Free Verse: Passover Poetry Workshop

Judith AntelmanWe gathered to write Passover poems for our Haggadot. Two writing prompts were given. We wrote and read our poems aloud. And in the space of an hour, we shared verse, memories, even some tears.




As far back as I am able to remember
Family Always Together
first, Grandpa’s Home then,
Our Home then David’s and Donna’s Home
then Dan and Ilana’s Home.
On the table, always, Grandpa’s Seder Plate
and Grandma’s Large Brass Candlesticks
and their Dishes. Recipes for Seder Plate—
Items always the same, familiar,
Family Always Together,
Even on Zoom.
Thought it would be different
this year. Setting hasn’t changed
in a year. Great niece, 3 1/2  years old
knows Four Questions. Thought and hoped
we would hear her in person. Same as last year,
but Always Together.


POEM by Andy Silikovitz

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt
then God took us out with a strong hand
and outstretched arm, which gave us
all freedom. Of course, freedom’s
just another word for nothing left to lose.



Connecting with friends was different, harder
Nothing was new
We talked less
We had a hard time thinking of things to talk about
We still always ask, “So what’s up?”
Or, “Anything new?”
The answer is usually, “Nothing”
Or, “Not much”
We wish to be back in person
So we can chat again


HOPE by Maya Rubin

Passover was different last year
It will be again this year
I hope we can Zoom with family we can’t see
I hope we can still have a meaningful and connected holiday
I hope there can be a new beginning next year without masks
I hope next year is in person and things are back to normal again



We are sequestered




We are free of

the       pressure

the       race

the       demands

We are free of the cost of gasoline

We are sequestered




We are slaves of




We are free of the whirling, dizzying need to please

We are free of motion

We are slaves to what’s underneath it all

We are slaves to our mortality

We are slaves to

the       inevitability

the       impermanence

We are slaves to

The End



The song you sang.

I only heard it every other year

when we made it to Connecticut

The song with long tendrils of words… verses in another tongue,

The song with long tendrils… connecting generations. Connecting Family.

Now I grasp at the words

still unremembered.

Even while you lived and sang, I tried to tag along. To jump on to the connection.

not just for my sake

but for my children.

I grasped

I tried

but it has fallen through my fingers

it has fallen through my memory

and all I have is a shadow of you.

A story.

And the hopeful but sad attempts to start a new thread –

one that can be grasped and held by my children so they can build on that


their family

But still the notes of the song echo in the corners of the room of our Seder.

They pool under the glasses of wine and fly out the open door for Elijah.

Each year growing fainter.,, and fainter…

Dying before me.

Dying after you.


WE by Sarita Eisenberg

We were kept at home

By ourselves

Seeing no one

We walked outside

Streets empty

Faces masked

Time blurred


PASSOVER by Sarita Eisenberg

Passover started with my mother, my sister, and my grandmother
switching dishes and cooking for the Seder.

Passover began with the midwives Shifrah and Puah
saving children.

Passover began with Pharoah’s daughter
rescuing Moses from the river

Passover began with Miriam at the red sea
leading the people in song and dance

Passover began in the kitchen with my mother
Women have always made Passover

Now there is me and my sister
But this year we are apart


Prompts for the Poems

1) Creative Stretch. Think about this past year. Write a poem using “we” not “I.” Consider themes of Passover – ritual, liberation, freedom from slavery and how it relates to 2020. Be specific. Details. Students, consider the transition from classrooms to classZooms.

2) Poems for your Haggadah

  1. A stranger will be at your Seder who has never been to a Passover Seder before. Write a poem detailing anything you want to explain about Passover. Consider the irony in celebrating freedom and liberation during a holiday that has explicit rules about food…what is allowed v. forbidden. Explain this to a stranger in a poem…consider rituals, foods, four cups of wine, Elijahu, Four Questions, Specific Blessings for each food, Afikomen & hiding, special dishes you cook/passed down generations. How to explain the plagues when living in a season of plague
  2. Favorite Seders when you were with all of your family/friends pre-plague
  3. Write a poem to somebody who has died in the past year or any time – celebration or eulogy
  4. Create a poem about who you will miss at this year’s Seder (living), or what foods may not be available, what’s different this year, if anything, what do you look forward to at this year’s Seder
  5. You will be alone this year, like last year…what would you like to tell family/friends with whom you have been at a Seder table in the past
  6. A poem about hope, Spring, season of planting, renewal, growth; a beginning
  7. This year, Passover coincides with Shabbos…combine in a poem
  8. A simple poem about gratitude…celebrating Passover because of your freedom/your survival
  9. Why is this night different from all other nights? or substitute night for year
Judith Antelman
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3 thoughts on “Free Verse: Passover Poetry Workshop

  1. I’m getting to know Ozi, my granddaughter, in Denver and truly regret not being able to participate in your second poetry workshop facilitating the expression of our hearts and souls into shared communication through words. I’m grateful to read/hear/experience all of your thoughts and feelings about Passover and hope to be able to join you next time in this holy endeavor.

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