Dinah Berland is a poet and book editor with a background in art. Her book Hours of Devotion: Fanny Neuda’s Book of Prayers for Jewish Women is published by Schocken Books. Dinah’s poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, Ploughshares, the Iowa Review, Margie, Third Coast, and Hayden’s Ferry Review, among many literary magazines, and are anthologized in Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Verse & Universe: Poems About Science and Mathematics and Nice Jewish Girls: Growing Up in America, among other publications.
Dinah was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her mother, Helen Berland, was a widely exhibited artist, and her father, Jack A. Berland, an attorney. Her grandparents emigrated from Lithuania and Ukraine, respectively. Dinah was educated at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and received her B.F.A. in painting at Wayne State University, Detroit. She married between her sophomore and junior years in college and had three children before she was twenty-six years old. In the late 1960s, the family moved to Southern California, and, as soon as her children were teenagers, Dinah went back to school to receive her M.A. in photography from California State University, Northridge. Her first job after graduate school was as a book editor for Peace Press in Culver City. In 1982 she went on to assume dual careers as a photography instructor and art writer—teaching at UCLA Extension, California State University, Northridge, Pasadena City College, Pierce College, and as a visiting lecturer at the Art Institute of Chicago. During the 1980s she was also a regular contributer to the “On Photography” column in The Los Angeles Times and wrote art reviews and features for Art Week, The Long Beach Press Telegram, and a range of other publications.
Around the age of 40, Dinah discovered poetry when she started adding words and phrases to her photographs and quickly realized that there was more image in the words than in the photographs. Although she had grown up believing that she was an artist, she didn’t know what kind until that moment. Captivated by the visual and emotional power of poetry, she began traveling to writing workshops across the country to study with well-known poets, such as Edward Hirsch, Li-Young Lee, and James Tate, and soon her work began appearing in literary magazines. She went on to receive her M.F.A. in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, an individual fellowship in poetry from the California Arts Council, and prizes from the Chester H. Jones Foundation, Atlanta Review, and Writers at Work.
After a circuitous spiritual path from her Reform Jewish upbringing to a guru practice, in which she learned to meditate, Dinah was drawn back into Jewish study around the time she began working on Fanny Neuda’s prayer book. She has since had the opportunity to study Judaism with many renowned teachers, including Rabbis Mordecai Finley, Jonathan Omer-Man, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and her spiritual mentor Ronnie Serr, leader of the Shir HaShirim community, in which she has been active since 2002. She is also a regular participant in the Metivta community and is a member of Ohr HaTorah congregation in Los Angeles. Dinah has worked as a book editor for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles since 1994. Her three children are now grown, and she has two grandchildren.
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