Poems of Jewish Faith and Culture
Hymns, blessings, and invocations to read alongside scripture and traditional prayers.
Open the gates—the radiant portals,
Swift to Thy sons who are lovely and pure.
I hereby call
to the Ancient of Days
to summon His will
to drive them away—
Eleazar ben Kalir
At altars, ye mighty, proclaim loud His praise,
And multitudes too may whisper His lays.
Kalonymos ben Moses of Lucca
Holy—He sets apart one day in all the year;
Holy—He pardons them whose longing turns to Him.
You are All
and I am a particle. Who should have mercy
on a particle if not the All?
Bind me to these friends and to this child
that I may learn my true relation to the people of this story
Send the dew of blessing, the dew of grace;
renew my dispensation, and grant me length of days.
Often deep in dialogue with holy scripture, these poems update Judaism for contemporary culture on many continents.
New pain! said Isaiah.
New contract! said God.
“What is going on behind this door?”
“A book is shedding its leaves.”
of the Old Testament
into the lightning
of the New.
How good to stop
and look out upon eternity a while
Food, family, community, exile, and struggle through the long lens of Jewish history.
And I wasn’t one of the six hundred thousand who went out of Egypt.
I came to the Promised Land by sea.
Inside the brand-new museum
there's an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
All found their comfort in the holy place
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Pride and humiliation hand in hand
Walked with them through the world where’er they went
Done, he pointed a greasy finger
at me, said You can't be a goy.
when we came on a Sabbath, more than twenty
men, women, a baby born at sea.
we take nothing with us, save a small stick or dowel
in the casket
On Jewish religious, cultural, and literary tradition.
What, apart from a historical and armchair sense of the intense religious experience of spiritual adepts, does Kabbalah—and specifically the poetry of Kabbalah—have to tell us as readers today?
In August 2008, I flew to Budapest, Hungary, to meet with the 96-year old widow of the poet Miklós Radnóti.
An exchange between Peter O'Leary and Alicia Ostriker (Peter O’Leary & Alicia Ostriker)
Poets of different faiths come together over the Bible’s most celebrated lyrics.
I got the question I most often get (this one is always, always asked by a women and never by a man): “are you worried about what your children or family will think about your poems?” Often, in response to this question I talk about being Jewish.
Various (Jericho Brown)
“One Whole Voice” is comprised of extracts from A God in the House: Poets Talk about Faith, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler.
For further reading, browse the biographies and bibliographies of poets who write about Jewish faith and culture