A Chazzan

Simcha Halpert-Hanson
September 25, 2013
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Once, I sang for you

my voice a perfect pool

of pitch

of which the nation

that filed past weeping Rachel

shouldered, in open oil lamps

and wails from the leaves of Eicha-


we secured them inside our synagogues

so they hovered above our davening

collecting in the dome

a reservoir


rising and falling

like waves pulling slowly out to sea


and steadily swell, rushing in

to crash.


I used to sing for you

in Vilna

in Lublin


I sang to you in Yiddish


broken russkiy

and polski

from the middle of the shtiebl

walls lined with the chassidim

we faced haShem

our voices echoed the martyrs

who sang as the Romans tortured

danced in the clamps of Crusaders

pounded the earth before Red soldiers

Shema!…  Shema!…

I sang to you

when we were deported

looking up to G-d in the Warsaw ghetto;

after the liquidation

the tzaddikim

were the only ones

you could still hear


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Simcha Halpert-Hanson graduated from Eugene Lang College at the New School with a degree in Poetry and a minor in Jewish Studies. They are deeply invested in the unity of radical queerness and frumkeit as well as the psychological awakening of Ashkenazi Jewry. They are a member of the transgender and Jewish band Schmekel and currently work at the UJA Federation of NY on the Commission for Jewish Identity and Renewal.

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