Tuesday, September 28, 2010

By the River: Women’s Voices in Jewish Stories

CD Review

Cindy Rivka Marshall, Storyteller

Music provided by Susan Robbins

Recommended for ages 10 through adult. $15.00 for first CD, $10.00 for additional CDs. To order, go to www.cindymarshall.com; for MP-3 digital download, go to http://cdbaby.com/cd/crmarshall2

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

Cindy Marshall’s telling style is clean, eloquent, and intimate. Susan Robbins’ lovely music played on frame drum, accordion, hammered dulcimer, and several other instruments, seasons the stories perfectly. Like salt used sparingly, the music enhances the stories without overwhelming them. As I listened to Marshall and Robbins weave tales and music together, I felt as though I were privy to a special concert that had been created just for me.

On this CD, using the tradition of midrash Marshall shares stories that honor the wisdom of women. Prominently featured is Serah bat Asher, mentioned only twice in the Torah; once leaving Canaan to go to Egypt with Joseph, and again 200 years later in the census of Israelites living in the desert. Considered a female counterpart of Elijah, the hero in hundreds of Jewish tales, Serah bat Asher urges Miriam, in the story The Voice in Her Heart, to sing her visions of new birth to her parents. They listen, and Moses is born.

Serah bat Asher appears again in The River, a story of a mother and a daughter, and the lessons they learn. Serah bat Asher appears at the river and counsels them to have faith: every year as they tell the story of leaving Egypt, they are transported from slavery to freedom.

The Magic Pomegranate Seed is the story of a desperate but wise young mother who steals a loaf of bread to feed her hungry children. When caught and sentenced to death, she quickly and cleverly devises a plan to save herself.

In The Jewel, young Freyda learns, along with a rich landowner, what true treasure is. Onions features yet another treasure, more valuable than diamonds to some. Unfortunately, an over-abundance of anything causes its value to plummet, as the brothers of Gittel, the story’s young heroine, soon discover. The song and lyrics Marshall created for this story yield quite a catchy tune. I could not help but sing along.

My favorite story on this CD is A Garment for the Moon, in which a seamstress, asked by the sun to make clothing for the shivering moon, convinces others of her trade to help her fulfill this request. A search ensues for a fabric that can grow to fit any size, for, as we all know, the moon’s size changes throughout each month. The source of this newly discovered fabric sheds light that is unexpected but delightful.

How lovely it is to listen to stories that honor the wisdom of all women, not just older women! Marshall makes us realize that wisdom comes in all shapes and sizes, just like the moon’s new garment.


  1. Linda, thanks for all of these reviews. It not only gives me some good suggestions on new artists, but really helps me decide what material will interest me! We need to get your blog linked to some story websites. I think a lot of people would appreciate it.

  2. I would love to link this blog to some story websites, Kim. I will look into that.