The ProsenPeople

Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture

Monday, December 03, 2012 | Permalink

Josh Lambert, academic director at the Yiddish Book Center and author of American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide, discusses an exciting new Yiddish Book Center program: Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture.

Most of the Jews in their 20s that I know care more about culture than they do about religion or politics. They may or may not be members of a synagogue, and they may or may not be politically active, but they’re intense about something. It might be books—like the people who read this blog—or comedy or film or music or food or theater or something else, but most of them are following their favorite artists on Twitter, listening to podcasts, and working on creative projects of their own. Can we imagine a world in which these cultural pursuits are a central, fundamental part of what it means to be Jewish?

The Yiddish Book Center draws inspiration from the time when hundreds of thousands of Jews in America would read a daily Jewish newspaper, and when there were cafés across the country where Jewish writers and readers would gather, every day, to argue about art and everything else. Our new program, Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture, is about creating those kinds of opportunities. Funded by Michael Steinhardt, one of the founders of Birthright Israel, and developed by the Yiddish Book Center, this is a program that offers one-week immersive cultural experiences, for free, to Jews in their 20s. The deadlines are approaching fast for the first three of these. Tent: Comedy will take place in LA, in March; Tent: Creative Writing, in Amherst, MA, in June; and Tent: Theater, in NYC, in August.

In each program, a group of twenty Jews in their 20s will gather to experience that cultural field and its complex Jewish connections. In LA, they’ll discuss Jewish humor from Freud to Larry David, go out to the comedy clubs, and meet with stand-ups and screenwriters. In NYC, they’ll go to Off-Broadway and Fringe Festival shows, have an intimate conversation with Tony Kushner, and read some of the classic works of American theater. In Amherst, they’ll participate in creative writing workshops with teachers from the best MFA programs in the country, meet with agents and editors (for example, Matt Weiland from W.W. Norton, who’ll be editing Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth), and discuss the long and complex relationship between Jews and modern literature. 

Who wouldn’t want a week of free accommodations, free tickets to shows, free workshops, and smart, funny, meaningful discussions with brilliant teachers and a group of like-minded peers? No one I know.

More details can be found at our website, And this is just the beginning. For 2014 we’re planning ten of these one-week programs, on a range of other subjects, run in partnership with innovative nonprofit cultural organizations from across the country. And even more in 2015.

Great Jewish Books...For High School Students

Friday, February 03, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Attention high school students and parents of high school students! Did you know that the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst has an amazing tuition-free summer program focusing on modern Jewish literature? In a week-long program, taught by Josh Lambert and Sana Krasikov, students will learn about authors like Babel and Kafka and Sholem Aleichem and Philip Roth and Grace Paley. Guest speakers include Allegra Goodman and Ilan Stavans. While it isn't necessary for applicants to have any specific Jewish knowledge, a love of literature is necessary

Basically, this sounds like an incredible opportunity, so, if you're eligible, you should definitely apply. The application deadline is March 15th and there are only eighteen spots available, so be sure to apply as soon as possible! Read more information about the program here

JBC at the National Yiddish Book Center

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Libi Adler

Jewish Book Council staff headed up north this weekend to Amherst, MA to check out the National Yiddish Book Center. The center was founded in 1980 by MacArthur Fellow Aaron Lansky, who continues to lead the organization as its president. It is nestled in a beautiful town on the Hampshire College campus. Aaron Lansky is also the author of the book Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. The book is a testimony to his love of Judaism and literature and his desire to make a difference in the world.

The National Yiddish Book Center is a vibrant, non-profit organization working to rescue Yiddish and other modern Jewish books and celebrate the culture they contain. They have gone on to recover 1.5 million volumes, with hundreds of additional books continuing to arrive each week. The JBC staff took a tour of their facilities and was able to meet the wonderful staff working hard everyday leading tours and informing people about the importance of saving these Yiddish works. We were able to come just when the Fall foliage was at its best and the views only made the center look just that much nicer from the outside.

Below you can find some pictures of our visit and the building where it all happens.