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Annenberg | Helix Fellows

Creators and Thinkers on the Borderlands

A New Kind of Immersion

Four countries.
Three weeks.
Two dozen students, artists, educators, and cultural activists.
One thousand years of art, politics, and history.

This is the formula for the 2015 Helix Project, an immersive, exploratory journey through the heartlands of Eastern European Jewish culture. In bustling cities and quiet towns, we connect to the region’s landscapes and people, using Yiddish literature, art, and music to understand the complexity and vibrancy of everyday Jewish life in the historical Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
All of our Helix participants are all subsidized (in part or in full) thanks to the generosity of the righteous persons foundationphilip and muriel berman foundation, and kronhill pletka foundation; university support from Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, University of Wisconsin at Madison, Vassar College, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale University; and Yiddishkayt supporters like you!

You’ve Arrived in Yiddishland

The Helix 2015 Experience

Our travelers crisscross historical, political, and linguistic borders every day of their journeys, experiencing living history in an intense and personal way.

After an idyllic retreat at the Ojai Foundation in the Los Padres National Forest, the Helix group spends two weeks in Eastern Europe.
The region we explore is Líte, the Yiddish name for the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Once home to millions of Yiddish-speaking Jews, the parts of Líte that we will visit on the Helix Project lie in the modern-day countries of Belarus, Latvia, and Lithuania.
In each town we visit, we take on the role of cultural archaeologists, finding traces of pre-war architecture, learning about local socioeconomic history, and reading the work of writers who lived there.

Who are the 2015 Helixers?

This year, for the first time, our mixed cohort of university students and established cultural producers will approach the Helix Project as a cultural incubator for future Helix-inspired artistic and academic projects. Yiddishkayt’s Helix Project staff curates the Project and travels along, sharing their expertise with the group.

Isaac Bleaman

New York University

A Los Angeles native, Isaac Bleaman has studied Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, Stanford, and Oxford. Now a doctoral student in linguistics at NYU, Isaac is active in the New York Yiddish cultural scene, writing for the Yiddish Forward, singing in the Jewish People's Philharmonic Chorus, and editing the educational non-profit Leyenzal.

Clare Fester

Activist • Archivist

Clare is an anti-racist activist and Yiddish enthusiast based in Sydney, Australia. She recently wrote a thesis at Monash University on three Melbourne Bundists and their campaign to organize migrant workers in 1950s Australia. Clare is currently completing a Masters of Information Studies, specializing in archives and records management.

Joseph Heller

Middlebury College

Joseph Heller grew up in culturally-diverse Los Angeles, and now studies Eastern European and Jewish studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. He just returned from a year abroad in Moscow, where he continued his study of Russian, Yiddish, and Russian-Jewish history. In his free time, Joseph enjoys painting and drawing.

Jessica Rosenberg

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

After college, Jenkintown, PA–native Jessica Rosenberg surrounded herself with radical activist communities in Minneapolis. Inspired by these experiences, Jessica returned to Jenkintown to study at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, learning old stories and new skills for healing trauma and growing revolution.

Joshua Shenk


Joshua Wolf Shenk is an award-winning curator, essayist, and author whose writing on mental health has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper's, and The New Yorker. Joshua was a founding advisor to The Moth and serves on the board of PEN Center USA. His most recent book is Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity.

Jewlia Eisenberg

Musician • Composer • Performer

Jewlia Eisenberg is an Oakland-based composer, musician, and leader of the ensemble Charming Hostess, whose mission is to make lovely noise about complex ideas. Her work opens up a porous, multi-temporal space that shifts between text and music, personal and communal expression, and historical and modern experience.

Emma Foley

Harvard University

Emma Claire Foley is a writer and translator hailing from the Detroit area. She has lived in Ukraine and New York, and is entering a Master’s program in Eastern European studies at Harvard this fall. Emma Claire’s academic and creative work focuses on instances of confusion between human bodies and the land they live on.

Adam Kantor


Northwestern University alum Adam Kantor is an actor who made his Broadway debut playing Mark Cohen in the final cast of RENT. Other credits include Next to Normal on Broadway, The Last Five Years off-broadway, and the upcoming Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, in which he'll play the role of Motel Kamzoil.

Julia Rottapel

McGill University

A dual US-Canadian citizen, Julia Rottapel grew up in Toronto but took frequent trips to visit her relatives south of the border in Los Angeles. She now studies English Literature at McGill University in Montreal. Julia fills her free time studying violin, ballet, drawing, and theater and consuming as much art as she can get her hands, eyes, and ears on.

David Shneer

University of Colorado, Boulder

David Shneer is a professor at CU Boulder whose research focuses on 20th century European, Russian, and Jewish history and culture. His most recent book is the award-winning Through Soviet Jewish Eyes: Photography, War, and the Holocaust. David is working on a project about the political and cultural life of Dutch Yiddish diva Lin Jaldati.

Erin Faigin

University of California, Berkeley

Erin Faigin is from the San Fernando Valley and now studies at UC Berkeley, concentrating in History, Jewish Studies and Native American Studies. She is also a research apprentice at the Magnes Collection. Erin's academic interests include Jews in the American West, the Yiddish literary scene in Los Angeles, and frontier mythology in American history.

Charlotte Glynn


Named one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces in Independent Film in 2014, Pittsburgh native Charlotte Glynn is the director of several internationally-screened films, including Rachel is, a documentary about her developmentally disabled sister, and The Immaculate Reception, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Jenny Romaine

Director • Designer • Puppeteer

Jenny Romaine is a New York-based director, designer, puppeteer, and a founding member of the OBIE winning GREAT SMALL WORKS collective. A former YIVO sound archivist, she has drawn on Yiddish source materials to create art with exciting contemporary value and has led community arts projects on four continents.

Reyna Schæchter

Yale University

New York-born Reyna Schæchter is a history student at Yale and an activist in the movement for modernizing Yiddish, her native language. Approaching her interests – music, theater, language – from a Jewish angle, Reyna believes strongly in the unification of past and present, with an eye toward the future and the creation of new traditions.

Anna Torres

University of California, Berkeley

Bronx native Anna Elena Torres is a writer, translator, teacher, and doctoral candidate in Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation focuses on the development of Yiddish modernist poetry in relation to the radical press. She has also worked at oral history archives and as a community muralist.

Benny Ferdman

Artist • Educator

Benny Ferdman is a visual artist and educator who adventurously reclaims and reworks traditional Eastern European Jewish iconography. He is the Artist in Residence at New Community Jewish High School in L.A. and Co-Founder of Creative Ways, an organization that explores culture and community through the arts.

Becky Gould

Harvard University

Becky Gould recently graduated from Harvard, where she studied English, writing her senior thesis on visual art in the poetry of W.B. Yeats. A painter as well as a passionate student of foreign languages, Becky has also studied Spanish and Yiddish, and is planning for a career teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Henry Rosen

Vassar College

Raised in Los Angeles, Henry Rosen is now a student at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. His interests include film, acting, Yiddish language and history, and their intersections. Henry is also actively involved the Vassar Jewish Union, where he sits on the board and bakes bread for Friday-night dinners.

Naomi Segal

University of Wisconsin at Madison

Naomi Segal comes from Oak Park, Illinois and double majors in Jewish Studies and International Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Apart from her formal studies, Naomi serves as a high school youth group advisor, and at Hillel as an engagement intern and a student member of the board of trustees.

Where on Earth Does Helix Go?

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