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Yakov Azriel was born in New York, in 1950, as Gerald Rosenkrantz. After receiving his B.A. in English literature, summa cum laude, at Brooklyn College, in 1971, he moved to Israel, where he changed his name to Yakov Azriel. He studied at the Mercaz HaRav Kook Yeshiva, in Jerusalem, and the Har-Etzion Yeshiva, in Alon-Shvut, Israel, and later completed an M.A., with distinction, and a doctorate in Judaica, concentrating on the stories of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav.

His first book of poems, Threads from a Coat of Many Colors: Poems on Genesis, was published by Time Being Books, in 2005. This book was a candidate for several awards, including the National Jewish Book Award, in the U.S., and the President's Prize for Literature (awarded by the President of Israel), which is one of Israel's most prestigious literary awards. His second book of poetry, In the Shadow of a Burning Bush: Poems on Exodus, was published in 2008, his third, Beads for the Messiah's Bride: Poems on Leviticus, in 2009, and his fourth, Swimming in Moses' Well: Poems on Numbers, in 2011 — all by Time Being Books.

Over 160 of his poems on Biblical and Jewish themes have been published in journals in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel since he began submitting poems, in 2000. His poems have won twelve prizes in international poetry competitions, including First Place in the 2004 Miriam Lindberg Poetry for Peace Prize, Honorable Mention in the 2004 Annual Poetry Contest, sponsored by Poetica magazine, Fourth Place in the 2004 Fifteenth Reuben Rose International Poetry Competition, Semi-Finalist in the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry Competition 2005, sponsored by Nimrod magazine, Finalist in the 2006 International Poetry Competition, sponsored by Binnacle magazine, Honorable Mention in the 2006 poetry contest, sponsored by Inspirit magazine, and Second Place in the 2006 Dancing Galliard Sonnet Contest. In addition, he was twice awarded fellowships from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, for his poetry, in 2004–2005 and in 2009–2010.