Poets were invited to perform two poems:

1. One Free Verse poem as a conversation between the poet and a Jew from the past.

2.  One Quatern on any topic (though poems connected to the theme of the day are encouraged).


1. Shira Levy, Yeshiva University High School for Girls - Best Poet

To Those Who Chose Between Emunah and Apathy

You would not recognize me,

bent over a Talmud like it has a secret I am entitled to.

I’m afraid of what you would say I if I told you

you were cheated out of something you deserved.

But your father and those men were trying to preserve 

a religion that hadn’t made room for our position.

A letter to a generation of girls who would not recognize this one, I will call you Sara.

Dear Sara,

I don’t know if I am more afraid of you searching and not finding any trace of femininity, 

or finding your own reflection in me.

Our disparity both saddens me and comforts me,

and I feel like I owe you some sort of apology.

My dear Sara,

You are a mother to me in all the ways that don’t matter.

I do not look like you, or act like you,

I will not fill the roles you are accustomed to.

Sara, I still think of you.

Every time I open an untouched Gamara

I see the prints your longing eyes left all over it’s virgin spine.

How sad it is to see a book stand taller than the girl who can not reach it.

How sad it is to see a lover who can not be courted by the one who loves it


I want you to be proud of who I am allowed to be.

I did not fight for this right,

it was handed to me.

But these beit midrash walls are calling to me.

In so many ways I am making up for your lost time.

So Sara,

If you are still looking,

you will find me with a spine stiffer than my book.

Pouring all this femininity into a chakira tree.

My makom in this beit midrash is the only nafka mina between you and me.

And Sara, 

I’m sorry.

Because these days leaders like Rabbi Brovender will say

that “in our modern orthodox community, the alternative to advanced Talmud Torah is 

not Emunah, but apathy”.

And you were denied the right to intellectual honesty.

Sara hear this apology:

I am working towards everything they didn’t let you be.


To Pray Out Loud

I’ve never prayed out loud before

That isn’t a statement about 

The efficacy of prayer

But a fear of knocking on locked doors


I don’t know if G-d listens, so

I’ve never prayed out loud before, 

Because I choose a silent canvas

To a masterpiece with no witness


I can’t believe G-d solely listens

To cold words in foreign books

I’ve never prayed out loud before

I prefer verses to repeating hooks


I’m building a backbone that stands

Straighter than my Siddur’s spine

Finding G-d behind every closed door

Still I’ve never prayed out loud before


2. Michal Yacker, SKA - Best Poet, Honorable Mention

Does Heaven Have an Entrance Exam ?

Hi, so ummm I don’t really know how to ask you this

I mean I really hate to bother you but

Being where you are you must have done something right to get there

And SOMEONE has to be able to answer me so … just curious but…

Does heaven have an entrance exam?

Because standardized testing isn’t exactly my forte

Listen, I know I’m just a digit between 0 and 36 and 1600

And I heard that my application gets reviewed “wholisticlly”

Speaking of which, what is the acceptance rate up there?

And do you think they will still accept me

If im not captain of the math team, debate team, basketball team,

end-world-hunger team, youngest-person-to-win-a-nobel-prize team

and I-dare-you-to-be-more-of-an-overachiever team?

Because if you think it will increase my chances of getting in

I guess it's not too late to join.  

Like….Do you think when G-d reviews my application

He will ask why I didn’t spend more time

Memorizing the trigonometric identities

Because what if I just coseCANT!?

Do you think He will ask why I chose helping a friend out

Over studying for my chem test – yeah, bad judgement call…. It happens….

And I assume I’m going to have to write an essay

So do you think it should be about

The time I helped deliver babies in third world countries while singing kumbaya around 

the campfire with north korea and south korea

OR about the time where I invented the rocket ship that discovered intelligent life on 

Pluto… oh wait… its not a planet anymore….scratch that…

Oh and my transcript… ummmmm…

So I know they say challenge yourself and get perfect scores

But do you think that G-d won’t accept me because I took a risk that didn’t pay off

And who should write my letter of recommendation

The president? Prime minister? Queen?

And million dolar question – I know it’s a longshot

Do you think I can still get accepted into Heaven

If I don’t go to Harvard and quadruple major in bio-chem-astro-physics-ology?

What If I just try to be the best version of myself that I can be

And embrace my failures and weaknesses while maximizing my strengths…

I know, I know, being human just isn’t good enough.

Which makes me wonder…

Does heaven have an entrance Exam ?


Promise You Won’t Write in Pencil

Promise you won’t write in pencil

So that you don’t erase your mistakes.

When you fall hard – because you will,

Don’t erase the proof that you tried.


As you drive down the road of life

Promise you won’t write in pencil.

Smile fondly at the speed bumps

There to make you slow down – not stop.


To grow back strong, muscle must tear.

Don’t burn the bridge that got you there.

Promise you won’t write in pencil.

Trying’s a catalyst for growth.


When you fall, use the pain as pain.

Don’t spill ink chasing perfection.

Perfection is overrated.

Promise you won’t write in pencil.


3. Eli Sharvit, Yeshiva University High School for Girls - Best Free Verse

What Kind of Bird

Dear Yosef,

Did you ever feel like a parrot?

Confidence in bright feathers fluffed,

To flutter against the pain of rejection,

Did you feel beautiful as your plumage was plucked?

