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Jacob Steinber was born in Bila Tserkva, but ran off to Odessa when he was 14, joining Bialik and other Jewish intellectuals of the Hebrew literary circle there. In 1903 Steinberg moved to Warsaw, and participated in Peretz's literary circle. In 1910 he moved to Switzerland, studying in university at Bern and Lucerne. During those years, he published works in Hebrew and Yiddish, especially in the Yiddish newspaper "Der Fraind" (דער פֿרײַנד).
In 1914, Steinberg immigrated to Palestine, and wrote exclusively in Hebrew ever since. In 1929, he married Liza Arlosoroff, a musician, and sister of Haim Arlosoroff, and later edited Haim Arlosoroff's writings.
He defied trends in two significant ways: his poetry was individualistic rather than nationalistic, and he wrote in the Ashkenazic dialect rather than the Sephardic dialect, which became the accepted norm of Israeli Hebrew. His two most famous poems are "Not an enclosed Garden" and "Confession".