Frequently Asked Questions
The Helix Fellowship is open to artists who are working at the professional level and students and scholars (who are enrolled or employed during the 2024–2025 academic year) at a recognized institution. Applicants may work in any medium, discipline, or field.
Helix is open to participants of all backgrounds and any age interested in exploring the beauty and alchemy of diverse individuals and communities coming together to live and create.
We strongly encourage applicants from oppressed and marginalized backgrounds to apply — including queer people, trans and gender nonconforming people, people of color, and people with diverse immigrant backgrounds and statuses.
The Helix Fellowship is facilitated by leading scholars, activists, and artists working in history, literature, politics, languages, and culture. Helix alumni from previous cohorts also join the program as resident assistants and to facilitate workshops. Our deep connections in the regions we travel bring fellows into contact with contemporary thinkers, cultural activists, and change-makers.
All program costs are subsidized for all fellows. We strongly encourage prospective participants to apply, regardless of financial status. Helix is a pay-what-you-can program that offers generous subsidies and fundraising support as needed. No applicant is turned away for lack of funds. Read more about financial assistance here.
The Helix Fellowship unfolds over two calendar years and lasts 12 months in total.
We gather for an initial week-long intensive residential program in Southern California in summer 2024, followed by regular online workshops during fall, winter, and spring. In 2025 we embark on the Fellowship’s signature summer travel experience to Central and Eastern Europe, which begins in Southern California and spans the full month of July.
There are multiple opportunities throughout the Fellowship to mutually re-assess continued participation based on interests, goals, and overall fit. If fellows find particular aspects of the program not in line with their own practice, are reluctant to participate in the program as designed, or hinder other fellows’ full engagement with the Fellowship, a fellow’s tenure may end earlier.
Absolutely not. Fellows need not have any background in Yiddish. However, those with knowledge of Yiddish and other local languages will able to use relevant primary sources during the Fellowship.
Our programming deals with cultural work produced in Yiddish and other regional languages, depending on the interests and backgrounds of each unique cohort. However, Helix is an arts and culture residency, not a language learning immersion.
If you are specifically interested in learning the Yiddish language, there are a number of summer programs and courses you can take before or after the Helix Fellowship. We can help you determine which program best fits your goals.
The Fellowship attracts a diverse group of people with a wide range of origins and beliefs: Jewish and non-Jewish, as well as what may be considered religious or not.
Our activities often bring us physically and intellectually to historical religious centers and sites, but the Fellowship does not impose religious doctrine of any kind, or ask any participant to engage in any religious activity (including group recitation of liturgy, gender segregation, or wearing certain types of dress).
Fellows must be available for programming every day during the program’s residential and touring components, including some evening events, activities, and possible travel.
This is up to your own university. While this is certainly an intensive academic program, we are not a credit-granting institution. We encourage participants to find out whether the program can be counted for credit at their colleges and universities.
All accepted fellows are required to be fully vaccinated — including boosters, if they are available to you — and to provide proof of a negative test prior to arrival for in-person programing. Accepted fellows will receive detailed, up-to-date information on Covid-safe protocols for the residential and travel components of the Helix Fellowship.
What a gift to walk to the rivers’ meeting point in Kaunas, which Meyshe Kulbak described in his poetry, and to wander that city’s vaunted, haunted streets…And there was massacre, there, and there was torture, and there was death and pain and humiliation. But there was also life, with all its intricacies and intimacies and idiosyncrasies, and to get to remember and learn about this life felt like something wild and joyous and radical and powerful and good.Moriel Rothman-Zecherauthor of Sadness is a White Bird
There was a moment during our trip where I realized, I am filling in the spaces! The tropes came to life, reality replacing mythology. People often say, why would you want to go to Poland? There is nothing there. And yet, there is so much there there. And the there is a direct reflection of how we look, how we inhabit space, to actually get on the ground and smell the summer in a former Jewish space.Alexx ShillingLos Angeles–based movement artist
The freedom of that space cultivated by the Helix Fellowship was the freedom of history and land and language to be merely or excessively touching and odd and, at times, impenetrable and meaningless. Which is to say, the freedom to be.Corbin AllardiceUniversity of Chicago ’18
Sitting under the willow trees by the Bug River outside the Brest fortress reading about the childhood games and everyday experiences of a Jewish girl who lived in the area almost a century previously. The immediacy of that description of her drinking vinegar—just the way I love to drink pickle juice—made history collapse, fold across the line between those two dots of commonality. I realized the eternal nature of human idiosyncrasy.Christa Whitneydirector of the Wexler Oral History Project at the Yiddish Book Center
Throughout our journey I felt as though we were accompanied by Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History, his sad eyes set backwards, searching with us in the rubble for something to fix and try to bring back to life, even if only for a split second. But our trip was different in an important regard: through the power of poetry, song and art, we had the opportunity to experience these crystallized moments of history in all their horror and beauty, as a group. The power of human creativity was channelled throughout the trip, and, almost miraculously, allowed us to resist, albeit temporarily, the winds blowing from paradise, to stop and think, or feel, or simply be.Itamar ManoffPhD student, University of British Columbia | founding member, This is not an Ulpan
All of this cultural exploration, of course, presents us with questions which are just waiting to be investigated: Who were these writers writing for? What is the political significance of their work? Their language? How might they have been influenced by current social trends? The exploration of these difficult yet vital questions was a part of Yiddish that, for whatever reason, seemed to have eluded me. Helix not only brought many of these issues to the fore for me, it made them tangible.Max EdwardsHarvard Divinity School ‘15
Finding traces of Jewish history and culture felt central to the Helix experience. Maps, ruins, and monuments became our daily focus. But throughout, I came to realise that there is as much significance in not finding these traces. In omissions, and things lost. This was the case for physical evidence of Jewish habitation in various places in Belarus and Poland, or for contemporary Jewish community in these places. And for me, it was also in finding, or not finding, evidence of queer community and art in these places. And in discovering cyclical histories of politics, trauma, oppression, and art. The Helix Fellowship teaches us that history doesn’t move in a straight and uncomplicated trajectory.Nicola HearnAustralian filmmaker, musician, and painter
I returned home with my views fundamentally changed on Yiddish culture and its attendant history because of the sustaining and validating environment in which I learned, discussed, argued and sang about it. The world that informed so much of my work as performer in Yiddish had always seemed so distant—both in time and in space. It now felt like something I was in the midst of, if I knew where and how to look. The milieus that created the poetry that I sang so often (Rosenfeld, Reyzen, Kharik, Fefer) felt—somehow—adjacent to the milieu of artists, performers, students and scholars that I had found in two weeks in Southern California. They couldn’t know us, but we had begun to feel like we knew something of them and their world.Anthony RussellSinger and musician
Now the timeline of history appears to be more a series of concentric circles on a wide plane, overlapping one another. When I finally traveled as a fellow, I could feel this non-linear construction of time. I felt it as we pushed our way through overgrown cemeteries or when we entered into an old synagogue to find it had been repurposed as a jazz performance space.Lydia IvanovicSmith College ’19