Jake Schneider

Writing

I began writing poetry in English at age 13 and quickly pursued it seriously in my free time, including three month-long intensive summer workshops at Interlochen Center for the Arts guided by the fantastic poet and person Janée Baugher. After studying creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College with poets including Matthea Harvey, Cathy Park Hong, Marie Howe, Jeffrey McDaniel, and Martha Rhodes, I turned my attention to translation and other literary activities, particularly in my role as editor-in-chief of the literary journal SAND from 2015 to 2021. My own poems remained largely unpublished and unread.

Now, in my thirties, I have resumed writing my own poetry (and a little prose) – in Yiddish. My poems have appeared in the online literary journal Yiddish Branzhe (published by the distinguished author and editor Boris Sandler) and are forthcoming in several other publications. 

I have also participated in public readings organized by Leivik House, Yiddish.Berlin, LABA Berlin, Lettrétage, the Yiddish Café Trust, and others. Some of my Yiddish poems have been set to music by Zhenja Oks and translated into German by Horst Bernhardt and Arndt Beck. (Thomas Carlo Bo previously set an English poem of mine to music.) Separately, I also have an ongoing prose project set on a Jewish asteroid.

I also write nonfictional essays in English, often about the politics of linguistic diversity, but also literature, community, and memory.

Table of Contents

Yiddish poems and prose

Some of these Yiddish poems are also available in unpublished English and/or German translations. I am happy to share these privately by request.

“Undzer astronoyt (lang zol er shvebn)”
Our astronaut (long may he float)
Published in Yiddish Branzhe, April 2024
Recording of reading here (during a Leivik House event honoring Moyshe-Dovid Guiser)

This poem about the cult of a heavenly astronaut was originally written for a drag performance I gave, as the persona Bobbe Kosmos, in collaboration with Rose Mintzer-Sweeney.

“A shteyndl funem yugnt-brunem” (scroll down after clicking the link)
A pebble from the Fountain of Youth
Published in Yiddish Branzhe, April 2024
Read during the Yiddish Writers from Three Generations reading (recording here)

A reflection on (queer) youth and timelessness, beginning in the guts of a drunken sun, passing through a primordial swamp, and ending a hundred years ago at Berlin’s classic queer nightclub El Dorado.

Lehavdil. A kvitl in der mizrekh-vant
To set apart: A slip of paper in the eastern wall
Published in Yiddish Branzhe, March 2024
Accompanying video reading

A meditation on the cycle of a city’s “golden eras” mostly set at a post-Berlin hostel in the year 2122 (but concluding during the Weimar Republic). Notably featuring the Prophet Elijah’s Grindr profile.

Mir hobn zey in der zun” (scroll down after clicking the link)
Where the sun do shine
Published in Yiddish Branzhe, March 2024

This poem of enmity takes place on a fertile “field of anger” on the surface of the sun.

Elnte Velt. Vegvayzer tsum asteroidn-pas
Lonesome World Guide to the Asteroid Belt

An ongoing prose project set in 2273 on an asteroid populated by defrosted refugees from Nazi-era Berlin. I wrote several sections of this sprawling science-fictional tourist guide during the author Boris Sandler’s Yiddish prose masterclass in autumn 2023. He published the writing produced for the class in Yiddish Branzhe, so you can read excerpts here and here (scroll down for the sections with my name). Please understand that these are works in progress.

My Yiddish poetry has also appeared in zines including The Newest Yiddish Poetry (Berlin: Propeller, 2022) and lehavdil: heilig-profane jiddische gedichte von jake schneider (Berlin, 2023), which is bilingual with German translations.

English essays

Parataxe Symposium XIV: “Yiddish Centers, Yiddish Futures (Essay/talk about the geography and future of the Yiddish language and its literature, 2024, available in German translation here)

“To build a strong future for Yiddish, we also need to be focusing on the third, creative network of people who emerged from the [religious and academic networks]. We need to cultivate communities where people aren’t just learning Yiddish but speaking it, not just reading or singing or studying it but writing in it. Communities that welcome people who were previously marginalized – women, queer and trans people, heretics, activists. Communities of people engaging with their heritage and history on their own terms. Communities whose members feel comfortable experimenting and making mistakes, whose creativity in the language becomes mutually inspiring. That will lead to more and better art that is relevant to our present lives. ”

The Austrian Riveter: “A Shelving Problem” (Essay about Galician Jewish literature, 2023)

“The disconnect between nations as we imagine them and people, in their messy distribution across the planet, is one reason why, without a more sophisticated and inclusive shelving system, so many important books and authors are left without a home.”

Westopia Festival catalog: “Sprachraum versus Doikayt: Berlin and the Case for Multilingual (Post)national literature” (Essay/lecture in English with German translation, 2022)

“We as linguistic minorities need to acknowledge that these challenges will never be easy and that the only way to achieve a world that celebrates all the little worlds inside it, for all their diversity and all their languages, is to keep creating and publishing, no matter what happens, and to stop apologizing for who and where we are. We’re all in the right country.”

Stadtsprachen Magazine: “Head Ropes: A Life in Translation (Essay, 2021)

“The agent from the Vienna office of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company was confirming the details of my great-grandmother Irma’s reservation. To emigrate from the hyphen of the disintegrating Austro-Hungarian Empire to the United States, one-way, for life.”

SAND: “A Journal from Vietnam (Travel journal, 2017)

“The subtitles and competing languages on screen made up a kind of motion-picture Talmud, with Chinese and Korean going down the sides, English and Vietnamese on the bottom, Portuguese interludes, the occasional centered quote, and sometimes languages like Thai and Georgian, even Schwäbisch, thrown in.”

Epitext: “International Berlin’s ‘Language Spaces’ in Conversation and Literature (Essay, 2017)

“Monolingualism is the historical exception, not the rule. Speakers of different languages have always coexisted, often in the same brain, and they haven’t always been sorted into neat national boxes. Although linguistic uniformity does create larger communities of communication, this flatness is always forced.”

Yiddish journalism

I recently published my first journalistic article (in Yiddish) in the Forverts:

“A dialog mit undzere bobes: Yidishistkes praven dem internatsoynaln froyentog”
A dialogue with our grandmothers: Yiddishist women celebrate International Women’s Day
Forverts, 14 March 2024