About the Great Jewish Books Summer Program

Applications for the 2021 Great Jewish Books Summer Program are now closed. If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].

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 was basically guaranteed an interesting or funny discussion every time I opened my computer. It really added light to my day.”

— 2020 Great Jewish Books online 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.

In the first five weeks of the program, participants attend a series of virtual seminars and social activities, paired with asynchronous activities and spaced out throughout each week to allow time for other summer commitments. The final week (July 26-30) offers a faster-paced deep-dive into modern Jewish literature, with daily online classes, talks with contemporary writers, and an array of remote recreational activities. Students connect with their peers and faculty over Zoom and Discord. View the program activities here.

Every admitted participant receives a scholarship for the full cost of tuition and books.

Great Jewish Books Summer Program Video 2016

Great Jewish Books students:

"I felt almost as if the program were in person." 
— 2020 Great Jewish Books online student

  • read and discuss important works of modern literature by a diverse range of writers such as Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem, Grace Paley, Clarice Lispector
  • learn from college faculty, meet prominent guest authors, and engage with one another in peer discussion groups and partner meetups
  • develop skills for literary analysis and self-expression that will prepare them for college
  • discover how modern literature connects them to ancient traditions and contemporary ideas
  • connect with other teenagers from across North America and beyond, and make lasting friendships

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. 

I gained an appreciation for literature, Yiddish and other languages, and translation… This program added to my summer and was a good anchor during all the chaos in the world.
2020 Great Jewish Books online student

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.