Irena Klepfisz was born in the Warsaw Ghetto on April 17, 1941, the daughter of Michał Klepfisz, a member of the Jewish Labour Bund. When she had just turned two years old, her father was killed on the second day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Earlier in 1943, Klepfisz’s father had smuggled Irena and her mother out of the ghetto; Irena was placed in a Catholic orphanage, while her mother, using false papers, worked as a maid for a Polish family. Irena and her mother immigrated to the United States in 1949, where Klepfisz has worked as an activist in feminist, lesbian, and secular Jewish communities. She began publishing her poems in 1971. She was a founding editor of Conditions, a feminist magazine emphasizing the writing of lesbians, and also co-editor of The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women‘s Anthology. Klepfisz has been a contributor to the Jewish feminist magazine Bridges, and wrote the introduction to Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers. She is the author of A Few Words in the Mother Tongue: Poems Selected and New (with an introduction by Adrienne Rich), published by The Eighth Mountain Press, which was nominated for a Lamda Prize in Poetry in 1990.