Sigal Samuel and Vali Mintzi's warm and respectful picture book Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World's First Female Rabbi reveals the training and influence of a 17th-century woman who defied convention.
At a time when women were expected to tend only to domestic duties, Osnat Barzani instead embraced the secrets of the Torah. Curious Osnat, trained in her father's yeshiva, found that each answer she learned from the Torah's words "gave rise to seven new questions in her mind." Eventually, Osnat became a teacher (with a pet dove by her side), then rose to prominence as the yeshiva's leader--the first female in history to hold that role. Seemingly supernatural incidents, like the healing of her wounded dove, brought followers to her door: "The sick, the poor, the heartbroken--all believed she had the power to heal them." Her wisdom and abilities to educate and potentially heal cemented Osnat in local legend.
Sigal Samuel (The Mystics of Mile End) spotlights significant events in Osnat's life with economical prose that balances the singularity of Osnat's experience with her community's collective regard. Vali Mintzi (Meet Me at the Well) works in gouache shades of scarlet and ochre for daylight and violet-tinged blues at night, the sense of place emphasized through decorative flourishes to textiles and architecture. Magical elements are imagined literally, lending credence to the impact of Osnat's work on the legends of her people.
This lively and admiring biography envisions the life of a religious leader who defied gender norms and inspired mystical beliefs. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf