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Tradition & Innovation

Oseh Shalom: For Ukraine

protest or gathering outdoors with people wearing face masks and holding a ukrainian blue and yellow flag in a city
My grandparents fled
the Pale of Settlement, that past world
ruled by an Imperial Czar – 
that alt velt, but I do not speak Russian 
 
nor read Cyrillic script. My grandparents
spoke Yiddish on muddy streets 
and in their home, their first language 
inherited it’s alphabet 
 
from ancient Hebrew, mingled words
and accents from many places, 
where they were once welcome. 
Today, the world hears Ukrainian voices, 
 
resistance shouted at Russian tanks, 
women and children huddled in subways, 
men praying with Molotov cocktails. 
In houses of worship, my grandparents 
 
chanted a holy tongue – Hebrew 
words of patriarchs and prophets, 
cantillations for peace –
oseh shalom bimromav.
 
Let us pray – may bombs cease, 
blessings fall upon Ukraine 
from places on high, words to inspire
freedom and light in any language –
 
Bozhe, voli i svitu prominniam.*
 
* "Dear G-d, bless her with freedom and light." From "Prayer for Ukraine" (1885), by Oleksandr Konysky, which inspired this poem. 

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