COVID-19 Pandemic Update: We are continuing to plan for the 2020-2021 Helix Fellowship. As the public health situation evolves in the coming weeks, applicants will be notified about any necessary programmatic changes.

Program Details and Information

Over the course of the Fellowship, students, artists, activists, and educators immerse themselves in regions that for centuries sustained a vibrant and dynamic multi-ethnic civilization before the genocidal devastation of the twentieth century. The Fellowship then supports, develops, and distributes new creative and scholarly work inspired by the themes and figures Helixers encounter together.

Helix teaches that no culture or history can be understood without its local context. The creative coexistence of Jews with their neighbors demonstrates precisely this. Together Helixers examine Jewish culture not as particular cultural property or as a way to turn inward, but rather as an opportunity to see how people of differing nationalities, languages, and religions can live, work, and create together. Visiting these places where Jews once lived — but live no longer — also shows, in the most palpable way, the terrible dangers of insularity and intolerance.

In Year One, Helixers gather together for a 10–day intensive retreat at the end of summer. There, they take intensive courses in the languages, history, and culture of Eastern European life. Helixers also learn and practice methods of mindful listening and discussion, building a community to support and sustain our unorthodox style of study, collaboration, and travel. 

In Year Two, the program culminates with Yiddishkayt’s trademark travel experience to Europe in July, where Helixers set out for a life-changing journey in the Central and Eastern European borderlands. The cohort uses its prior mindfulness training to process the complex and interconnected histories they encounter each day.

Between residential components the Helix learning and creating community is supported by a regular digital seminar in language and culture. Each part of the program is curated by leading scholars of history, literature, politics, and the arts, as well as emerging cultural activists and Helix alumni.


Summer 2020

❶ The fellowship begins with an intensive week of workshops with artists, scholars, and activists.


Fall 2020–Spring 2021

❷ The community created in the summer continues with small group learning throughout the year in person and online.


July 2021

❸ Helix fellows gather again to form a supportive creative community.


Summer 2021

❹ The fellowship heads out to the borderlands of Eastern Europe for three weeks of exploring the landscapes where Jewish culture once flourished alongside many cultures.


After Helix

❺ Fellows return home to apply the insights and inspirations gained from the experience to their work.

open your borders

The program’s geographical focus is the area that was once home to the majority of the world’s Jewish population. We crisscross historical, political, and linguistic borders every day of our journey, using Yiddish language and culture as a guiding lens for examining the complex hybridities and connections that developed in these culturally diverse spaces.

Drawing from the great literary, folkloric, and political traditions of Yiddish speakers, we literally follow the footsteps of poets, artists, and activists who drew inspiration from these very lands and cityscapes where they lived, worked, and dreamed.

All the while, we aim to practice the principle of doïkayt, or “being present,” avoiding tautologies and valuing the power of places and moments, both historical and contemporary.

make the past present

No two days or experiences are alike on the Helix Fellowship. Over the course of this multi-year program participants acquire the skills and resources to examine culture as a crucial bridge that connects personal histories to the present world of displaced people, immigrants, and exiles.

Helixers learn local languages, interview elderly residents about their memories of inter-communal relations, use old maps to search for the remains of pillars of community life, or read literature while immersed in the physical and historical context in which it was written.

As cultural archaeologists, we are constantly uncovering all-too-often ignored histories of political activism and cultural exchange. In turn, we channel inspiration from our findings into new, creative productions relevant to today’s world.