Poems of Jewish Faith and Culture
Poems for Rosh Hashanah
Poems for Yom Kippur
Poems for Hanukah
Poems for Passover
PRAYERS & SONGS
Hymns, blessings, and invocations to read alongside scripture and traditional prayers.
“Open the Gates” by Anonymous
Open the gates—the radiant portals,
Swift to Thy sons who are lovely and pure.
“Hymn for the Third Meal” by Yitzhak Luria
I hereby call
to the Ancient of Days
to summon His will
to drive them away—
“To Him Who Is Feared” by Eleazar Ben Kalir
At altars, ye mighty, proclaim loud His praise,
And multitudes too may whisper His lays.
“His Sovereignty” by 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 and I” by Stanley Moss
You are All
and I am a particle. Who should have mercy
on a particle if not the All?
“In the Days of Awe” by Robin Becker
Bind me to these friends and to this child
that I may learn my true relation to the people of this story
“Prayers for the Protection and Opening of the Heart” by Ya’akov Hakohen
Send the dew of blessing, the dew of grace;
renew my dispensation, and grant me length of days.
ON FAITH & SCRIPTURE
Often deep in dialogue with holy scripture, these poems update Judaism for contemporary culture on many continents.
“Book of Isaiah” by Anne Carson
New pain! said Isaiah.
New contract! said God.
“At the Threshold of the Book” by Edmond Jabès
“What is going on behind this door?”
“A book is shedding its leaves.”
“Mosaic” by Linda Pastan
of the Old Testament
into the lightning
of the New.
“The Alphabet” by Karl Shapiro
The letters of the Jews are dancing knives
That carve the heart of darkness seven ways.
[“The lamps are burning in the synagogue…”] by Charles Reznikoff
How good to stop
and look out upon eternity a while
CULTURE & HISTORY
Food, family, community, exile, and struggle through the long lens of Jewish history.
“I Wasn’t One of the Six Million: And What Is My Life Span? Open Closed Open” by Yehuda Amichai
And I wasn’t one of the six hundred thousand who went out of Egypt.
I came to the Promised Land by sea.
“A Poem Without an End” by Yehuda Amichai
“In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport” by Emma Lazarus
The weary ones, the sad, the suffering,
All found their comfort in the holy place
“The Jewish Cemetery at Newport” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Pride and humiliation hand in hand
Walked with them through the world where’er they went
“Honorary Jew” by John Repp
Done, he pointed a greasy finger
at me, said You can't be a goy.
“New Netherland, 1654” by Grace Schulman
when we came on a Sabbath, more than twenty
men, women, a baby born at sea.
“Location, Location” by Patty Seyburn
we take nothing with us, save a small stick or dowel
in the casket
ARTICLES & BLOG POSTS
On Jewish religious, cultural, and literary tradition.
“The Poetry of Kabbalah” by Peter Cole
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?
“Hungary: Don’t Look Away” by Forrest Gander
In August 2008, I flew to Budapest, Hungary, to meet with the 96-year old widow of the poet Miklós Radnóti.
“If the Psalms Aren’t Poetry, They’re Useless” by Peter O’Leary and Alicia Ostriker
Poets of different faiths come together over the Bible’s most celebrated lyrics.
Q&A with Emily Warn about her poems “The Word” and “Psalm”
I like to think about these poems as being about questioning rather than about seeking transcendence.
“Oh, Kwame Dawes, I Was Just Thinking About You” by Rachel Zucker
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.
“One Whole Voice” is comprised of extracts from A God in the House: Poets Talk about Faith, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Katherine Towler.
MORE POETS OF JEWISH EXPERIENCE
For further reading, browse the biographies and bibliographies of poets who write about Jewish faith and culture.
Poems of Jewish Faith and Culture