Few 14-year-old girls can boast that they have authored a published book, but Noam Zimmerman of Kfar Adumim outside Jerusalem can. Coming from a traditional Orthodox family, she worked for nine months sculpting Fimo (synthetic clay) into figures and objects related to the High Holy Day prayer book (mahzor) - presenting pictures of her creations to each of the guests at her bat mitzva party.
Now the photographs have been published in a hard-cover book "in order to draw closer to the prayers and to understand them on Yom Kippur," she writes on the back.
"In order to make it possible to feel the words and to direct the heart, I created clay images that express verses from the liturgy. These images combine spirit and substance into one creation of faith and affection for these prayers... May it be Your will that You receive our prayers," she continues.
Called the first of its kind, the book bases the Fimo designs - 28 in all - on short extracts from the prayers. It is thus not meant as an aid for recitation of the full prayers, but to accustom very young children to the liturgy of Yom Kippur and draw them into it.
Quotations from the traditional High Holy Day prayer book are given in both Hebrew and English.
The figures are male and female, children and adults, all of them without facial features. (Some haredim, who keep any hint of a female figure - even of baby girls - out of their newspapers and magazines may be upset by even this, though everything is done modestly.) There is hair, but no eyes, noses or mouths. This is rather disconcerting. But Zimmerman's sculpting skills, developed over four years, are evident.
There is a lovely bride with a flowing white veil to illustrate "We are Your faithful and You are our Beloved." Whole families of figures, down to infants, stand to recite Kol Nidre. A uniformed sailor on a boat, complete with a red-and-white lifesaver, illuminates the verse "As a helm in the hand of the seaman who handles or abandons it at will, so are we in Your hand, gracious God; heed Your pact, heed not the Accuser."
A wooden table covered with bountiful food brings home the message: "Our Father, our King, fill our storehouses with plenty." "As a shepherd seeks out his flock, making his sheep pass under his rod, so do You make all the living souls pass before You" is represented by a shepherd in a galabiyeh and keffiyeh, holding a stick and watching over three lambs.
Noam even managed to sculpt an impressive image of the Ark containing the Ten Commandments, with the High Priest standing next to it. My favorite image was that of a man in a prayer shawl on his knees in awe of God, only his arms, legs and a bit of hair visible.
Noam Zimmerman still has a way to go to reach the level of plasticine sculptor Ronni Oren, but she clearly has talent. It is unfortunate that the photographic quality is not optimal, and her images appear somewhat fuzzy in front of interesting backgrounds.