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Great Jewish Books

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Ages: 16-18

Gender: Co-Ed

Type: Overnight/Residential

Physical & Mailing Address:
Yiddish Book Center, 1021 West Street (on the Hampshire College Campus)
Amherst, MA US 01002

More Information:
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The program brings together rising high school juniors and seniors to read, discuss, argue about, and fall in love with great works of modern Jewish literature. Participants study with professors, meet contemporary authors, connect with other teens, and experience a taste of college life. Read More!

About Great Jewish Books

Great Jewish Books, a program of the Yiddish Book Center, brings together a select group of rising high school juniors and seniors to read, discuss, argue about, and fall in love with powerful and enduring works of modern Jewish literature. During the one-week residential program, participants study with professors, meet contemporary authors, connect with other teens from across the country, and get a taste of college life by living, alongside residential staff, in a Hampshire College dorm adjacent to the Yiddish Book Center. Every accepted participant receives a scholarship covering the full cost of tuition, room, board, books, and special events.

At Great Jewish Books, students read and discuss works of modern literature by authors including Franz Kafka, Sholem Aleichem, Philip Roth, Isaac Babel, and Grace Paley. They study with outstanding teachers from top universities; meet contemporary, prize-winning authors (previous visiting writers have included acclaimed novelists Allegra Goodman and Jami Attenberg, poet and critic Adam Kirsch, and graphic novelist and scholar Ilan Stavans); and develop skills in literary analysis that will prepare them for college. The program includes field trips and recreational activities in the Amherst area, chaperoned by program staff.

Q&A with Great Jewish Books

Q: Describe a typical day in your camp or program.

A: Sample Daily Schedule

8:00 AM Breakfast in Hampshire College dining hall

9:00 AM Morning class 1: Philip Roth, “Defender of the Faith”

10:00 AM Break

10:15 AM Morning class 2: Elisa Albert, “When You Say You’re a Jew”

11:15 AM Break

11:30 AM Discussion groups: Have you ever felt part of an “us” vs. “them”? What are the benefits of being an “us”? What are the drawbacks?

12:15 PM Lunch at Hampshire College dining hall

1:15 PM Free time: Optional hike up Mt. Norwottuck

3:30 PM Afternoon program: Yiddish sing-along

4:45 PM Reading with small group

5:45 PM Dinner at Hampshire College dining hall

6:30 PM Free time

7:00 PM Reading and discussion with writer Ilan Stavans

9:00 PM Free time: Informal discussions and dorm meeting

10:00 PM In dorm / quiet hours

Q: What type of teenager participates in your program?

A: Any high school student currently in tenth or eleventh grade is eligible to apply. Please apply using our online application form!

Q: What is the housing like and what can you tell us about the meals?

A: Housed alongside residential staff in a Hampshire College dormitory, participants will get to experience a taste of college life. Male and female participants will be housed in the same dorm on different wings or floors.

Most meals will be eaten at the Hampshire College dining hall (and a few will be catered at the Yiddish Book Center). The college dining services offer a wonderful and truly diverse selection of nutritious foods and beverages, including extensive vegetarian options. A full, fresh salad bar is available every day, as are cereal options, sandwich fixings, and several hot entrees. The dining hall staff work hard to accommodate allergies and special dietary needs. Participating students should let us know in advance about any dietary restrictions or preferences.

While the Hampshire dining hall does not serve kosher food, we will provide alternative kosher meals for students who request them in advance. Kosher and non-kosher students will eat together in the dining hall, with disposable plates and utensils provided for kosher food.

Kosher meals will include cereal, yogurt, and fruit options for breakfast; a choice of sandwiches for lunch, along with chips and fruit; and a hot pre-packaged meal for dinner provided by a local kosher caterer. (Healthy kosher snacks will also be available each day.) The dinners will be different each night (e.g., pasta one night; eggplant parmesan another), but there will only be one entrée offered. All kosher food will be vegetarian. Students who request kosher meals in advance will not have access to dining hall food.

Q: Please describe what teens have to say about your program.

A: "Our daughter’s experience was off-the-charts wonderful!" —2013 Parent

"This is literature that I can really connect to. I can't wait to delve into it further." —2014 Student

More FAQs at

Where to apply:

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Comments about Great Jewish Books

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Hannah said...
Mar. 13, 2015 at 4:45 pm
I was a Great jewish Books Participant in the summer of 2014, and it was amazing! I loved being around people who are passionate and engaged in literature. Everyone was friendly and we were able to build fast friendships by continuing our conversations beyond the seminar sessions and learn from each other. With each person coming from a different Jewish background, we were able to help inform each other and learn about the myriad of facets of Jewish tradition and culture.
sparksoflight This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 16, 2015 at 7:09 pm
I participated in the Great Jewish Books Program this past summer and highly recommend it. It was a remarkably thought provoking, mind broadening, and enjoyable experience. I continue to think about the literature we studied together, the discussions we had in class, and the spontaneous discussions that took place between participants outside of classes. The professors and residential staff raised interesting questions and developed our understanding of how to effectively analyze literature. Th... (more »)
Leorale said...
Jan. 7, 2015 at 12:18 pm
Quite literally one of the best experiences of my life.

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