Author Maggie Anton grew up knowing
very little about the Jewish religion and never dreamed of being a writer, but
a women’s Talmud class in the 1990s changed all of that and the course of her
“I signed up for the class, I fell
in love with Talmud, it became my passion—it’s still my passion,” Anton said.
It was in this class that she first learned about Rashi and his daughters.
Having worked for more than 30 years as a clinical chemist, Anton who said she
had never written anything before except letters to her husband while he was in
the army, was inspired to write what would become her first trilogy, the
popular Rashi’s Daughters.
“I realized there was a huge hunger among Jewish women for novels with Jewish
heroines and with Jewish historical heroines, even better.” One of the lessons
of her books, which all take place during Talmudic times, is to encourage more
women—and more Jews in general—to study Talmud.
Author Maggie Anton.
Anton will visit several Chicago synagogues in October to talk about her second
trilogy, Rav Hisda’s Daughter Book 1:
Apprentice, A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery (Plume Original), a
2012 National Jewish Book Award finalist.
This series tells the story of Hisdadukh, the youngest child of Talmudic sage
Rav Hisda in third-century Babylonia. It is a story of conflict as Rome battles
Zoroastrian Persia for dominance while Rav Hisda and his colleagues struggle to
establish new Jewish traditions after the destruction of Jersualem’s Holy
It is also a story of love. Hisdadukh
is presented with two of her father’s best students and, when asked which one
she will marry, she replies “both” to everyone’s surprise. But most
interestingly, this is a story about ancient Jewish magic, a little-known piece
of Jewish history where real-life sorceresses used incantations in their
“Sorcery was originally not even in my mind when I first decided to write [this
book], but then I discovered all the incantation bowls and magic and demons,
sorcery and sorceresses in particular—the Talmud has a lot to say about them
and I ended up [becoming] very knowledgeable about ancient Jewish magic,” Anton
As she began writing, she realized that Rav Hisda’s daughter was not referred
to by name in the Talmud, and it was on her search for accurate Jewish women’s
names from this time period that she discovered incantation bowls, pottery
bowls with inscriptions inside whose purpose was to protect the people under
whose home they were buried—thousands of which have been unearthed in what is
now Iraq, dated back to the 4th to 6th centuries.
As she delved into the subject, Anton realized that her protagonist was a
sorceress and her book took off in a whole different direction.“Magic and
sorcery was not some hidden esoteric part of Judaism that mainstream Judaism didn’t
have anything to do with…it was everywhere; it was under every house,” she
To learn more about the book, visit www.ravhisdasdaughter.com.
Maggie Anton Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at Congregation Kneseth Israel in Elgin, Oct. 23
at 7 p.m. at Congregation Beth Judea in Long Grove, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at
Congregation B’nai Torah in Highland Park, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. at West Suburban Temple
Har Zion in River Forest, and Oct. 27 at 1:30 p.m. at B’nai Yehudah Beth Sholom