Teach Great Jewish Books: A Gathering for Educators

July 19–21, 2020: Poetry & Music

Teach Great Jewish Books: A Gathering for Educators brings together secondary school teachers from around the country for two days of learning about modern Jewish literature and culture. During the gathering, teachers study with scholars of modern Jewish literature and culture in order to deepen their understanding of the breadth and depth of this field. They learn about poems, stories, songs, and other texts in their historical contexts, and they think collaboratively about how best to bring them back to their middle and high school students. Teachers also share successful lessons and pedagogical practices with each other. The gathering, which takes place at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, is an energetic and energizing opportunity for professional development and personal enrichment.


The theme for the 2020 gathering is Poetry & Music. Scholars, teachers, and performers will be presenting poems and songs from a diverse range of Jewish traditions and thinking about how these materials fit into today’s classrooms. Texts will come from multiple languages, including Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew, and English (all will be available in English translation), and from traditions as diverse as modernist poetics, Broadway musicals, and prayer.

Questions informing this event include:

  • Why teach Jewish poetry and music?
  • What are some of the many sub-genres of “Jewish poetry and music”? What can we learn from each?
  • What is unique about this poetry and music?
  • What is universal?
  • Which texts will work best in middle and high school classrooms?
  • Which classrooms? (English? History? Jewish studies? Music?)
  • What kinds of support do teachers need to effectively bring these texts to their students?

This gathering will be held in conjunction with the Yiddish Book Center’s Great Jewish Books Teacher Summer Seminar, which brings teachers to the Center for a month in the summer for an in-depth study of modern Jewish literature.

I loved being around other educators who care about Jewish literature.
2019 Gathering Participant


Madeleine Cohen is the academic director for this event. She holds a PhD in comparative literature with an emphasis in Jewish Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Visiting faculty for the 2020 gathering include:

Sarah Aroeste, who writes and sings in Ladino and is an activist for Ladino cultural preservation.

Judah Cohen, who studies and teaches about music in Jewish life as a professor of musicology at Indiana University.

Maeera Shreiber, who has written extensively about Jewish American poetry and teaches at the University of Utah.

Anna Shternshis, who researches Jewish culture in the Soviet Union, and Yiddish mass culture, theater, and music, at the University of Toronto.

Anna Elena Torres, who specializes in Jewish studies, gender studies, and labor history.


The gathering begins with a reception at 6 pm on Sunday, July 19, and ends at 3 pm on Tuesday, July 21.

The fee for registration is $50. Registration closes on May 1, but space is limited, so early registration is advised. 

Registrants are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. Due to various university events happening in the Amherst area, hotels tend to fill up quickly, so we encourage you to make arrangements for accommodations as soon as possible. You can find a selection of hotels and inns here.

The following meals will be provided by a certified kosher caterer:

  • Sunday: dinner
  • Monday: light breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Tuesday: light breakfast and lunch