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Poetry

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Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein was an American modernist writer, an international celebrity, and an artistic iconoclast. With her companion Alice B. Toklas, she lived in Paris for most of her life. An impressive modern art collection hung on the walls of their home. Besides poetry and plays, Stein wrote innovative fiction, essays on writing and art, and two memoirs, The Biography of Alice B. Toklas and Everybody’s Autobiography, that chronicled her life, career, and famous friends.

Emily Solis-Cohen

Emily Solis-Cohen was a prominent poet, historian, and philanthropist. As a community leader, she conducted American Jewish historical research and used this knowledge to publish both poetic and nonfiction works that celebrated the lives of Jewish Americans, and especially Jewish women.

Shulammite: Bible

The Shulammite is described as very close to her mother, assertive, and extremely beautiful. Her narrative is sensual and filled with longing as she waits for her lover. The Shulammite does not shy away from declaring her feelings and desires, and the Bible portrays her as a complex woman whose eroticism is celebrated.

Grace Seixas Nathan

Although it was never published in her lifetime, Grace Seixas Nathan’s writing showed her passion for her country, her family, and her religion. She began writing poetry at an early age, particularly on Jewish themes. Throughout her life, Nathan corresponded with various friends and relations, blending eloquence and emotion with a fierce wit that bring her era to life.

Jessie Ethel Sampter

Jessie Sampter was an important Zionist activist, writer, and educator. As an influential member of Hadassah, the woman’s Zionist organization, she advocated for an inclusive vision of Zionism. Putting her ideas into practice, she moved to Palestine in 1919. Although Sampter’s disability and non-normative family structure did not align with Zionist ideals of strong, healthy bodies, she championed Zionism, though not always uncritically.

Muriel Rukeyser

Poet Muriel Rukeyser’s prolific body of work reflects her passionate activism and lived experiences. She was present at many important events during the 1930s and was arrested for covering the second Scottsboro trial. Rukeyser spent her entire life as an activist, including involvement in Vietnam War protest efforts.

Ruth Rubin

Ruth Rubin devoted a lifetime to the collection and preservation of Yiddish folklore in poetics and songs. As a popular performer-folklorist, she would describe the background of her selections and then sing them in a simple, unaccompanied style. Rubin helped preserve the past and launch the modern Yiddish revival.

Adrienne Cecile Rich

Adrienne Rich was an influential poet, thinker, and political activist. In her essays and poems, Rich explored the intersections of the personal and the political, focusing in particular on questions of identity while drawing on her own experiences as a woman, a lesbian, and a Jew.

Marge Piercy

Novelist and poet Marge Piercy's life and life’s work reflect her deep engagement with political activism, feminism, and Judaism. In genres including fiction, poetry, liturgy, memoir, and essays, Piercy’s work brings together spirituality, creativity, memory, sensuality, and political engagement.

Grace Paley

Grace Paley wrote highly acclaimed short stories, poetry, and reflections on contemporary politics and culture. A rare example of a writer deeply engaged with the world, Grace Paley made an impact as much through her activism as her writing.

Kadya Molodowsky

Kadya Molodowsky was a major figure in the Yiddish literary scene in Warsaw (from the 1920s through 1935) and in New York (from 1935 until her death in 1975). She published extensively in many genres, including poetry, fiction, drama, and essays, and founded and edited two journals. Recurrent themes in her work include the lives of Jewish women and girls Jewish tradition in the face of modernity, Israel, and the Holocaust.

Adah Isaacs Menken

In her short but remarkable life, actress Adah Isaacs Menken became legendary for her scandalous defiance of convention. One of the most glamorous celebrities of the 1860s, Menken also cultivated a literary following. She wrote poetry and developed relationships with Walt Whitman and Charles Dickens, among others.

Lenore Guinzburg Marshall

Lenore Guinzburg Marshall, novelist, poet, activist, and literary editor, pushed her publishing company to publish William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury after it had been rejected by twelve other publishers. She published her first novel, Only the Fear, in 1935 and her first poetry collection, No Boundary, in 1943, going on to write poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and a memoir.

Judith Malina

Judith Malina was an actress, director, and producer who dedicated her life to creating avant-garde, politically charged theater works, and activism. She co-founded the experimental Living Theatre company with her husband; was involved in the antiwar movement, Women Strike for Peace, and the Industrial Workers of the World; and won many honors and awards for her acting and directing work. 

Hagar: Apocrypha

Reference to Hagar appears in a wisdom poem (Bar 3:9–4:4) that is itself part of an apocryphal letter written sometime between 200 to 60 B.C.E. to the priests and people of Jerusalem from Baruch, the scribe and close friend of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36).

Aliza Greenblatt

Deep love for the Jewish people informed the life of Aliza Greenblatt, an American Yiddish poet and Zionist leader in women’s organizations. Greenblatt was among the first to organize the American Jewish community and raise funds toward the establishment of a Jewish national home. Many of her poems, widely published in the Yiddish press, were also set to music.

Rajzel Zychlinski

Rajzel Zychlinski’s poetry was shaped by the hopes and horrors of the twentieth century. She lived in Poland, the Soviet Union, France, and the United States, and was fluent in five languages, but for over seventy years she wrote only in the one idiom that was truly hers: Yiddish.

Zelda

An acclaimed and widely beloved Hebrew poet, Zelda’s work was utterly unique, conforming to no one school of Hebrew poetry. Her six books of mystical-religious verse were bestsellers, demonstrating that, while her poetry frequently referenced classical Jewish texts, it was admired by Jewish Israelis across political and religious spectrums.

Yudica

Yudica, the pseudonym of Yehudit Zik, was a Canadian-Jewish poet and activist whose reputation in Yiddish literature was largely developed during her three decades in North America. Yudica contributed greatly to the “proletarian” literature genre of Canadian Yiddish writing.

Jane Yolen

Jane Yolen is a Jewish-American children’s author, poet, and young adult novelist. Yolen has written more than 400 books for children and adults, including the children’s book series How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? and the young adult Holocaust novella The Devil’s Arithmetic.

Miriam Yalan-Stekelis

Miriam Yalan-Stekelis revolutionized Israeli children’s literature with her classic poems and stories. She challenged the convention of the “happy ending” in children’s stories, portraying children playing yet also struggling and suffering from the judgment of adults. Yalan-Stekelis’s play-songs and poems have become an integral part of the cultural repertoire of kindergartens and schools in Israel.

Writers in Victorian England

Spurred to publish initially as a response to the concerted campaigning of Christian conversionists, women writers were the first Anglo-Jews to produce literature on Jewish themes in England. By the end of the nineteenth century, literature by Jewish women had expanded to encompass not only works defensive of the dignity and rights of Anglo-Jewry, but also satirical novels critical of the community’s materialism and marriage practices.

Bertha Wiernik

Writer and translator Bertha Wiernik is remembered by her many adaptations of Yiddish literature and dramatic works. Working closely with charitable societies throughout her career, Wiernik helped spread Jewish literature throughout New York City in the early 20th century.

Ruth Whitman

Poet Ruth Whitman was known for her acclaimed translations of Yiddish poetry, as well as for her own autobiographical work. She wrote a series of narrative poems in the voices of women from the past, including Lizzie Borden, Tamsen Donner, Hanna Szenes, and Hatshepsut, the only woman pharaoh in ancient Egypt. In these, she explored problems with sexual identity, love, work, and motherhood.

Yona Wallach

Regarded by many of her friends and colleagues as the most important among the young Israeli poets of the 1960s, Yona Wallach has had a profound effect on Israel’s cultural life ever since her works began to appear in periodicals in the early 1960s, despite her early death from cancer in 1985.

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