Reprinted from Birthright: Poems.

I am grateful to the editors of the publications in which these poems, some in earlier versions, first appeared.

  • 929: “Complicity,” “Miriam, Quarantined”
  • Adanna: “Umbilicus”
  • Alyss: “Wherever You’ve Gone, Joe DiMaggio”
  • American Journal of Nursing: “The Autumn of H1N1”
  • Babel Fruit: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at My Latest Cold”
  • Christian Science Monitor: “Meteorology”
  • Forward: “Family Plots” (as “Mount Zion”), “September 1, 1946”
  • Haaretz: “Ode to a Rescuer”
  • Hevria: “Black Sheep in the World to Come”
  • The Hollins Critic: “Fighting Words”
  • Jewcy: “Birthright,” “Sabbath Rest 2.0”
  • Jewess: “The Book of Vashti”
  • Jewish Currents: “Aftermath” (2017/5778 Jewish New Year supplement)
  • Jewish Journal: “The O-Word,” “Pharaoh’s Daughter Addresses Linda Sarsour,” “This Woman’s Prayer”
  • Lilith: “Dinah Speaks” (as “A Poem for Vayishlach”), “Kaddish for My Uterus”
  • Medical Journal of Australia: “Homage to My Skull”
  • “Jerusalem Dream”
  • Moment Magazine: “Abel’s Brother Anticipates Lady Macbeth: A Soliloquy,” “Dayenu,” “On Reading Chapter 19 in the Book of Judges,” “Pünktlichkeit
  • New Vilna Review: “Diaspora: A Prose Poem,” “Mannheim,” “Sisters, or Double Chai
  • qartsilunni: “With or Without”
  • “Questions for the Critics,” “Unsolved Mysteries of Samson and Delilah”
  • Rhyme On Poetry Contest 2018 e-book: “When Your Niece Attends a Jewish Day School”
  • Silver Birch Press: “Self-Portrait with Root Rescue™”
  • The Sunlight Press: “Hypothetical Life,” “On Refinding My First Crush on Facebook,” “The Smell of Infection”
  • Tablet: “The Awakening,” “The First Night,” “Ruth’s Regret”
  • Theories of Her (anthology): “Vocabulary Lesson, 1977,” “We Are All Bag Ladies”
  • Whale Road Review: “The End of the Lines”
  • The Wild Word: “A Walker in the Post-Blizzard City”
  • Writing the Words: “My Mother’s Olivetti”
  • Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine: “Solar Damage”

Additional appreciation goes to the Loudoun County (Va.) Public Library for selecting “When Your Niece Attends a Jewish Day School” for honorable mention (free verse) in the 2018 Rhyme On Poetry Contest; Whale Road Review for nominating “The End of the Lines” for a Pushcart Prize; Manhattan Jewish Experience and judge Yehoshua November for selecting “Comforts of Home” as winner of the 2017 Poetry Contest; and Reesa Grushka, whose Missouri Review essay “Arieh” sourced the composition of “Jerusalem Dream,” which was recognized with honorable mention by the 2012 “Art of Omission” contest from The Missouri Review/textBOX.

And, of course, I’m immensely thankful to publisher Karen Kelsay and the Kelsay Books team for welcoming my manuscript and giving it such a lovely home.

In many ways, Birthright has been a lifetime work-in-progress. But more technically speaking, work on these poems began in 2007; the book that you’re reading now developed over 12 years thanks to direct instruction and inspiration from the following: the Achayot (especially, above and beyond, Sivan Rotholz, Talia Liben Yarmush, and Suzanne Reisman); Amy Gottlieb’s “Jewish Sources, Literary Narrative” classes at Drisha Institute (New York); Matthew Lippman’s online poetry-writing classes with Gotham Writers Workshop; Sage Cohen’s online “Poetry for the People” courses; Kathleen Graber’s Poetry Manuscript workshop at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers Conference; Wendy Zierler’s class on “The Secular Israeli Religious Renaissance: Israeli Poetry and Prayer” at Park Avenue Synagogue (New York); and a session led by Cheryl Pallant that I had the opportunity to sit in on when I was guest faculty at the Red Earth MFA program in Oklahoma City. (Looking back to my own MFA experience some years prior to 2007, I remain grateful to several faculty poets from that time—most of all, Richard Chess—for treating this aspiring fictionist so kindly and helping me begin to grasp the power and potential of poetry.)

Perhaps not coincidentally, 2007 is also the year that brought me back to the city of my birth and marked the beginning of my employment at The City University of New York (CUNY). During the seven years that I remained on staff at the central office, I had the good fortune to work alongside many wonderful colleagues who showed interest in my writing; I connected, too, with a number of exemplary, encouraging poets and other writers across the CUNY campuses. Since my return to New York I’ve also been lucky to engage with the intellectually enriching communities of the Jewish Book Council and the New York Society Library, among others.

Birthright simply would not exist without the loving, generous presence of too many friends, family members, and assorted champions to name. I thank you all—and I hope that somehow, somewhere, the dear ones already in the world to come are watching this book make its way into this one.

Finally, a concluding shout-out to Sefaria (, a source for many of the biblical citations/translations that appear throughout this collection. “For the Jewish people,” the site explains, “our texts are our collective inheritance.” You might even say that they are our birthright.

Reviews & Press

Birthright was published on November 5, 2019. On this page, you will find reviews, interviews, and other coverage.

