Poem Sampler

Hanukkah Poems

Classic and contemporary poems that celebrate Hanukkah and the Jewish faith.

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 poetsgraphies and bibliographies of poets who write about Jewish faith and culture, starting with the list at the end of this feature.

 

POEMS

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

 

AUDIO POEM

The Jew and the Rooster Are One” by Gerald Stern

 

ARTICLE

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 JEWISH POETS

Yehuda Amichai

Joseph Brodsky

Marilyn Hacker

Edmond Jabès

A. M. Klein

Hilda Morley

Howard Nemerov

Alicia Ostriker

Grace Paley

Carl Rakosi

Lola Ridge

Jerome Rothenberg

Jane Shore

Louis Zukofsky

Originally Published: December 7th, 2010

Becca Klaver is the author of the poetry collections Empire Wasted (Bloof Books, 2016) and LA Liminal (Kore Press, 2010), as well as several chapbooks. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she earned a BA from the University of Southern California, an MFA from Columbia College Chicago, and a PhD...

  1. December 22, 2011
     amy

    Thank you for this!

  2. December 10, 2012
     Hanna Busse

    Just to tell the nameless, faceless internet world about my life because
    maybe then it's like some REAL person actually cares:
    This is totally going to be my way of introducing my extended family to
    what I'm actually studying in college. They'll get it a little more if it's
    about Judaism, I think. So thanks for this.

    And thanks for listening, world.