Recipient of the Sophie Brody Award (2022) for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature, for works published the previous year in the US, presented by the American Library Association (ALA). Kaddish is the first and only poetry collection to have received the Sophie Brody Award.Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, is recited in a time of deep sorrow. In it, the sacredness of the Almighty One is affirmed. In her new gathering of sixty poems, award-winning author Jane Yolen gives us a feminist view of Biblical themes and personalities such as Eve, Sarah, David and Goliath. The poems then morph into those about the Holocaust and after. Yolen's unflinching and stark record of the many death camp horrors serve as reminders of that era's brutality and the unrelenting suffering visited upon an innocent people. “Knowing means remembrance,” Yolen writes--as each poem becomes a memorial, a teaching, a warning for our and future generations. Her book concludes: “... no Jew truly escapes/that time, those places,/unscarred, unscathed./I have no numbers on my arms,/But I have studied the charts,/the cities, the deaths,/till I know them by heart.”
"Jane Yolen's poems of witness and warning will grab you by the heart and squeeze. There's no turning away, especially from the narratives of Holocaust horrors, thankfully leavened by notes of hope. Bridging past and present through voices that bring both to life, Yolen reminds us that the Jewish memory is long, and makes us grateful for it."—Nikki Grimes, author of Ordinary Hazards, a memoir in verse; Winner, 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Medal
"In Kaddish: Before the Holocaust and After, Jane Yolen leads the reader to a place where “men are shot for being cold/for sneezing, for freezing,” where “a minyan of bones/dances the hora,” where the showers have “walls too thick/the gas too quick.” These are necessary poems of witness, reminding the reader that “we are all broken/we are all glass.” Life is precious. Life is fragile. Will humankind ever learn from its mistakes? These fine poems forbid us to forget and beg us to do better. They are more relevant today than ever before."--Lesléa Newman, author of I Carry My Mother and I Wish My Father
"In Kaddish: Before the Holocaust and After, Jane Yolen expertly weaves together figures of the Jewish faith like Goliath, Sarah, and Esther, alongside story characters such as Rumpelstiltskin, Anansi and Raven, all interconnected with known and unknown victims of the Holocaust. Calling upon a variety of poetic forms, Yolen takes the reader on a questioning journey through Jewish history, universal notions of motherhood, and the stark lens of the photograph, showing us 'This, the story / no one wants to tell, / must be told.' Full of anguish and insight, her poetry reveals that '… story sticks / when memory fails,' a powerful witness to both inhumanity and hope."--Sylvia Vardell
"In her poem, 'Shoes: Holocaust Museum, Washington DC,' Jane Yolen writes: 'I walk with foreknowledge into the museum, /sure it has nothing to teach me.' After all, hasn’t she already written two of the classic Holocaust novels of our time, as well as numerous poems and yes, picture books on the subject? This is how I felt opening KADDISH: Before the Holocaust and After, Yolen’s latest collection of poems. I’ve already read most of the 400 plus (no typo) books she has written; including all of her poetry for adults. And I’ve taught and lectured about Poetry of the Holocaust. What could possibly be left to learn?
'So why now,' the second stanza of Shoes, continues, 'am I stunned, undone, incapable of moving on?' And that is how I felt as I closed the volume, 'stunned and undone' and, as Yolen says in another poem: 'uplifted, gifted, strengthened, /given breadth and breath.'
After a career that has garnered every conceivable kudo, how can a poet keep pushing herself, digging deeper, and finding new ground to plow? This collection was heartbreaking and breathtaking. Kaddish starts with creation itself, and brings us up to date with the January 6th, 2021 attempted coup in our own country. In between there is Midrashim, mitzvahs, miracles, martyrs, mishigas, and a love of language underscored by the knowledge of what words can do. I can do no better than to end by quoting from this book once again: 'These are the stories/no one wants to tell/ but must be told/…because story sticks /when memory fails.'”--Rich Michelson, owner of the Michelson Gallery in Northampton, Mass, is a much-published poet and children's book writer, and former poet laureate of Northampton.