My Grandmother's Lost Poems

Photo courtesy of user Covs97

My parents just gave me a book I never knew existed. It is a collection of poetry called November Journey self-published by my  grandmother, Florence Freedman z”l, upon her retirement from her position as Professor of Education at Hunter College in 1973.

My grandmother, the only grandparent I knew*, passed away when I was 22 and still straddling the blurry border between being a big girl and a young woman. What a precious gift to be able to open her book and have a chance to become reacquainted with my beloved grandmother, no longer as a woman 60 years my senior, but rather as a fellow Jewish woman and mother.

Here are two of my favorite poems from November Journey. Enjoy!

The following poem is about idealistic sons who wandered far from home in order to accomplish great things. I find this poem especially moving since it reminds me of all of us who have made aliya, and the worried parents we left behind.


Sons by Florence Freedman

We know what the mothers were saying:

“Your father and I are poor, Elijah,
But there’s no need for you to starve on Mt. Carmel…
What if the vision was false?”

“Won’t you be lonely at Walden Pond?
You can write in the study,  Henry-
I’ll keep the house quiet.”

“Have you forgotten the sea serpent, Chris,
Coiled at the edge of the world?
One route to India is enough
for all sensible people.”

“You don’t have to go to Lamberene
to find suffering.
There’s plenty of that here at home.
And what of your music, Albert?”

“You’ll catch some dreadful disease
from the wounded, Walt.
Stay home and work at your father’s trade.
There’s bound to be a building boom
in Brooklyn.”

And the parents of the nameless
darers and dreamers
They too said to their

“Why you? Why now? Why there?”

But they said “Godspeed” as their sons strode away,
And they prayed, “Let me be proved wrong!”
“God, turn my fear into faith.”

Identity by Florence Freedman

I’m somebody. Who, me?
Deep inside lies identity.
Like a pearl in a shell,
Like a seed in a pod,
Hides the part of me
That is part of God.

Will He loose the pearl?
Let the seed blow free?
Let me see the light?
Let light see me?

*My mother’s parents were tragically killed in a car crash before I was
born. My father’s father died when I was only three.


  1. Bracha Goetz

    What awesome poems!

  2. Gorgeous!!! As a mama of boys, I especially loved the first one!!!!!

  3. Absolutely beautiful!!!

  4. She speaks for all of us!

  5. sheila seidman montoya

    I really enjoyed reading these. they are beautifully written & refreshing to read!

  6. Beautiful poems, thanks for sharing.

  7. I have been looking for this poem since I was in 8th grade in 1964. For some reason it was on my English classes wall. I loved it then and have tried to find it. No one remembered it. So today I tried to google what I remembered. There it was! I still love it. Thank you so much! Mary Kressin.

  8. Just found this post. What treasures! I think the second one is refrigerator Torah ;).

  9. I saw this post now. These poems are precious. Thank you for sharing!
    (Is this the same grandmother who took a trip to Palestine way back when??)

  10. What I found most special is that although she was Professor of Education at Hunter College (and probably one of the few women reaching such a position in those days),she still remained very much A JEWISH MOM!!! (and connected to her source.)

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