Meet the Workshop Leaders and Mentors

Translation Fellows are often surprised to learn that many of the workshop leaders and mentors in our program do not have experience with Yiddish. Instead, many of them are award-winning professional literary translators working in a wide variety of languages. They are experienced workshop facilitators and mentors who help Yiddish Translation Fellows to think about the craft and the business of literary translation. They are careful readers and editors and wonderful resources for understanding the art and the work of translation and publishing. Some do have a background in Jewish literature or Yiddish specifically. Mentors are chosen based on what kind of expertise may be most useful to the individual translator. Below you will find a sample list of previous workshop leaders and mentors who have participated in the Translation Fellowship.


Sean Cotter is professor of literature and translation studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, specializing in Romanian and Eastern European literature. He has translated many works of Romanian literature, including Nichita Stănescu’s Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems (Archipelago Books, 2012), which won the 2012 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry, as well as Liliana Ursu’s Lightwall (Zephyr Press, 2009) and Nichita Danilov’s Secondhand Souls (Twisted Spoon Press, 2003). He is the author of Literary Translation and the Idea of a Minor Romania (University of Rochester Press, 2014), winner of the Society for Romanian Studies Biennial Book Prize.

Ellen Elias-Bursać has been translating fiction and nonfiction by Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian writers since the 1980s, including novels and short stories by David Albahari, Dubravka Ugrešić, Daša Drndić, and Karim Zaimovič. She is co-author, with Ronelle Alexander, of a textbook for the study of Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian, and author of Translating Evidence and Interpreting Testimony at a War Crimes Tribunal: Working in a Tug-of-War, which was awarded the Mary Zirin Prize in 2015.

Daniel Hahn is a prolific translator of Portuguese, Spanish, and French whose work includes fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. A former chair of the Translators Association and the Society of Authors, as well as national program director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, he currently serves on the board of trustees at a number of organizations working with literature, literacy, and free expression, including English PEN, The Children's Bookshow, and Modern Poetry in Translation. Read more about his work:

Elizabeth Harris’ translations from Italian include novels and short-story collections by authors such as Mario Rigoni Stern, Giulio Mozzi, Antonio Tabucchi, Andrea Bajani, and Claudia Durastanti, with presses like Open Letter Books, Archipelago Books, Riverhead Books, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Harris’ translation awards (for various books by Antonio Tabucchi) include an NEA translation fellowship, the Italian Prose in Translation Award, and the National Translation Award. A professor of creative writing for many years, Harris now translates full-time and lives with her family in a small Wisconsin town along the Mississippi.

Jim Hicks is editor of the Massachusetts Review and has served as both chair and graduate program director of the comparative literature program at the University of Massachusetts. He has translated several works by the noted Italian writer Erri De Luca, including The Crime of a Soldier and A Dissenting Word, as well as the screenplays for The Human Voice (directed by Eduardo Ponti, starring Sophia Loren and Enrico Lo Verso) and The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars (directed by Eduardo Ponti, starring Nastassja Kinski, Enrico Lo Verso, and Julian Sands).  His book Lessons from Sarajevo: A War Stories Primer was published in 2013 by the University of Massachusetts Press.

Sawad Hussain is a translator from the Arabic whose work has been recognized by English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society and the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, among others. She is a judge for the Palestine Book Awards and currently the cochair for the Translator's Association in the UK. Her recent translations include Passage to the Plaza by Sahar Khalifeh and A Bed for the King’s Daughter by Shahla Ujayli. She has run workshops introducing translation to students and adults under the auspices of the British Library, Shadow Heroes, Africa Writes, The National Centre for Writing, and Shubbak Festival. She is the 2022 translator in residence at the British Centre for Literary Translation. She tweets at @sawadhussain.

Bill Johnston is a translator of Polish literature, working with writing from various genres and periods. His awards include the PEN Translation Prize, the Best Translated Book Award, the Found in Translation Prize (twice), and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He teaches literary translation at Indiana University.

Becka Mara McKay is a poet and translator. She directs the Creative Writing MFA at Florida Atlantic University, where she also serves as faculty advisor to Swamp Ape Review. Publications include poetry: A Meteorologist in the Promised Land (Shearsman, 2010), Happiness Is the New Bedtime (Slash Pine Press, 2016), and The Little Book of No Consolation (Barrow Street, 2021). Her translations of Israeli fiction and poetry include Laundry (Autumn Hill, 2008), Blue Has No South (Clockroot, 2010), and Lunar Savings Time (Clockroot, 2011).

Katherine Silver is an acclaimed, award-winning literary translator. Her most recent and forthcoming publications include works by María Sonia Cristoff, Juan Carlos Onetti, César Aira, Julio Cortázar, and Julio Ramón Ribeyro. She is the former director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) and the author of Echo Under Story (2019).


Sean Gasper Bye is a translator of Polish fiction, reportage, and drama, including books by Lidia Ostałowska, Filip Springer, and Szczepan Twardoch. His work has appeared in The Guardian, Words Without Borders, Catapult, and elsewhere. He is a winner of the 2016 Asymptote Close Approximations Prize and is a 2019 NEA Translation Fellowship recipient for his forthcoming translation of Ellis Island by Małgorzata Szejnert.