Reviews, profiles, and other shout-outs
  • “Dreifus’ poems have appeared in many newspapers, literary journals and on websites, but when they are brought together…recurring themes of family, Jewish identity and women’s power are evident….Highly recommended for libraries that collect poetry, this quintessentially Jewish poetry collection would work well in the classroom or with a reading group.”—Chava Pinchuck, in a review for the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) News & Reviews.
  • Birthright serves as a platform for Dreifus to share her more personal insights, something she does with integrity, perception, and historical perspective. As such, it is a warm invitation to delve into her roots, and our own. As the poetry unfolds, the reader follows not only Dreifus’ journey back into her own family’s past, but also her understanding of the biblical backdrop of our existence, particularly as it plays out in the lives of women.”—Joanna Chen, in a guest poetry review for Reading Jewish Fiction.
  • “Erika Dreifus’ first book of poems, ‘Birthright’ (Kelsay Books), includes the very timely — and timeless — ‘Miriam, Quarantined,’ in which the poet imagines what the biblical Miriam might have been pondering while in quarantine. ‘Dayenu’ inspires readers to think anew of the four children mentioned in the Haggadah. And ‘A Single Woman of Valor” is a brave and beautiful work.’ Her reflective poems are stories, some based in her study of Jewish texts, all informed by a deep engagement with Jewish life.“—Sandee Brawarsky, Culture Editor, The Jewish Week, in a feature on Passover gifts for 2020/5780.
  • “Erika Dreifus is one of our brightest literary lights….‘Birthright’ is exceptionally rich and provocative, earnest and intimate, fully as accessible as an overheard conversation and yet deeply rooted in both Jewish history and Jewish arts and letters.” From Jonathan Kirsch’s Jewish Journal review.
  • “These accessible meditations on being a Jewish woman, a Zionist, a critical consumer of social media, and a witness to violence committed and averted reflect a soul dedicated to repairing the world with smarts, spirit, sincerity, and a bit of snark.” So writes Helene Meyers in a review of Birthright for Lilith.
  • “The poems in Birthright often feel like sto­ries in minia­ture, replete with set­ting, char­ac­ter, dia­logue, and plot, across a wide vari­ety of reg­is­ters and con­texts, rang­ing from bib­li­cal to per­son­al, famil­iar to his­tor­i­cal, lit­er­ary to polit­i­cal. Poems that draw from bib­li­cal sto­ries are inter­spersed with per­son­al sto­ries, which pro­duc­tive­ly com­pli­cates both types of poems.” From Lucy Biederman’s review for the Jewish Book Council.
  • “The poems in ‘Birthright’…have a profoundly Jewish sensibility. They focus on ancestors immigrating from Germany to escape persecution in the years preceding the Holocaust, prayer and ritual, biblical characters, and Israel. They are deeply personal, critical and wry, and aggressively political.” Ahead of the November launch, New Jersey Jewish News‘s Johanna Ginsberg profiles the book and its author.
  • The Jewish Week’s Fall Arts Guide Book List introduces Birthright to readers, noting that the book “includes midrash-like reflections on traditional texts, riffs on contemporary events and personal stories about family and faith, anchored in history.”
  • “If you’re someone who appreciates fresh poetry with overtly Jewish themes, this is the collection for you.” So writes Alma‘s Emily Burack in a preview of “Favorite Books for Fall.”
  • “Fighting Words,” a poem in Birthright, was re-published by Verse Daily as the site’s selection for December 24, 2020.
  • “Mannheim,” another poem in Birthright, was re-published on the website of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature for Yom HaShoah 5780 (April 2020). “Mannheim” was also re-published earlier on the website of
  • In November 2019, Kelsay Books nominated one of Birthright‘s poems for a Pushcart Prize. That poem, “A Single Woman of Valor,” was also published by the Jewish Book Council’s PB [Paper Brigade] Daily earlier in the month. (You can hear more about this poem in an episode of “The Rabbi’s Husband” podcast, linked in the “Audio/Video” section below.)
  • Another excerpt: “Hypothetical Life,” which appears in Birthright, has been re-published by

And this one gets its own spotlight: I’m moved to be included in Yi Shun Lai’s National Poetry Month post “Six Poets I Love Beyond Their Poetry.”

Buy Autographed Copy

Thank you so much for your interest in Birthright: Poems.

Due to COVID-19 and its effects on life in the New York City area, the option to purchase an autographed copies is temporarily suspended. Please return to this page for updates.

If you’d like to purchase a signed copy, you can do so on this page. Please provide inscription requests below. (Please note: At this time, books can be shipped to U.S. addresses only.)

Autograph Instructions

Of course, you can also buy Birthright from the book’s publisher, from your favorite independent bookstore, or from

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, a portion of author earnings from book sales will be donated to Sefaria,

For Book Clubs

Thank you so much for your interest in Birthright: Poems.

Erika Dreifus would be delighted to connect with your book club by phone, Skype, or Zoom. If your group has six or more participants, you may sign up to have Erika join your discussion of Birthright.

To sign up, please contact Erika via this website, with the words “Book Club” in your subject line. In your message, please indicate: 1) the number of people in your group; 2) the location/ time zone where the discussion will take place.

Please also give three potential dates and times when Erika might join your discussion (again, please specify the time zone). Erika will do her best to honor your first-choice selection.

Please plan to have your group discuss the book first; Erika will join your discussion for 30 minutes to answer your questions. Please keep this in mind when you list the time(s) you’d like her to call in–the times that you suggest should correspond to when you would like her to call in, not the initial meeting-time for the group.

Thank you again for your interest in Birthright. If you’re so inclined, please share your thoughts about the book in a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or your book site of choice. Help others learn about Birthright, and encourage them to read the book!