Baruch Dayan HaEmet – Dr. David Shneer z”l

Professor David Shneer z”l

Professor David Shneer, Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History at the University of Colorado, Boulder, passed away Wednesday November 4th, 2020 after a long battle with cancer. He was 48 years old.

The funeral was held Friday, November 6th, 2020, and the graveside service and burial will be in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on Tuesday, November 10, 2020. There will be remote shiva sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, November 10, 11 and 12. Details will follow.

From Professor Shneer’s husband, Gregg Drinkwater:

Donations in David’s Memory:

As a memorial for David, we’d like to raise funds to install a plaque at the Denver Botanic Gardens. David loved to be at the Gardens – it was his favorite place in Denver and is just a few blocks from our home. David, Sasha and I often used our special member key to enter the Gardens via the secret back gate. David would go alone or with me and Sasha to read, walk, or get some work done on his laptop. Even with Covid restrictions and his declining health, we had been going there regularly these past few months. A memorial there will be a place for those of us here in Colorado to visit regularly and remember him and his love of being outside in the beauty of the Gardens.

We also invite those who loved David to donate to increase the endowment for the James and Diane Shneer Endowed Fellowship Fund to support research in the Post-Holocaust American Judaism Archive at the University of Colorado, Boulder. David helped found the archive and the fund was originally created in honor of David’s parents on the occasion of Diane’s 70th birthday. We plan to rename the fund in David’s honor. More info on the Post-Holocaust American Judaism Archive is here: https://www.colorado.edu/post-holocaustamericanjudaismcollections/

To donate to the CU fund, go here: https://giving.cu.edu/fund/james-and-diane-shneer-endowed-fellowship-fund

To donate to the Denver Botanic Gardens memorial, follow these instructions:

We’ll pay tribute to David by dedicating a stone, tree, or bench at the Gardens in his name. The specific plan will be driven by the total amount of contributions made in David’s name, and we will be sure to let everyone know when the tribute is completed and where the tribute will be within the Gardens for all to visit.

To contribute, please use this link: https://www.botanicgardens.org/tribute-memorial-gifts

Click on “donate” and then select the third blank option under “donation information” and enter your desired amount. Under “additional information,” no need to put anything in the “engraved message” field – we’ll take care of that once all donations are in. Be sure to put David’s name under “tribute information” so that all funds collected in David’s memory will be tracked by the Gardens. You can also call or email Rob Price, manager of annual giving, to donate: 720-865-3528, or you can email him at robert.price@botanicgardens.org.

David’s Research, Scholarship and Public Life:

For those who might not know the full extent of David’s public work as a scholar, teacher, writer and community leader, I invite you to browse through his personal web site: https://www.davidshneer.com/

To see and hear David’s beautiful voice as a singer, here he is with his music collaborator and dear friend, Jewlia Eisenberg, singing Dem Milner’s Trern (“The Miller’s Tears”) in Yiddish (lyrics in comments). This is part of Jewlia and David’s “Art Is My Weapon” project, about the radical musical life of Lin Jaldati, a Dutch Jewish cabaret performer and Holocaust survivor who migrated to East Berlin after WWII and became the “Yiddish diva” of the Communist world.

More on the “Art Is My Weapon” project can be found here: https://yiddishkayt.org/art-is-my-weapon

“I’m writing with the devastating news that our beloved friend and colleague, Professor David Shneer, passed away after a long battle with cancer. David was many things – a groundbreaking scholar, a visionary leader, a passionate activist, and a devoted teacher. For so many members of this community and the Jewish Studies world across the globe, though, David was much more. He was a friend, mentor, and role model – someone whose warmth, generosity, and deep and abiding care for those around him transformed and inspired lives. He was someone who made CU Boulder, Colorado, and academia a home for so many of us.

The Mishnah teaches that each person should make for themselves a friend, acquire for themselves a teacher, and judge everyone favorably. David exemplified what friendship, learning, and embracing –and changing – the world truly mean. We are grateful for the time that we had with him, and heartbroken by his loss.

May his memory be for a blessing. 

— Elias Sacks, Director, Program in Jewish Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

“Bonai Shalom expresses our condolences and deep grief at the devastating loss of Professor David Shneer, who was so loved and respected and taught several times in our community. He has been truly inspirational in his academic work and in his role in CU’s Program in Jewish Studies. May his memory endure as a great blessing and our prayers of comfort and strength to his husband Gregg Drinkwater, all his family and friends who adored him.”

— Rabbi Marc Soloway, Congregation Bonai Shalom

David Shneer was Louis P. Singer Endowed Chair in Jewish History, Professor of History and Jewish Studies, and former Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He was a Distinguished Lecturer for the Association for Jewish Studies, faculty director for Yiddishkayt, co-editor in chief of East European Jewish Affairs, and was the inaugural faculty director of CU Boulder’s Post Holocaust American Judaism Archive.

Called a “pathbreaking” scholar by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Shneer’s research focused on 20th century European, Russian, and Jewish history and culture. His 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 Professor Shneer’s book projects, see the Books page on his website.

Shneer’s newly published book, “Grief: The Biography of a Holocaust Photograph” (Oxford, 2020) that explores the history of a single image from the moment the Soviet photographer encountered the first liberated Holocaust killing site in January 1942 in the southern Russian city of Kerch. 

Shneer lectured nationally and internationally and wrote 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, and Nextbook. Shneer taught or was 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, served as the Pearl Resnick Fellow, and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. At the time of his passing, he was serving as co-editor-in-chief of East European Jewish Affairs and on the editorial boards of Journal of Jewish Identities, the Association for Jewish Studies’ magazine Perspectives, and for the book series Borderlines with Academic Studies press. He served as consultant to numerous Jewish agencies on questions of contemporary Jewish identity, and served on the board of directors of the Association for Jewish Studies. He 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 included 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.

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