I had the pleasure of attending a unique book launch event in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was a celebration of a much anticipated children’s prayer and story book published by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
The innovative “Teach It To Your Children” project was spearheaded and funded by Martin and Melanie Glatt, recent Olim from South Africa working together with the talented Educational Department at the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
For Martin & Melanie the connection to the Kotel is an integral part of their everyday life. Martin often stands at the Western Wall Plaza on Friday nights handing out special prayer books. Helping people find a way to connect to the spirituality of the Kotel has become his mission.
The idea behind the “My Little Prayer & Story Book From The Western Wall” was to give children visiting the Kotel a way to connect with the experience. The colorful illustrations and easy to read text, guide children and their parent through the process. The book begins with a “Note to Parents” with practical tips of how to interact with your kids at the Kotel and how to bring them into the experience.
Through whimsical illustrations, the book continues to tell the story of Jerusalem, The Temple and the Western Wall through Jewish History. The story continues by introducing the reader to all of the different types of people who visit the Western Wall today. The book finishes with explanations of different prayers that children can say at the Kotel with English translation as well as the customs for how to respectfully leave the Kotel area.
The new siddur will be available at the Kotel for children to use and will also be available for sale at the Kotel Tunnels cashier. This unique book is a collaborative effort of the Education Department of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation and 3 acclaimed Jewish children’s authors/illustrators in America.
The book launch event had a festive feel and included all of the people from around the world who helped put the project together as well as friends and family of the Glatt’s. Nikky and Jonathan Newfield, Martin & Melanie’s daughter and son in law, attended the event with their three children. As a special gift to her father, Nikky who founded a digital Jewish Education organization called Jewish Interactive, created an online app of the siddur with her children’s voices reading the stories and saying the prayers. What an incredibly unique gift to give her parents to symbolize the power & importance of educating the next generation.
The Chief Rabbi of the Kotel, Rabbi Rabinowitz, was one of the prominent guests and he spoke about how the Glatts have been involved in more than 7 different projects at the Kotel. He emphasized their contribution with a story about how a special siddur commissioned by Martin & Melanie for the Kotel once affected an unaffiliated family. Rabbi Rabinowitz once met a man who came to the Kotel after a funeral to say Kaddish. This man, a European Jew had never prayed before and he told the Chief Rabbi that the siddur gave him the guidance he needed to perform this new religious ritual. He asked the Chief Rabbi where he could buy the book that brought him back to his roots and tradition.
Martin & Melanie hope that the new children’s prayer book will have the same effect. Whether it is used by a child to read about the Kotel, while their parents are taking a few minutes to pray or whether its used for the child’s prayer, this siddur will build a connection for the child to this holy site. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation continues to create programs and projects that bring visitors back to their roots and reinforce the connection that we have as Jews to this spiritual location in our Capital.
My Little Prayer & Story Book From The Western Wall
Story By: Marc Lumer, Leibel Estrin, Sruli Broocker
Illustrations: Marc Lumer
Text Editing: Chagit Moses & Rabbi Johnny Solomon
General Editing: Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Martin Glatt and Dov Rabinowitz
(This story was originally published for the Jerusalem Post February 11, 2016)