Brenner was born in the Ukraine and after studying in a yeshivah, he went to Gomel where he joined the Bund, a Jewish left-wing organization. Later he served three years in the Russian army, but at the outbreak of the Russo- Japanese war, he deserted and escaped to London. There he worked in a printing shop, founded a Hebrew language periodical and became active in the Po'alei Zion, a socialist-Zionist movement. All this time he had been writing.
After working as an editor in Lemberg, Poland, he emigrated to Erez Israel in 1909. During World War I he became an Ottoman citizen so that the Turkish authorities would not expel him from the country. Brenner lived and worked as an editor and writer in many different towns in Erez Israel. He was murdered during the Arab riots on May 2, 1921.
Brenner wrote many short stories and novels. He described the life of the Jews in Russia, the plight of the Jewish workers in England, and the state of the Jewish community in Jerusalem that lived on charity in the form of the halukkah. He was concerned about social conditions and described his subjects negatively, no doubt hoping to arouse his readers to change things.
He translated some of the world's classic books into Hebrew and both wrote and translated in Yiddish. In his writings, Brenner made an important contribution to the development of modern Hebrew.