About the Great Jewish Books Seminar

June 11-16, 2023, in person at the Yiddish Book Center

What did Sholem Aleichem—the Yiddish humorist who created Tevye —have to say about sinning on Yom Kippur? Why was being in nature so important to both Mendele Mokher Sforim (the “grandfather” of Yiddish literature) and Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav? How does a modern Yiddish poet writing after the Holocaust reinterpret the practice of tkhines, women's paraliturgical prayer practices?

During this weeklong in-person seminar, Jewish clergy and religious educators will explore the ways in which modern Jewish literature sheds light on both Jewish tradition and on contemporary Jewish questions. Rabbis, rabbinical students, cantors, cantorial students, and Jewish educators within communal settings are eligible to apply.

Working with literature scholars who are also deeply involved in Jewish religious life, participants will read and discuss selections of Jewish literature, with a focus on Yiddish literature, written from the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) to the present day, putting these works in conversation with traditional religious texts and practices. All readings will be provided in English translation. Seminars will be participatory and lively.

This program aims to provide personal enrichment for Jewish leaders and educators, to inspire them to integrate modern Jewish and Yiddish literature into their pastoral, communal, and educational work, and to foster collegiality and intellectual exchange among Jewish communal professionals. Participants will also be introduced to many resources offered by the Yiddish Book Center through talks and tours.

This summer, participants from the first two cohorts (2021-22, which met online) will be invited to join us for the last two days of the program.

Every admitted participant will receive a scholarship for the full cost of tuition and course texts, and will receive lodging at Hampshire College and catered kosher meals at no cost. We welcome applications from Jewish clergy and Jewish educators of all backgrounds and affiliations, and we encourage applications from LGBTQ+ people and people of color.

This program was made possible by a generous donor in honor of Iris Mitzner and by Walter, Arnee, Sarah, and Aaron Winshall.