frequently asked questions

The Wallis Annenberg Helix Fellowship is an experience unlike any other.
Find out more.

Who can apply to Helix?

Helix is open to artists who are working at the professional level in their field in any creative medium or discipline; students and educators (who are enrolled or employed during the 2020–2021 academic year) at a recognized institution; and community activists working in any field.

As part of the program’s commitment to approaching cultural studies in a world-historical context, Helix is open to participants of all backgrounds who wish to explore this part of the world through the lens of Yiddish in the most creative, direct, and personal way possible. 

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.

Applications must be received by 11:59 PM (PST), Friday, March 20, 2020.

Who leads Helix?

Helix is facilitated by scholars, activists, and artists working in history, literature, politics, languages, and culture. Click here to learn more about our rotating faculty. Helix alumni from previous years also join the program as resident assistants and to facilitate colloquia.

How much does Helix cost?

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.

How long is Helix?

The Helix Fellowship unfolds over two calendar years. In early August 2020 we offer a 10-day intensive colloquium in Southern California followed by regular online workshops during fall, winter, and sping. In 2021 we offer Yiddishkayt’s signature summer travel experience to Central and Eastern Europe that begins in Southern California and spans the full month of July. 2020 fellows will be given the opportunity to apply for 2021 programming following the summer colloquium.

Do I need to know Yiddish? Will I learn Yiddish on Helix?

Helix applicants don’t need any background in Yiddish. However, language students are encouraged to apply and will be able to use relevant primary sources during the program.

Helix programming deals with Yiddish and other regional languages, depending on the interests and backgrounds of each unique cohort. However, Helix is a cultural history program, not a language intensive.

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 Helix. Helix staff and faculty can help you determine which program best fits your goals. 

Does Helix include any religious group activities?

Helix does not observe any religious rituals as a group. Fellows must be available for programming every day of the 10–day colloquium, including some evening events, activities, and possible travel.

Fellows come from many different backgrounds and communities and we encourage participants to share their own traditions and ideas with their cohort, but we ask that all fellows’ boundaries regarding religious beliefs be respected.

Helix staff and faculty can assist participants to independently access religious communities and services during residential components.

Can I get university credit if I am a student?

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.

Where can I ask a less frequently asked question?

Please write to us with any other questions you might have!

How do I become a fellow? Find out about Applying and Financial Assistance »

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