Yeshiva University High School Hosts First Annual Poetry Slam

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“Who I am/You should not care/Just please be aware/I am not he or she/In fact/I’m a type of free/And for now/It’s only me,” recited Sam Dratch at the First Annual Poetry Slam hosted by Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy / Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB) on February 28.

Dratch, a senior at YUHSB, was among 30 students from six local high schools to perform at the event.

For more than a year and a half, Jewish high school students from the tri-state area have been gathering in various schools to slam their poetry in a competition where poets read or recite original work.

“A poetry slam is a new and unique way for students to perform, achieve and shine,” said Hillel Broder, YUHSB English teacher and organizer of the event. “These students are truly artists.”

Participating schools at the Slam included The Frisch School, Rambam, SAR Academy, Yeshiva of Flatbush, The Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls, and YUHSB.

Every poet was required to compose and present a free verse poem on the theme of masking as well as an original Ghazal, a style of Spanish Medieval Jewish meditation or prayer.

“Poetry is a Jewish tradition that today’s youth needs to bring back to the forefront,” said Dr. Gillian Steinberg, assistant professor of English at Yeshiva College.

“It’s scary getting up there to perform your own work but you learn to breathe,” said Elizabeth Kantarowitz of Yeshiva of Flatbush. “It’s so great hearing other people share their poetry. It reminds you that you’re not alone.”

The Slam winners were: Rivka Cohen (YUHSG), Best Free Verse Poem; Emily Stone (Frisch), Best Ghazal; Ethan Metzger (SAR), Best Presentation; Tova Kamioner (SAR), Best Poet; and Kantrowitz, Best Poet Runner-Up.

The high schools hope to organize poetry slams on a regular basis. “There’s a general absence of this type of celebrating Jewish experience in our community,” said Broder. “There’s a real need for it and we will continue to foster and grow the incredible talent present here today.”

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