Spring Semester in Modern Jewish Culture


Source: National Yiddish Book Center


Hampshire College and the National Yiddish Book Center announce a new offering for visiting undergraduate students: a semester of study in Modern Jewish Culture in Amherst, MA, from January 24 through May 7, 2010.

Visiting students will spend a semester studying Yiddish language at the National Yiddish Book Center and enrolling in courses in Jewish Studies or related topics at one or more of the area’s Five Colleges: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and the University of Massachusetts. Students will also work hands-on with new and ongoing projects at the Book Center, in the areas of bibliography, museum exhibitions, ethnography, oral history, publications and more.

Participants in the Semester in Modern Jewish Culture will enroll as visiting students at Hampshire College. The Book Center will provide a gathering space and activities including a weekly seminar and special events such as films, lectures, and performances. All academic credits will be awarded through Hampshire College.


The Courses

Students will enroll in four courses:

  • Yiddish Language: taught by a resident faculty member at the Book Center
  • The Rise of Secular Jewish Culture taught by Hampshire College faculty
  • One elective course in Jewish culture or related topics at any of the Five College campuses (Amherst College, Smith College, Mount. Holyoke College, Hampshire College, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst)
  • A for-credit practicum at the Center. Each student will be assigned a mentor from the Yiddish Book Center, Hampshire College, or Five College faculty. Students will attend a weekly seminar where they will share their experiences with faculty and with one another, plan for the next phase, and evaluate their work.



Students will work in one or more of the following six major project areas:

  1. Bibliography: Work with the Center’s bibliographer to shelve and organize Yiddish books in the new, climate-controlled, on-site Deposit Library; help sort, process and index periodicals and ready them for digitization; answer reference questions and help students, scholars and visitors find Yiddish books; and provide support for users of the Center’s online library.
  2. Interpretation: Provide guided tours on specific aspects of modern Jewish literature, history and culture to visitors of all ages.
  3. Ethnography: Participate in field research and collection, conduct structured oral history interviews with visitors, index archival recordings, and select excerpts for inclusion on the Book Center’s website, New Discoveries exhibition, Pakn Treger and other publications.
  4. Exhibitions: Help track down artifacts and provide curatorial assistance for The Yiddish Museum, the Book Center’s new, 12,000-square-foot permanent exhibition.
  5. Education and Public Programs: Provide support for the Book Center’s new educational programs, including online Yiddish classes and residential Jewish Cultural Encounters for adults; a Winter Program for college students; teacher training and other endeavors.
  6. Web, Translation and Publications: Provide content and help coordinate online forums and communities on the Book Center’s expanded website; assist with translation from Yiddish to English; assist the editor in researching and writing for Pakn Treger, the Book Center’s English-language magazine.

Application Timeline

November 15: Application and supporting materials due.

Updated: Oct. 19, 2009