Irena Klepfisz is a poet, Yiddish translator and activist, and has recently retired as a scholar and teacher of Jewish Women Studies at Barnard College. She was born in 1941 in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising claimed the life of her father, Michal Klepfisz, a resistance fighter and a Bund activist. Klepfisz escaped with her mother to the Polish countryside where they survived the Second World War, and then moved to the United States in 1949.
Klepfisz has been active in feminist, lesbian, Jewish secular and peace organizations. She began publishing her poetry in 1971 and soon focused her research on Yiddish women writers (e.g. Kadya Molodovsky and Fradl Shtok). She co-founded the feminist literary magazine Conditions and served as the Yiddish editor of the Jewish feminist magazine Bridges. She also co-edited The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Woman's Anthology. She is the author of A Few Words in the Mother Tongue (Poetry) and Dreams of an Insomniac (Essays). While teaching Jewish Women's Studies at Barnard College, Klepfisz also taught for ten years at a maximum security women's prison. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and was recently awarded the prestigious Adrienne Cooper Dreaming in Yiddish Award 2016.
Elizabeth Loentz: Germanic Studies
Karen Underhill: Slavic and Baltic Languages and Literatures
Cosponsor: UIC Jewish Studies Program