Steiner Summer Yiddish Program: FAQ

Who should apply to the program?
The program is open to students between the ages of 18 and 26 who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate (at least one year completed) or graduate program. Recent college graduates who are applying or planning to apply to graduate programs are also eligible.

Why is there an age limit for program participants?
The Steiner Summer Yiddish Program is geared specifically for college-aged students. Participants live together in college-styled suites, spending virtually all their time together, both in and outside of classes. We aim to creative a cohort of peers who will learn together. Because of this program dynamic, we accept students between the ages of 18 and 26. The Yiddish Book Center offers a variety of other programs for people of all ages. Please check out our educational programs for an overview of the Yiddish Book Center’s language and culture opportunities. 

Do you accept international applications?
International students are welcome to apply. All international applicants should e-mail Gretchen Fiordalice ([email protected]) before submitting their application.

A note to graduate students: the program requires a full-time commitment for seven weeks; you should not plan to work on your graduate studies during that time. We also expect all students to stay in apartment-style suites in the Hampshire College dorms and participate in frequent cultural and social activities outside of class.

When is the deadline to apply for the program? When are acceptance decisions announced?
The deadline to apply for the 2019 Steiner Summer Yiddish Program has passed. Finalists who did not submit a personal statement video as part of their application will be interviewed by phone or Skype in early March. All applicants will be notified of our decisions by March 18.

Do I need to know some Yiddish?
No prior knowledge of Yiddish is required for the beginner class, but we look for students who are capable of intensive language study and are enthusiastic about spending their summer learning about Yiddish language and culture.

What’s it like to be in an intensive language program?
Intense! Learning a new language is similar to learning a musical instrument or training for sports. An aptitude for language learning helps but you should be prepared to work and practice each day, including weekends, to make real progress.

I am an intermediate speaker. Can I take the culture course?
Yes. Intermediate students who have strong language backgrounds but have not studied Yiddish culture in depth may opt to enroll in the culture course rather than participate in the internship program. Students electing to enroll in the culture course are not eligible to receive a stipend or housing subsidy.

I attended the program as a beginner, and now I am applying for the intermediate level. Do I need to resubmit all my application materials?
If you are applying to be a returning student, you do not need to submit new letters of recommendation. You also do not need to resubmit your transcript unless it has been updated since you last applied. You must submit a new application form, personal statement, and the Yiddish essay for intermediate students.

How competitive is the application process? What do you look for in candidates?
Admission to the program is competitive. A distinctive aspect of our program is the sense of community that develops, due to its small size (eighteen students) and residential setting. We try to choose students who will contribute to the group through their maturity, creativity, and personal interests. We encourage applicants who were not admitted the first time to apply again.

Where do students stay during the program? 
Students live in apartment-style dormitory suites at Hampshire College, within walking distance of the Yiddish Book Center.

Is assistance available for housing costs?
Intermediate students who are part of the internship program receive free housing and a stipend for living expenses. Beginner students and intermediate students enrolled in the culture course who receive financial aid at their home university are eligible to apply to our program for a housing subsidy. If accepted into the program, students may apply for a housing subsidy during registration.

What Jewish religious spaces or practices are available on campus or in the surrounding area?
We respect individual religious practices and try to avoid scheduling events that would raise a conflict for anyone. Students with differing levels of Shabbos observance have found ways to make the program work for them. Those who don’t ride on Shabbos have davened on their own or left early enough on Friday to spend Shabbos elsewhere. There is a Reconstructionist synagogue in Amherst and a Chabad House on the UMass campus, within biking distance (5 miles). Students who drive on Shabbos sometimes attend services in Northampton at the Conservative shul or the Reform congregation. Students often enjoy getting together for potluck Shabbos dinners. Some kosher food is available in local supermarkets.

What do alumni of the program go on to do?
Many Steiner participants continue their study of Yiddish language and culture. Many have gone on to careers in fields related to Yiddish and Jewish culture in academia, the arts, and at cultural organizations—including, in some cases, the Yiddish Book Center.

"When I arrived, I didn't really have a goal or particular reason for learning Yiddish but I'm walking away with an actual passion. I love this language and this culture so much and whatever I end up doing in the future I want Yiddish to be a part of it."
2017 Steiner student