Boris Dralyuk is the editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He is the translator of Isaac Babel, Andrey Kurkov, Maxim Osipov, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and other authors, as well as coeditor (with Robert Chandler and Irina Mashinski) of The Penguin Book of Russian Poetry (2015), editor of 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution (2016), and author of My Hollywood and Other Poems (Paul Dry Books, forthcoming in 2022).

Linda Gaboriau is an award-winning literary translator based in Montreal. Her French-English translations of plays by Quebec’s most prominent playwrights have been published and produced across Canada and abroad. In her work as a literary manager and dramaturge, she has directed numerous translation residencies and international exchange projects. She was the founding ­director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Gaboriau has twice won the Governor General’s Award for Translation: in 1996, for Daniel Danis’ Stone and Ashes, and in 2010, for Wajdi Mouawad’s Forests.

María José Giménez is a Venezuelan-Canadian poet, translator, and editor working in Spanish, English, and French whose work has received support from the NEA, the Studios at MASS MoCA, the Breadloaf Translators’ Conference, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Author of the chapbooks chelated (Belladonna*) and entretanto, and 2019–2021 Poet Laureate of Easthampton, Massachusetts, María José is the co-translator (with Anna Rosenwong) of Mara Pastor’s bilingual collection Deuda Natal, winner of the 2020 American Academy of Poets Ambroggio Prize. More at

Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is the author of The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible (Spiegel & Grau / Penguin Random House), which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and one of Publishers Weekly's “Top Religion Stories of 2015.” She is The Forward's language columnist and a former poetry columnist for and has received a Howard Foundation Fellowship, an Illinois Arts Council grant, and a Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship. She has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry.

Eleanor Reissa is a Tony-nominated director, international concert artist, award-winning playwright, and Broadway actor whose work lives happily in both English and Yiddish. In the spring of 2020, she will be directing Paddy Chavefky’s The Tenth Man in Yiddish for the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, which commissioned her translation. This year she was the co-creator and director for Carnegie Hall’s “Migrations” series, From Shtetl to Stage, celebrating Eastern European immigration to the United States.  Her play The Last Survivor, about a daughter and her relationship with her Holocaust-survivor father, received its premier at Chicago’s Northlight Theatre. She is currently working on a memoir The Letters Project about an eye-opening and heart-wrenching trip to Germany. Read more about her work:

Lawrence Schimel is a full-time author, writing in both Spanish and English, who has published over one hundred books in a wide range of genres, including fiction, poetry, graphic novels, and children’s literature. His many honors include a Crystal Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the Lambda Literary Award (twice), a White Raven from the International Youth Library in Munich, and more. He is also a prolific literary translator; recent translations include the novels The Wild Book by Juan Villoro (Restless Books) and La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono (Feminist Press), the graphic novel of Jesús Carrasco's Out in the Open (SelfMadeHero), and poetry collections Bomarzo by Elsa Cross (Shearsman), Destruction of the Lover by Luis Panini (Pleaides Press), and Impure Acts by Ángelo Néstore (Indolent Books). Born in New York, he now lives in Madrid, Spain.

Don Share’s books include Wishbone (Black Sparrow), Squandermania (Salt Publishing), Union (Zoo Press), and Seneca in English (Penguin Classics) as well as a critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems (Faber and Faber); and Bunting's Persia (Flood Editions). His translations of Miguel Hernández, collected in I Have Lots of Heart (Bloodaxe Books) and Miguel Hernández (New York Review Books), were awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize, the Premio Valle Inclán, and the PEN/New England Discovery Award. 

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities, Latin American, and Latino Culture at Amherst College, the publisher of Restless Books, and the host of NPR’s podcast In Contrast. He has translated Pablo Neruda and Jorge Luis Borges into English, Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Bishop into Spanish, Isaac Bashevis Singer from Yiddish, Yehuda Halevi from Hebrew, and Cervantes and Shakespeare into Spanglish. His latest works include the graphic novel Angelitos (illustrated by Santiago Cohen), the poem The Wall, the play The Oven, the collection of essays On Self-Translation, and the graphic novel adaptation of Don Quixote.

Jeremy Tiang is a Singaporean writer, translator, and playwright based in New York City. Tiang won the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize for English fiction for his debut novel, State of Emergency (2017), which traces leftist movements throughout Singapore's history. He has translated more than ten books from Chinese, including novels by Zhang Yueran, Yeng Pway Ngon, and Chan Ho-Kei, and is the recipient of a PEN/Heim Grant, an NEA Literary Translation Fellowship, and a People's Literature Prize Mao-Tai Cup for Translation. Tiang was named the Inaugural Literary Translator of the London Book Fair in 2019. Read more about his work:

Alex Zucker is an award-winning translator of Czech. From 2014 to 2016, he served as co-chair of the Translation Committee at PEN America, and he is currently working with the Authors Guild to develop a model contract for literary translation. His translations of Petra Hůlová’s Three Plastic Rooms and Jáchym Topol’s The Devil’s Workshop received Writing in Translation awards from English PEN, and he won the ALTA National Translation Award in 2010 for Petra Hůlová’s All This Belongs to Me.