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Not Far from Joy Street

Poet Deborah Leipziger enlivens Boston’s Jewish roots through her poetry.

By Jewish Arts Collaborative

Published Jun 28, 2024



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As the first Poet-in-Residence at the Vilna Shul, Deborah had the opportunity to write at the Vilna and create a community around poetry. Over the course of five months, she wrote in the sanctuary. Below is one of the poems Deborah wrote honoring the sacred space.

Not Far From Joy Street

We stand at the kaddish rail

where once we were called to mourn

in the center, close to the ark.

At dusk the orange and pink stained

glass blurs in the sunset

where Shabbat begins.

The building itself tells time.

Through light, the shul is a clock,

ushering and sheltering us.

Carved into the wooden ark are shells.

Palm trees adorn the murals,

the women’s section rises up.

Crystal chandeliers rescued from the Anderson Hotel,

church pews salvaged from a Black church,

the hum of history.

Now dancers fill the aisles,

poems, blessings, and klezmer echo.

History ushers in our future.


JArts’ mission is to curate, celebrate, and build community around the diverse world of Jewish arts, culture, and creative expression. Our vision is of a more connected, engaged, and tolerant world inspired by Jewish arts and culture.


  • 1.

    In this poem, Deborah speaks to the importance of the physical location of the Vilna Shul, and imagery within it that helps tell the story of placemaking that was so central to the founders of the synagogue in the early 1900’s. What are symbols of placemaking for you? What images do you associate with your Jewish identity and community? 

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