Maya Salemeh, third from right, and the other 2016 National Student Poets,
with Megan Beyer (center), Executive Director of the President’s Committee on the Arts


Tomorrow night, we gather together at 7:30PM for Selichot – the official beginning of the High Holiday season. We’re about to enter the holiest days of our calendar – time we’re supposed to use to reflect upon our lives, determining how we can fix the wrongs we’ve committed in this year that is coming to an end and how we can grow in the new year that is about to begin. But, with all the terror and violence that has rocked our country yet again this week, it’s hard to focus on the holy work that the new year requires of us.

But, fortunately, there are courageous voices out there that have the courage to stand up to the terror and violence and say enough. Young voices that in their boldness fill us with hope and give us reason to believe in the potential of the new year. Voices that remind us that we can and we must bring an end to the chaos of hate.

For me, Maya Salameh, a 16-year-old junior at San Diego High School of International Studies, is one of these voices. Maya was one of five students selected by the White House to be one of the 2016 National Student Poets. Maya, who is a Lebanese American, shared her poem, sacrilege incorporated, at the White House earlier this month. It is a bold reminder of what holiness can be, what it really means to love God and what it means to have faith in humanity. As you read it, remember, it was written by a teenager whose insights need to be shared far and wide.

sacrilege incorporated
i speak to you
terrorists, skyjackers, lifejackers
and otherwise-flavored peddlers
of sacred hearsay
i speak to you
just fyi
just for your illumination
god is not
a mcdonald’s franchise
you don’t hold any right to sell, market, or
otherwise operate in his name
i speak to you
for now is the time
to open your eyes
to close your pocketbooks
no prophets have ever had
swiss bank accounts
i speak to you
for if you love god
you would not lie
in his name
you would not kill
in his name
you would not explode
in his name
i speak to you
for the only god you seem to know
is the god of destruction
always thirsty
for more blood, more tears,
more futures gone wrong
i speak to you
for children
belong to no creed
and if holiness exists
it is the selflessness that runs in their
i speak to you
for the magnetic attraction of violence
keep no home
in the nonpolar
hearts of the young
i speak to you
for senseless violence
has no part
in my definition of humanity
i speak to you
because blind faith
is no faith

May Maya’s definition of humanity become the norm in the new Jewish year. And may what she would refer to as the violence of blind faith be replaced by the love of selfless holiness.

1 Comment

  1. Judi Fried Reply

    At times the young are wiser than the so called adults in our society. Let them continue in this light and be our leaders sooner than later.

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