join the helix — apply to become a helixer
Apply to Join the Helix
Each year, Yiddishkayt selects a group of extraordinary students for a summer of intensive exploration of Jewish history, culture, and heritage — an adventure to the historical heartlands of Jewish life abroad.
want to join the helix?
In July 2013, the Helix is taking 12 students on the project. You must be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled at an accredited, degree-granting American college or university at the time of your application (during the 2013-14 academic year). You don’t need to be a Jewish Studies major or concentrate on Jewish topics in your studies to come on Helix, in fact we are committed to bringing a group of students with a diversity of interests on the program. This means your interest in Helix could be personal or academic. Applicants should have an interest in expanding their understanding of Jewish life and history and be excited about being introduced to a broad range of experiences and in sharing them with others. The Helix Project does not discriminate — it is open to all students.
where does the helix go?
In coming years, Helix will offer programs throughout Central and Eastern Europe. However, this year our trip is centered in the historical Grand Duchy of Lithuania, known in Jewish culture as Líte. Today, this incorporates areas of Belarus, Poland and Lithuania. Our program begins in Los Angeles, where students participate in a week-long intensive educational crash course before leaving for Minsk, Belarus. From Minsk we travel west to Grodno, then Białystok (Poland), and finally north to locations in Lithuania, including Kaunas and Vilnius. The Helix Project is tailored to the individual students on the trip; you are given the opportunity to go to the very cities, towns, or even shtetlach that your own families originally came from or where you have particular research interests.
what do helixers learn?
Our starting point is that you probably have learned quite a lot about the devastation of Jewish culture during the Holocaust. It’s likely the case that you have learned much more about this than any other period or aspect of Jewish history. Helix hopes to change this.
Led by advanced graduate students pursuing their doctoral research in a variety of areas of Jewish history, literature, and culture, Helix begins at Yiddishkayt’s headquarters with a week-long series of innovative educational workshops. These include “boot camps” in the languages of Eastern European Jewish life and how to engage a wide variety of material that gives you direct access to the history of Jewish life. In addition to learning how to navigate through Eastern European cities, you’ll learn to read Yiddish letters, decipher tombstone inscriptions, make out the existing traces of Jewish life on shtetlach walls, and order from complicated inventories of food at a Polish milk bar.
Once in Europe, you will become immersed in historical and cultural artifacts, linking the past and the present. The physically present traces of Jewish life and the cultural works created in these places serve as everlasting monuments to centuries of local Jewish creativity. Helix arranges meetings with survivors in cities and towns where they still live. This is an integral part of the experience and inevitably leads to discussions of the survivors’ lives before, during, and after the war.
Applications open in January 2014 for the next Helix adventure!
Frequently Asked Questions
who can apply?
Helix is open to students at colleges and universities in the United States. You must be a full-time undergraduate student enrolled at an accredited, degree-granting college or university at the time of your application.
how do I apply?
You will need to fill out and submit our online application form, upload a transcript, and send two letters of recommendation (at least one must be from a faculty member at your school) directly to the offices of Yiddishkayt Los Angeles.
Applications are due by Thursday, February 28. Candidates are notified by March 29.
when does it all start?
All Helix participants need to be in Los Angeles to begin the program the first week of July. The group leaves for Eastern Europe the following week for a 15-day journey.
how much does all of this cost?
Our idea is to make this program as affordable as possible. To this end, all Helixers receive financial assistance ranging from 25-100% of the cost of travel, food, and lodging. We guarantee that at least half of all Helixers pay nothing towards program costs. The Helix does not cover the costs of passports, visas, or travel to Los Angeles to begin the program.
how long is The Helix?
Including our time in L.A. and in Europe, the entire program is just over three weeks long.
what countries do we visit? will I need a visa?
Itineraries change from year to year. In 2013, the Helix adventure began in Los Angeles and then traveled through the contemporary republics of Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania. US citizens will need to acquire a visa to visit Belarus.
can I get university credit for this?
This is up to your own university. While this is certainly an intensive academic program, Yiddishkayt is not a credit-granting institution. We encourage Helixers to find out whether the program can be counted for credit at their colleges and universities.