The UC San Diego Jewish Studies program is very pleased to announce that Professor Amelia Glaser has won the 2021 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the category of Jewish Literature and Linguistics for her book Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine (Harvard U.P). This prestigious prize is awarded through the Association of Jewish Studies (AJS), the largest learned society and professional organization representing Jewish Studies scholars worldwide. Made possible by funding from Jordan Schnitzer and Arlene Schnitzer, the prize recognizes outstanding scholarly contributions to Jewish Studies.
Professor Glaser’s Songs in Dark Times explores how between the world wars, a generation of Jewish leftist poets reached out to other embattled peoples of the earth—Palestinian Arabs, African Americans, Spanish Republicans—in Yiddish verse. Songs in Dark Times examines the richly layered meanings of this project, grounded in Jewish collective trauma but embracing a global community of the oppressed. The long 1930s, Glaser proposes, gave rise to a genre of internationalist modernism in which tropes of national collective memory were rewritten as the shared experiences of many national groups. The utopian Jews of Songs in Dark Times effectively globalized the pogroms in a bold and sometimes fraught literary move that asserted continuity with anti-Arab violence and black lynching. As communists and fellow travelers, the writers also sought to integrate particular experiences of suffering into a borderless narrative of class struggle. Glaser resurrects their poems from the pages of forgotten Yiddish communist periodicals, particularly the New York–based Morgn Frayhayt (Morning Freedom) and the Soviet literary journal Royte Velt (Red World). Alongside compelling analysis, Glaser includes her own translations of ten poems previously unavailable in English, including Malka Lee’s “God’s Black Lamb,” Moyshe Nadir’s “Closer,” and Esther Shumiatsher’s “At the Border of China.” These poets dreamed of a moment when “we” could mean “we workers” rather than “we Jews.” Songs in Dark Times takes on the beauty and difficulty of that dream, in the minds of Yiddish writers who sought to heal the world by translating pain.
Amelia Glaser is Associate Professor of Russian and comparative literature at UC San Diego and UC San Diego Endowed Chair of Judaic Studies. She has also served as the director of UC San Diego’s Jewish Studies and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies programs. This academic year she is the 2021–2022 Rita E. Hauser Fellow at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, where she is investigating contemporary literature and art in Ukraine to better understand how a collective identity can be publicly reimagined during, and immediately following, political upheaval.

Glaser’s first book, Jews and Ukrainians in Russia’s Literary Borderlands (2012), explored Russians, Ukrainians and Jews who described one another in fiction and poetry from the imperial Russian Pale of Settlement. Professor Glaser is also the editor of Stories of Khmelnytsky: Literary Legacies of the 1648 Ukrainian Cossack Uprising (2015), co-editor of Comintern Aesthetics (2020), and translator of Proletpen: America’s Rebel Yiddish Poets (2005).

Please join us in extending our congratulations to Professor Glaser!

Many thanks,
Jewish Studies Program
UC San Diego