About the Great Jewish Books Summer Program

A hybrid online/residential program for rising high school juniors and seniors
June 20–July 30, 2021

At the Yiddish Book Center's Great Jewish Books Summer Program, rising high school juniors and seniors read selections from important works of modern Jewish literature and consider how they speak to the opportunities and challenges we face today. Under the guidance of college professors, they consider how the rich legacy of modern Jewish literature can inform us in the twenty-first century.

“I learned how to go deeper into the texts and find a completely new meaning to them. In addition, I met so many incredible people. I miss it so much already!”

-Great Jewish Books student

Although the program’s focus is on reading, this is not school in any conventional sense: Great Jewish Books is a lively program full of social, cultural, and recreational opportunities—and no grades—for students who read for the love of reading and who are eager to discover the treasures of the Jewish canon.

New this year, the program begins with five weeks of virtual classes and activities and culminates in a week in-person at the Yiddish Book Center, where students immerse themselves in a lively world of Jewish culture and live in dorms on the nearby campus of Hampshire College.*

Program dates:
June 20–July 23, 2021 (online), July 25–30, 2021 (in-person)

Every admitted participant receives a scholarship for the full cost of tuition, room, board, books, and special events.

Great Jewish Books Summer Program Video 2016

Great Jewish Books Summer Program students:

  • read and discuss important works of modern literature by writers such as Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem, Grace Paley, Philip Roth, and Isaac Babel.
  • learn from college faculty as well as prominent visiting writers (including, in past years, novelists Allegra Goodman and Jami Attenberg, poet and critic Adam Kirsch, and graphic novelist and scholar Ilan Stavans).
  • develop skills for literary analysis and self-expression that will prepare them for college.
  • meet other teenagers from across North America who love to read and who care about literature and Jewish culture.
  • get a taste of college life, from dormitory living to seminar-style classes.
  • discover how modern literature connects them to ancient traditions and contemporary ideas.

Students at Great Jewish Books come from a wide variety of backgrounds, Jewish affiliations, and experiences. We welcome people with multiple heritages, people of color, LGBTQ+ participants, and non-Jewish participants. Anyone who has an interest in Jewish literature and culture is welcome to apply. 

We hope to conduct the final week of the 2021 Great Jewish Books Summer Program in-person at the Yiddish Book Center. However, due to the uncertain nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, a residential program may not be possible. If that is the case, the final week of the program will be held online. We will inform students of the final course format (part-online/part-residential or fully online) upon acceptance. In the meantime, please see our FAQ for more information regarding Great Jewish Books’ possible remote learning adaptation. 

Follow us on Instagram at @greatjewishbooks to see photos from previous years, news from the Center, and updates on this year's program.

Great Jewish Books students having a discussion on the grass

Support for the Great Jewish Books Summer Program has been provided by Walter, Arnee, Sarah, and Aaron Winshall, with additional funding from the Michael H. Baker Family Foundation, Saul Kurlat, Dr. René and Michele Lerer, Sheldon and Barbara Rothblatt, Barbara Seril, Robert and Nina Schor, Joe Silverman, and a small group of additional donors.