Frequently Asked Questions
The Program Participants
A wide range of students from many countries and varied age groups and backgrounds come to Vilnius yearly for the Summer Program in Yiddish. They come from across Europe, both East and West—including Lithuania itself and its neighbors Poland and Belarus—but also from as far off as Australia and Japan. Most are Jewish, but there are always many non-Jews. Some students are married, and some of these bring their spouses and children. Many come to learn Yiddish for academic purposes, others for deeply personal reasons, wishing to acquire or revive the language that once formed part of their family tradition. A smaller number choose to enroll solely in the Cultural Program with its broad array of lectures, guided tours, excursions, and musical events. Without exception, they wish to search out the many sites in Vilna and its environs that bear testimony to the Golden Age of Yiddishkeit in historic Líte.
Among our approximately 70 participants, you will find college and graduate students (now and then, also a high schooler), people of middle-age, and senior citizens, ranging in years anywhere from 16 to 80 and beyond. Whatever your age, you will find good company in the always highly diverse group.
Yes, you will! The program welcomes applicants of all backgrounds. Every year non-Jewish students make up a sizeable number of our group. Depending on your level, you will know as much or as little Yiddish as your coursemates. You will be as enlightened and moved by all of our activities as every other student. You will enjoy our Friday evening festivities and join in the Yiddish singing as wholeheartedly as anyone. You will discover from the first day that we are one community!
Deadlines and Costs
In order to provide a supportive learning environment, places in the program are limited.
The sooner you apply, the better we will be able to accommodate you. Please also impress this on any of your interested friends!
Standard fee includes tuition and full participation in the cultural program. Program members must themselves cover the costs of travel, accommodations, meals, and incidentals.
Is there a beginners level for students without any background in Yiddish? Would knowing only English hold me back?
Banish your doubts! If you have no, or only rudimentary, knowledge of Yiddish, just be ready to dig in your heels and stick to it! Seven generations of beginning students already have. You will be studying intensively with two instructors, each of whom is a specialist in meeting the needs of your level. Also, a teacher will be on hand afternoons to help individually.
Elementary Yiddish is conducted at first in English and then, increasingly during the month, Yiddish. In addition, you will be hearing Yiddish daily at program events and activities.
Beside grammar, does the second-level course include conversation and reading poetry and other literary texts?
For students who know the basics, but lack confidence, Level 2 aims mainly at polishing the grammar. However, students speak more and discuss more than at Level 1, and read original texts of an uncomplicated nature. The main principle is to be learning Yiddish in Yiddish.
The summer program is attended by people with various cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Therefore, nearly all activities in Yiddish—for example, lectures and guided tours—are made accessible through translation into English. In addition, there will be lectures in English by guest lecturers and possibly by our teachers. Despite any language limitations, you will feel that you are a full-fledged member of the program.
The work at all levels is demanding, and regular, punctual class attendance is expected. If you want to progress in Yiddish, you must attend class and prepare assignments daily.
All cultural component activities are optional. You may well choose to skip one or another in order to enjoy some leisure time in welcoming, modern Vilnius. By all means, relax in one of the many cafes, browse in the antique shops, or refresh yourself with a bowl of summer borsht with sour cream (well, old-country beet soup). You’ll be all the readier afterward to tackle the day’s homework.
We give first priority to applicants who will stay the entire four weeks, from start to finish. It is vital that all students be present for registration and the beginning of classes. We realize, however, that participants must sometimes deal with unusual demands at home, and we will gladly consider their needs.
Our activities calendar is set in detail only after everyone has signed up. The schedule is usually completed in the third week of July. If you wish, though, we will send you a copy of last year’s schedule. Please let us know how and to what address you wish the schedule mailed.
Yes. Usually about 5 to 10% of those Jews attending are strictly observant.
Orthodox Sabbath services are held at the Choral Synagogue on 39 Pylimo St., some 25 minutes walk from the Institute, and at the Chabad House at 12 Saltiniu St. Presently, these are the only possibilities for Jewish worship in Vilnius. If you wish to pray daily with a minyan (quorum), we suggest you contact the Chabad rabbi, R. Shalom Ber Krinsky (Tel.: 3705 215 03 87).
Vilnius is dotted with churches and cathedrals. Most are Roman Catholic, some with both Lithuanian and Polish services, but there is also a Lutheran church (with English services), and there are several Russian Orthodox churches.
Yes, Sabbath mornings are entirely free. Any afternoon activities will be in keeping with Sabbath observance.
You will find a kosher food section in the supermarket Maxima at 11 Mindaugo. The Chabad Lubavitch Center (at 19 Boksto Str.) serves kosher meals and offers a takeout lunch.