Featured Author: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg’s most recent book Miriam’s Well is a modern day take on the Exodus—one woman’s journey to find herself as she travels through decades of charged history. Miriam is the daughter of a Jewish mother and a Black father, so she often finds herself caught between worlds. She is a caregiver, a cook and a marvelous singer, and she feels an almost mystical draw to the scenes of tragic events where she helps people by nourishing them with food and music. Miriam finds herself turning “the chaos and despair of our times into music, meals and miracles,” during moments such as the Wounded Knee encampment in South Dakota, the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, the Oklahoma City terrorist attack, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Goldberg notes that Miriam’s Well is a story of seeking belonging and that Miriam is a model for being true to yourself.

“Miriam’s Well really is a story of seeking our people, place and purpose against the changing backdrop of this world as we cross through the desert of all that’s broken – all the social and ecological injustice, devastation, threats and heartbreaks happening around and within us – to find the promised land,” Goldberg said. “I see that land as the place where we can cultivate greater freedom, justice and homecoming; a place where we can be who we truly are.”

Explore your own personal narratives and the guiding myths that move you through your life with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on June 23, in a writing workshop based on the Jewish tradition of Midrash: Midrash and Personal Mythology to Re-Vision Our Lives. Goldberg defines personal mythology as the over-arching stories that guide our lives.

“Myths shape our understandings of self and world through the big cultural myths that tell us how to be, the community myths that name or try to name how we live with others, the family stories that pigeon-hole us in various roles that may or may not fit us anymore, and the stories we tell ourselves about our purpose, capacities, limitations and worth,” Goldberg said. “Midrash is one way to engage in the myths of our lives.”

Saturday evening (June 23) visit Topeka’s beautiful Temple Beth Sholom for a Miriam’s Well Reading & Havdalah Service, a short (10-minute) evening singing service, a reading from Miriam’s Well and a sampling of Jewish savories, including homemade challah, the egg bread that is traditionally eaten at the start of Sabbath, and hamentashen, triangle-shaped filled cookies.

Rabbi Debbie Stiel describes the Havdalah service as a way to start the week off on a sweet and peaceful note.

“Havdalah is a lovely short service at the end of the Sabbath,” Stiel said. “It is mostly sung in our tradition. So you have this nice musical end to the day of rest. During the ceremony we think about consciously trying to bring the sweetness and peace of the Sabbath with us into the week and we wish each other a Shavua tov – a good week.”

Rabbi Stiel says that Temple Beth Sholom always welcomes people to come to a worship service or activity at Temple Beth Sholom.

“We want folks in the area to have the opportunity to ask questions about Judaism and to experience some of our traditions” Stiel said. “I think it is when we do not learn about each other that distrust and misunderstandings grow, so learning about cultures and belief systems other than our own is very important. In addition, it is so much fun to see the variety of perspectives that exist in our world. I hope that as we learn more about each other and visit each other’s houses of worship we develop a fond appreciation for different cultures, traditions and viewpoints.”

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda loves to talk lit, and to connect readers with great books. Her favorite reads are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she's passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and Great Writers Right Here author fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-leads the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library's 2Book Topeka team.