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Jessie E. Sampter


Jessie Ethel Sampter was born on March 22, 1883, in New York City. Having contracted polio as a child, Sampter spent much of her childhood confined to her bed. She was educated at home, where she read extensively, and later audited classes at Columbia University.

Sampter began writing poetry in her twenties, and her work focused on themes of Zionism, social justice, and pacifism, particularly between the Arabic and Jewish peoples. In 1919, Sampter immigrated to Palestine, where she helped establish the country’s first Jewish Scout camp and a convalescent home, as well as classes for Yemenite women and girls.

The author of several books on philosophy and religion, Sampter also published five poetry collections during her lifetime and a translation of poems for children by noted Jewish poet Hayim Nahman Bialik.

Sampter died at Kibbutz Givat Brenner, Israel, on November 11, 1938.

Selected Bibliography

Brand Plucked From the Fire (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1937)
The Emek (Bloch Publishing, 1927)
Around the Year in Rhymes for the Jewish Child (Bloch Publishing Company, 1920)
The Coming of Peace (Publishers Printing Company, 1919)
The Great Adventurer (Robert Kerr Press, 1908)

By This Poet


Judah Maccabee

Judah Maccabee,
Give a sword to me
     Now, in youth!
By the candle’s light
Kindled here to-night,
Do I vow to fight
     For the truth.

Still the Greeks are here,
Still we yield in fear,
Cringe and cower.
Judah Maccabee,
Make my people free
That their eyes may see
      Israel’s power!

The Jewish Year

Our year begins with burnished leaves,
     That flame in frost and rime,
With purple grapes and golden sheaves
     In harvest time.

Our year begins with biting cold,
     With winds and storms and rain;
The new year of the Jew grows old
     In strife and pain.

When others say the year has died,
     We say the year is new,
And we arise with power and pride
     To prove it true.

For we begin where others end,
     And fight where others yield;
And all the year we work and tend
     Our harvest field.

And after days of stormy rain
     And days of drought and heat,
When those that toiled have reaped their grain,
     And all’s complete.

Oh then, when God has kept his word,
     In peace we end our year.
Our fruit is certain from the Lord.
     We shall not fear.

The Book

We are the People of the Book,
     The written page is our salvation;
This only from the wreck we took
     When conquerors crushed our nation.

The Holy Book has been our land,
     Our seed, our sowing and our reaping.
How can the stranger understand
     What treasure we are keeping!

In shame and poverty we read
     The precious page of revelation,
And water with our tears the seed
     That recreates our nation.