Great Jewish Books Teacher Summer Seminar: FAQ

Is the Teacher Summer Seminar affiliated with a particular denomination or Jewish movement?
No. This program is independent and not affiliated with one particular denomination or movement. We value pluralism and strive for a diverse cohort of teachers, from widely varying backgrounds and school settings.

Do I have to be an English teacher to apply?
No. Any teacher who is interested in bringing Jewish literature into the classroom is welcome. Participants may include teachers of English, history, Jewish studies, theater, film, and other subjects.

Do I have to be Jewish to apply?
No. We welcome applications from any teacher at a middle or high school who is interested in bringing modern Jewish literature into the classroom.

Do I have to have a background in Jewish literature?
No. We welcome applicants who are relatively new to the subject, as well as applicants who have studied it formally or informally.

I teach at an elementary school or at a Jewish supplementary school. Can I apply?
Unfortunately, no. The seminar is designed for teachers at middle and high schools. However, any teacher interested in teaching modern Jewish literature and culture may find our Teacher Resources helpful.

Can more than one teacher from the same school apply? 

I’m not able to attend the whole program. Is it ok if I miss a week?
Participants must be able to attend the entire four-week program.

What will the seminar schedule and workload be like?
Days will consist of seminar-style, discussion-based literature classes, field trips, special events (concerts, films, etc.), and free time (for both homework and relaxing). Homework will include up to two hours of reading per night, as well as the writing of new lessons and curriculum units.

I have participated in other professional development opportunities during my career. This one is by far the most extraordinary of them all.
2019 Participant

When does the program begin and end?
Participants will meet at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, on Sunday afternoon, July 5, and stay until Friday afternoon, July 31. Other than the first Sunday afternoon, there is no programming over the weekends. Participants will continue to stay connected to each other over the course of the following academic year as they develop and teach new material.

Where will I stay during the seminar?
Participants can choose to stay in a Hampshire College dormitory, with the cost fully covered by the Yiddish Book Center.

Participants who prefer to stay off-campus can make their own arrangements and reservations at one of the many local hotels, inns, and B&Bs, or through a vacation rental-finder like AirBNB. Off-campus participants will be reimbursed for up to $1,100 in housing costs at the end of the seminar.

Where will I eat?
Participants can choose to eat their meals in the Hampshire College dining hall, which is adjacent to the Yiddish Book Center.

Participants who do not choose the dining hall option can obtain their own food. They will be reimbursed for up to $800 for food at the end of the seminar.

Does the program provide kosher food?
While the Hampshire dining hall does not serve kosher food, it offers a diverse, nutritious selection of food, including extensive vegetarian options. Those who are comfortable eating vegetarian, vegan, or “kosher style” are usually happy with the dining hall option.

For participants who do not choose the dining hall option, there are Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and several other grocery stores within a 10-minute drive that offer some kosher products, but there are no specifically kosher markets or kosher restaurants nearby. Our staff is happy to talk to kosher participants before and during the program to see if there are other ways we can help to facilitate their culinary needs. 

Any special events catered at the Yiddish Book Center will be kosher.

Can I bring family members?
While we understand the challenges that a four-week residential program poses for parents, we encourage teachers with families to apply. The Amherst area is beautiful and family-friendly, full of opportunities for hiking, biking, and swimming. There are also many excellent day camps and—thanks to the five local colleges—a lot of babysitters.

Note that dormitory housing is single-occupancy, and family members cannot live in the dorm with participants, so if you do bring family along, you will need to find alternative housing. But with a rental home and the right childcare plan, a month in Amherst could work for the whole family. For more information and resources about bringing your family, contact Lesley Yalen at [email protected]

Who funds this program?
The Great Jewish Books Teacher Summer Seminar is made possible with support from the Jim Joseph Foundation. The Foundation, established in 2006, is devoted to fostering compelling, effective Jewish learning experiences for youth and young adults in the U.S.