David Shneer
Religious Studies

Research Interests: 

Russian Jewish history, Yiddish culture, Jews and sexuality, diaspora studies, Holocaust Studies


Called a “pathbreaking” scholar by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Shneer's research focuses on 20th century European, Russian, and Jewish history and culture.  His newest book, Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust (Rutgers University Press, 2011), winner of the 2013 Jordan Schnitzer Prize of the Association for Jewish Studies and  finalist for the National Jewish Book Award,  looks at the lives and works of two dozen Soviet Jewish World War II military photographers to examine what kinds of photographs they took when they encountered evidence of Nazi genocide on the Eastern Front.  In fall 2011, the traveling museum exhibit  Through Soviet Jewish Eyes  debuted at the CU Art Museum in Boulder, Colorado, and then showed at the  Museum of Jewish Heritage  in New York City, the Holocaust Museum Houston, the University of Louisiana's Museum of Art, and at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Chicago through September 2015.

His other books include Queer Jews, finalist for the Lambda Literary award, Yiddish and the Creation of Soviet Jewish Culture, finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and New Jews: The End of the Jewish Diaspora, which has sparked discussion in publications like the Economist and the Jerusalem Post. For more on his book projects, see his Books page

He has two current projects.  The first, Redeeming Germany: Yiddish Music Between Fascism and Communism, examines Yiddish musical culture's role in European history from 1933 through 1989 through the life and work of Lin Jaldati, a Dutch-Jewish Yiddish-singing cabaret singer, who survived the Holocaust and was the last person to see Anne Frank alive.  After the war, she moved to East Germany and became the Yiddish diva of the Communist world until her death in 1988.   He recently published a short biography, in German, about her life and work,  Lin JaldatiTrümmerfrau der Seele (Hentrich: Berlin, 2014) . 

The second project, Grief, describes the history of the world's first widely circulated Holocaust liberation photographs as they  travel from the killing fields of southern Russia in 1942 to the white-washed walls of the Museum of Modern Art in 2011. 

Shneer lectures nationally and internationally and has written for the Huffington Post, Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post as well as publications dedicated to Jewish life and culture, including Forward, Pakntreger, Jewcy, andNextbook. Shneer has taught or been a scholar-in-residence at the University of California campuses at Berkeley and Davis, and at the University of Illinois, the National Yiddish Book Center, the University of Wisconsin, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, serving as the Pearl Resnick Fellow, and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the scholarly journals East European Jewish Affairs and Journal of Jewish Identities, the Association for Jewish Studies' magazine Perspectives, and for the book series Borderlines with Academic Studies press.  He serves as consultant to numerous Jewish agencies on questions of contemporary Jewish identity, and has served on the board of directors of the Association for Jewish Studies. He has won prestigious fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, the International Research and Exchange Council, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In his broader work, Shneer co-founded Jewish Mosaic, the first national Jewish LGBT organization, which merged with Keshet in 2010, and was education director of Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, the LGBT outreach synagogue of the San Francisco Bay Area, from 1997 through 2001.  His work with the Jewish non-profit world includes consulting with organizations around issues of integrating post-Soviet Jews into Jewish communal life, having served as co-chair of Limmud Colorado, vice-chair of Keshet, and working with Facing History and Ourselves, a global non profit dedicated to fostering a democratic, human-rights oriented education in high schools.