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Jessie E. Sampter

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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


Tell me, what is Exile’s light?
Is it candles burning bright,
Little candles in the night?

Exile’s light is this old man.
Ere the morning he began
Israel’s holy page to scan.

And he teaches from this page
Israel’s law in every age:
Exile’s light is Israel’s sage


It’s a far, far road from Egypt
     To our own, our happy land,
From the pyramids of Egypt
     Built beneath the tyrant’s hand;
Its road so strange and marvelous
     That few can understand.

See, the Lord had passed us over
     For his sign upon our gate!
He has


Blessed art thou, O God our Lord,
Who made us holy with his word,
And told us on this feast of light
To light one candle more each night.

(Because when foes about us pressed
     To crush us all with death or shame,
The Lord his priests with courage blest
To strike and give