To celebrate the Festival of Lights—which in turn celebrates the Maccabees’ rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE—we bring you poems of Hanukkah and Jewish faith. Robin Becker, Jacqueline Osherow, and Charles Reznikoff conceive of their poems partly as prayers as they borrow the language of Jewish liturgy and ritual. The lines between poem, song, and prayer are intriguingly blurred by other poets as well: Solomon Solis-Cohen’s translates Mordecai Ben Isaac’s Hanukkah hymn, and Aileen Fisher’s blessing for the menorah is perfect for reading—or singing—alongside traditional prayers. Steven Schneider and John Repp depict food, dance, and other cultural traditions surrounding the holiday, while Emma Lazarus, Linda Pastan, and Marge Piercy meditate on family and community through the long lens of Jewish history. For further reading, browse the Poetry Foundation’s biographies and bibliographies of poets who write about Jewish faith and culture, starting with the list at the end of this feature.
“In the Days of Awe” by Robin Becker
“Light the Festive Candles” by Aileen Fisher
“Rock of My Salvation” by Mordecai Ben Isaac
“In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport” by Emma Lazarus
“Autumn Psalm” by Jacqueline Osherow
“Mosaic” by Linda Pastan
“My mother’s body” by Marge Piercy
“Honorary Jew” by John Repp
“[‘The lamps are burning in the synagogue…’]” by Charles Reznikoff
“Chanukah Lights Tonight” by Steven Schneider
“The Jew and the Rooster Are One” by Gerald Stern
“If the Psalms Aren’t Poetry, They’re Useless”
Peter O’Leary and Alicia Ostriker, poets of different faiths, come together over the Bible’s most celebrated lyrics.
MORE POETS OF JEWISH EXPERIENCE