Or did they mar your unblemished perfection?

Smeared blood, red across your throat

Did your molting feathers make you a robin? 

When they stripped you of your multi-color coat

Did you wish you were an owl?

Come alive in nocturnal dreams,

Could you escape your own nightmares

As you deciphered clouded fantasies?

Perched atop the pyramid of success, 

Did you feel like an eagle?

Did you cock your bald head at Ra?

To make yourself look regal?

Did you spread your wings wide

Over the second place crest?

Did you worship the power,

Or did you yearn for your nest?

Of all that I could ask you,

The thing I want to know,

Is what kind of bird were you

When you learned of life back at home?

Did you become the dove?

Had us migrate over to a sea of wheat?

There is a reason birds should not fly over water.

Despite the outstretched olive branch, promising peace.

Did you lead us like chicken to the slaughter?

Corralled into the cage of Goshen

Did you groom us as carrier pigeons?

Shackle our talons to the Pyramid pen

Why weren’t you Noah’s raven?

Why didn’t you tell us to go home?

Because it isn’t safe here, in a land that burns treaties 

Like your olive branch perch of Shalom.

Why are we still waiting for Kanfei Nisharim?

We, who had wings of our own?

When did you clip them, Yosef?

When did you leave us alone?

When you chose your bird,

Did you abandon you flock?

Though Israel’s fledglings fly free, 

We are still living in the aftershock.


4. Tova Goldberg, SKA - Best Quatern

If Donald Trump is President


If Donald Trump is President:

He would fix the immigration,

Because no one from anywhere,

Would want to join this great nation.


Our homeless Vets need not worry

If Donald Trump is president:

He is going to build some walls,

The whole country, a residence.


School is hard enough as it is

Without Spanish or Mandarin

If Donald Trump is president

We’ll only speak American.


The industry that will suffer

Are YA dystopian texts

Why read one, when you can live it

If Donald Trump is president.


5. Zechariah Rosenthal, Rambam Mesivta - Best Presenter

Brownian Motion 

In 1827, Dr. Robert Brown, a botanist, studied the motion of pollen particles in water. The specks would move erratically and randomly through the clear calm liquid. The only explanation the botanist could find must be that pollen was alive. No force in the Universe other than life itself could act as unpredictably, to be under its own will.

In 1905, Dr. Albert Einstein unwrapped this Brownian Motion to be nothing more than the product of complex yet calculate-able equations. If one simply knew the factors coming in he could predict its movement up to a point.  See, the pollen was never alive in the first place, it was the summation of the bouncing of pinball atoms that was affecting its course.

People can be a lot like that, don’t you think? If one simply knew all the nurture and could see all of nature’s factors just whizzing and rebounding off of the course of a human’s life, you could predict their movement to a point. See, most people are never really alive in the first place, just a summation of finite variables, a product of complex yet calculate-able equations. That’s the problem, isn't it? There’s too many extra steps for most people: Calculations a bit too difficult with equations they have figure out on their own, to be able to see that Life can really be reduced into nothing more than math.

When a kid in school shouted “hey Einstein!” at me, followed by some choice language, It never really equated. But I wonder, did Einstein kill more than just pollen in 1905? Did he start noticing Brownian Motion lives around him floating erratically and randomly through the clear calm liquid of time? Did he ever think I would start seeing the world the same way?

Dear Einstein, do you ever feel like our ancestor Cain? After you watched yourself-- we watched ourselves helplessly drain the humanity out of everyone around us, after that did “your brothers blood [ever] cry out to you from the ground?” Sometimes I fear I make the world a graveyard, with only floating pollen passing by.

Dear Einstein, you called yourself a humanist, but no humanist can think like this. You could only dissect the world from a piece of paper, but you could never be bothered to experience it. You may have won a different Nobel Prize but this first one should have been yours. Your monolithic immersion in the technical wasn’t enough for this Nobel Prize committee. They gave your prize to a man who looked up from the equations and experienced the world through experiments.

Dear Einstein, I wonder if you ever learned Gemara. What did you make of our sharp dichotomies, did you respect our logics? Did our technical distinctions model your reality enough or were you stuck on one side of a Chakirah. Not a single Gavra there, just a world of Cheftza, Cheftza, of objects only ever objects.

Dear Einstein, did your calculations also only work at a distance? Have you ever even seen what pollen actually does in water? Did you factor in the quantum fluctuations of free will when you scribbled on that paper? You didn’t. You couldn’t let yourself. You can’t understand humans by just being a humanist. The ego’s hunger for saying all the right answers pushed me farther and farther from finding any humanity where I was looking.

I am no Einstein but I knew enough to save myself. And so I stepped forward nervously, filled with uncertainty, and rebelling against my farsightedness, the world repopulated.


Writing About Writing, or “What have you got to say for yourself?”

I keep writing about writing

My writer’s block’s a rubix cube 

Since “The Struggle’s” been going easy on me

I can’t sing about too many scars


I’m not helping anyone here by

Keeping writing about writing

Holding magnifying glasses

to my own footsteps


Square 1 feels just like art thanks to

my superiority complex, so

I keep writing about writing

Just spewing my circular words aloud.


But even stuck, I can’t help but preach

Confidence in self for g-ds sake

A beautiful redundancy

I keep writing about writing