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Oy vey, it’s hot in the synagogue!

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My! It’s getting steamy in the shul! That’s what some are undoubtedly going to say – or feel – as they listen to the sensual work of Israeli poet Rachel Eshed during a special reading at the Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill. During the February 3 gathering, translator David Cooper will read some of the award-winning poet’s most cherished pieces, as well as lead a discussion about erotic poetry’s place in modern Judaica. Eshed, a Kibbutz native, is not very well known in the States, but is a near-celebrity in Israel. Having placed her thoughts – and wanton desires – on paper since the early 1990s, the daughter of Holocaust survivors has written three books of poetry, and has received the 1992 AKUM Prize (the Israeli version of the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers highest honor) as well as the 2001 Bernstein Prize for Original Hebrew Poetry. Her work is also a bit…shall we say… “blue.” Here are just a few lines from one of her poems, entitled, “Like A High Priestess.” Lots of men are laid out at my feet like fine carpets. They breathe on my nape and tell me Enter, they groan in a tempest of tight jeans. There’s more, but it’s not suitable for, shall we say, a family publication. Suffice it to say that the only thing missing from the poem is a cold shower. An established poet in his own right, as well as an e-book writer and avid blogger, Cooper explained in a post recently why he is so surprised that Eshed’s work hasn’t found a more widespread audience in the U.S. “[My translation of Rachel Eshed’s erotic poetry] has yet to find an audience,” he wrote. “The resistance I’ve encountered in the Jewish community saddens me. For centuries Judaism was the most pro-sex of the world’s religions. In recent decades, however, we have fallen to third place behind Wicca and Unitarian-Universalism. I’m beginning to think that we need to re-think the virtue of sexual modesty and the conformist consequences of normative family values.” If Cooper raises these thoughts at the Kane Street Synagogue on Saturday, he will be preaching to the choir, so to speak. But that isn’t surprising for two reasons: the Kane Street Synagogue is in Brooklyn and Cooper is a congregant. “I would say that some of Rachel Eshed’s poetry is ‘R’ rated… I wouldn’t share it with a nine-year-old,” said Rabbi Samuel Weintraub, the spiritual leader of the Kane Street Synagogue. “But I think that Israel has a rich and complex literally culture much like the United States and France. Some of Israel’s poets write in an erotic style, but they’re part of our culture.” Weintraub, who describes the Kane Street Synagogue as affiliated Conservative as well as traditional Hebrew egalitarian, said that Eshed’s saucy style shouldn’t overshadow the importance of her work. “At the spine of her poetry is an earthiness that is very unique,” he said. “She is a very talented poet.” Cooper’s reading is part of an ongoing literary culture series on the work of Jewish authors which has included writers from Vogue magazine, newspaper columnists and experts on Shakespeare. The Kane Street Synagogue is located at 236 Kane Street. The reading of Eshed’s work, which is open to the public, will take place after a 1 p.m. mincha service. Cooper’s translation of Eshed’s book “Little Promises” is available for sale at BookCourt, 163 Court Street. Anyone wishing to learn more about the reading or the synagogue’s ongoing culture series can call (718) 875-1550 or log onto www.kanestreet.org.

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