-ON JEWISH PRAYER BOOK. It’s a unique book concept that is interactive and project-based, making prayer accessible for children. Evelyn is passionate about bringing spirituality to children in a meaningful way. I’m happy to learn more about Evelyn and her work.
Tell me a bit about your interactive book, WORDS FROM MY HEART. What inspired the idea?
Praying has always been a part of who I am. Everyday I would pray, either following Jewish Prayer (T’filah) or by pouring the words from my heart to G*d. Years passed and I became a Jewish educator and a prayer leader, and I experimented with ways to help children and families explore Jewish prayer in a meaningful way. Then I became a mother and at some point I wanted my child to have a prayer book that they could make their own. I’ve found great Siddurim for children, but they were too traditional in the sense that they followed the liturgy, but I didn’t find an entering point to discover the what and why of prayer and creating a connection with the Divine. So, I created the book I wished I had in the classroom/synagogue and at home. That’s how Words From My Heart, the hands-on Jewish Prayer Book was born. It presents an interactive approach to spirituality and Jewish prayer for children. It’s a hands-on, scrapbook-style book that includes activities, games, songs, Hebrew words, Jewish prayers, and access to stories and videos through QR codes.
The art in the book is beautiful. How did you determine the style that would work with the text of the book?
Thank you for your kind comment. That was a journey in itself. As the book evolved, it became clear to me that this was a hands-on experience. I didn’t want it to have the traditional activity book style, but to have the feeling of a scrapbook. I didn’t want it to be a workbook that kids can complete and put away, but I hoped for an object that children would cherish and revisit in prayerful moments. The book is a metaphor, honestly. Just as I hope that kids make this book their own, I hope that they would make prayers and their unique relationship with the One, their own. That’s how the idea of collage as a technique came to be. Again, it was an exploration. It was all handmade and then digitized. I think it works because it’s inviting and approachable. It tells children: “you can draw, paste, and even cut this book because this is how it was created.”
How do the activities in the book help kids connect to Jewish life?
The book follows the Words From My Heart (WFMH) approach, which I created, that helps participants to immerse themselves in spirituality and T’filah through four of the central concepts in Jewish prayer: Todah (thank you/ gratitude), B’vakashah (please/ asking for help), S’lichah (sorry/ repairing our mistakes), and Halleluyah (wow/ exclaiming praise and awe). Each chapter investe children to explore these prayer concepts by combining different types of activities: imaginative/mindful exercises, games, cut and give out, or draw or paste. I want to invite the children to experience/feel/connect/think about the concept behind the prayer before jumping into it. What’s most special to me is that at the end of each chapter, after the exploration, children not only are invited to explore a traditional Jewish prayer, but to draw or write a prayer of their own.
The book includes some fun technology options. Can you share a bit about that?
Sure! Music and narrative are central in Jewish prayer. I wanted the book to offer children, parents, and educators examples on how to sing the Jewish prayers that appear in the book, and to have access to additional resources related to the prayer-concepts. So I included in the book QR codes that allow kids (with the help of their grownups) to do that. As Ms. Eve I have created tons of fun and educational videos with Jewish content at my Youtube channel (@torahtron) with songs, stories, and with my puppet-friends. I always received amazing feedback from children, parents, and educators. I think it adds to the experience.
What do you hope kids will come away with after experiencing WORDS FROM MY HEART?
I hope that kids experience prayer in a way that is fun, accessible, and meaningful to them. I hope for prayer, spirituality, and G*d to become more familiar, maybe less intimidating in some cases. I hope that this exploration leads to self-expression, to questions, to conversations with the grownups. I hope that kids can bring along this prayer book as THEIR prayer book. I also hope to give parents and educators a resource to help kids discover spirituality, which is –even according to scientific studies- a key aspect of human life. And, as I often say, I hope that the words from my heart reach you and your family, and that the words in your hearts elevate us all.
Evelyn Goldfinger, AKA “Ms. Eve”, is a spiritual leader, performer, best selling author, and Jewish educator. Evelyn brings her interactive and educational shows, workshops, and spiritual prayer experiences to schools, JCCs, and synagogues, engaging thousands of children and adults. Evelyn holds a Yeshiva University certification in Experimental Jewish Education and she is a certified Storyteller Educator by RISE NewCAJE. She serves as RISE Young Learners faculty. She is the author of the bestselling book The Shabbat Treasure. Evelyn lives in sunny Miami, where she serves as a Cantorial Soloist while pursuing her studies to be ordained as a Cantor (Chazan). “Ms. Eve” loves inviting children and families to join in singing, stories, and prayer, or to connect via Youtube with her interactive videos along with her puppet-friends. For more about Goldfinger or her books, visit: http://www.shalomeve.com/or on Youtube and Instagram @torahtron.