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A FIRE IN MY SOUL

A Young Adult Book of Historical Fiction

Colophon (Royzl’s Yiddish preface to the Book of Psalms)

What if you refused to follow the path planned for you and instead forged your own?

How would it feel to have your own family, friends, and community turn away from you?

Could you stay true to yourself and still survive?

Those questions plagued young Royzl Fishl 450 years ago in faraway Poland.

In the 1500s, only Jewish boys and men could understand the sacred texts, written in Hebrew. Girls and women were barred from such study. Royzl Leyvi Fishl was an exception, trained in Hebrew by her father and grandfather, both famous rabbis in Poland. Fueled by a passionate belief in God and a deep love of the psalms, Royzl defied Jewish tradition and became a leader in her own right – a Reb, a rabbi, a teacher.

Why do her achievements matter? Because Royzl wanted women and girls to experience the power and beauty of the psalms in Yiddish, the only language they could read. In 1586, she made the courageous decision to travel 1,000 miles from Poland to the dangerous, anti-Semitic German states, where she discovered and copied the first rhymed Yiddish translations of the psalms. When Royzl brought her book back to Poland, it was published by the country’s most famous Jewish printer.

How do we know this? Because this remarkable young woman wrote a preface for the book, something unheard of for that time.

“A Fire In My Soul” is based on that historical preface and on the real-life characters Royzl would have met during her journey. We hope her story inspires Young Adult readers to follow their own dreams and callings, despite the daunting challenges they may face.

Map of Royzl’s journey from Poland to the German States
Outreach
Northwestern University student with map of Royzl’s journey.

A focus group with students at Northwestern University about what it means to be in exile – to be away from home – to wander away from the family’s or community’s values

“Both my parents are pastors. Since leaving for college, I view the world in a different way. I will always be an outsider to them. Sense of loss.”

Growth – getting larger, growing things. When you lose something, you create space for something else to grow. Sometimes this happens from a recognizable event. Other times the cause of growth is ambiguous. There can be growth out of joy. Losing innocence is important to growing. You must experience lows to experience highs.”