What is the Yidish-Vokh (YV)?
It is the only annual weeklong Yiddish-language immersion retreat. Up to 170 people come from all over the world each August in order to live in Yiddishland, the place where everyone speaks Yiddish. This event, which has been going on for over 35 years, is sponsored by Yugntruf – Youth for Yiddish. It has been described as a mixture of Woodstock and a Kibbuts – without the drugs and loud music – because it is a community in the truest sense of the word. Anyone can volunteer to lend their talents, knowledge and ability in any way they can. Because some of the top Yiddish experts and talents come to the YV, the program is always top-notch. The YV invites the participation of the young and the young at heart. It does not discriminate in terms of religion, race or political affiliation, only in terms of readiness and willingness to speak Yiddish for the entire week.
I can’t read or write Yiddish. Can I still come to the YV?
Yes! Many of the handouts at the YV are written in both Yiddish (the Hebrew alphabet) and in Yiddish transliteration (the English/Latin alphabet). If you cannot read Yiddish in English transliteration either, that will make it difficult for you, as nothing written (or spoken, for that matter) is translated into English.
I haven’t spoken Yiddish in many years, but I understand everything. Can I come?
There is an involved answer and a simple one.
2) The involved answer. At the YV, speaking Yiddish is no less important than understanding it. Anyone who comes needs to be ready, willing and able to speak Yiddish. Chances are, if you haven’t spoken the language in that many years, it will be very hard for you to start speaking it suddenly. And to have people who come and speak English would defeat the whole raison d’être of the YV, which is for everyone to spend one week of the year in a place where all the participants speak only Yiddish. We recommend that you find Yiddish classes, Yiddish cassettes, Yiddish vinkls and private Yiddish tutors. Start speaking Yiddish with people who know the language, and hopefully after a few months of speaking more and more Yiddish you will eventually be comfortable speaking it again. At this point, you would be able to enjoy and thrive at the YV, as well as maintain the total immersion environment.
I’m taking a beginners Yiddish course this summer. Is the YV for me?
1) If the Beginner’s Yiddish course is at one of the intensive summer programs – like the Uriel Weinreich YIVO Program, the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, the Naomi Prawar Kadar Program, or the Summer Program at Yiddish Farm, then it’s safe to assume that you are really committed to learning to speak Yiddish, to dig your heels in, to dive in, etc. In that case, the YV is the next natural step.
2) If the Beginner’s Yiddish course meets, on the other hand, once a week for 1 1/2 hours, chances are you will not be ready for the YV, unless you study Yiddish on your own as well. To determine which category you fall into, call one of the YV organizers and see if you are able to maintain a Yiddish conversation.
Of course! P.S. In Yiddish, it’s “Vi zogt men … af yidish?”
I’d like to come with my husband/wife. He/she doesn’t speak Yiddish, but I’ll translate everything for them.
Sorry, but the YV is only for Yiddish speakers. There is very limited space at the YV – room for 180 at most, and that is with very few private rooms. (If more people want private rooms, the capacity is ca. 160.) People from all over the world who want to speak Yiddish for an entire week clamor every year for the limited spaces that there are. We simply can’t afford to give any of those spaces to people who won’t be speaking Yiddish. We also want everyone in the Yidish Vokh community to participate in our mission, activities and to get acquainted with each other, which is not possible for people who don’t speak Yiddish.
What kind of people come to the YV?
All kinds. All ages, from newborns through nonagenarians. Observant and secular. Orthodox and egalitarian. Mainly Jews, but also a handful of non-Jews. Singles, couples, parents with and without their children, husbands/wives with and without their spouses, widows, widowers and divorcées. From as far as Australia, and as near as New York state .
Will there be anyone my age?
No matter what your age, there are other people your age that come. There are children, college and graduate students and people in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
Are there any other singles that come?
What types of activities are there?
First of all, of course, everything is in Yiddish. Each morning there are activities, with occasional multiple options, including lectures, discussions, workshops, computer-groups, and Yiddish classes. The lectures and discussions are sometimes on Yiddish issues, sometimes on Jewish issues, and sometimes about nothing Jewish whatsoever. The afternoon offers more lectures, discussions, sports, and arts activities. There is daily swimming in the beautiful outdoor swimming pool. In the evenings, there are campfires, talent shows, concerts, films, TV game shows and klezmer dancing. The above are merely the organized activities. There’s always time for socializing, relaxing, reading, writing, studying, and impromptu hikes or discussions.
Must I attend all the activities?
You can go to as many or as few as you like. Some people come to the YV because they want to relax, read books, go swimming, etc. in a place where everyone speaks Yiddish. Others come because they want to go to every lecture and discussion they can. The schedule will be handed out upon arrival at YV, and will be posted in the main entry hall as well.
What activities will there be for my child?
Please do NOT bring your child if he/she cannot speak Yiddish or is not willing to speak Yiddish with other children. If your child can speak Yiddish pretty well, there are lots of activities for your child. For a small fee, there are morning children’s groups that meet for two hours to do age-appropriate social, education, arts and crafts, and music activities. If your child does not yet speak Yiddish but you would like him/her to start learning, please look into Yiddish classes, Yiddish cassettes and private Yiddish tutors in your town before the Yiddish Vokh. If you know Yiddish yourself, start working it into your everyday interactions with your child, and after a few months of speaking more and more Yiddish with your child, the child will understand more and more, and will eventually be able to answer more and more. When your child can understand everything and speak at least haltingly, only then will they be able to enjoy and thrive at the YV.
Are there also Yiddish classes for beginners?
No. The YV is the event to aspire to once you can already communicate in Yiddish.
Can I be invited to be a speaker/musician/performer?
Yes and no. If “be invited” means have an opportunity to give a talk or perform in Yiddish, yes. If “be invited” means be hired, no. The YV is a heymish community. Those who lead activities at the YV volunteer to do so. But because some of the top Yiddish experts and talents come to the YV, the program is always top-notch. If you would like to lead an activity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as early as possible so that the organizers can carefully put together a schedule.
Can you send me a schedule of activities?
No. The activities are finalized only after everyone has signed up, and the coordinator sees who has volunteered to lead an activity, and what activity they have volunteered to lead. The schedule is usually completed in the beginning of August. If you want, though, you can view the past year’s schedule to get an idea of what the coming year’s schedule might look like.
Do I have to come for the full week?
No. You can come for as little as one night. See the registration page for all the options.
Why is the daily rate higher on the weekend?
Supply and demand. There is usually room on the weekdays, but we get filled to the brim on the weekends.
Why is the rate for the full week cheaper in some cases than the rate for three days?
When someone comes for just a few days, they are occupying a space that could otherwise be used for the full week. We prefer participants to be full-weekers.
Can I have a time share with someone where I pay for the room for half the week, and they pay for the other half of the week?
I have a house nearby. Is there a special commuter rate?
No. Yiddish Vokh is a residential experience.
Are there any discounts for students? For seniors? For distant travelers?
1) For students, not automatically, but there are scholarships. Please see http://yugntruf.org/
2) For seniors, no.
3) For distant travelers we have scholarships for young people from Eastern Europe. Otherwise no, but we encourage you to apply to your local Jewish/Yiddish organization/philanthropy, which may support you – it has happened in the past!
Can I just send my YV registration form now and pay closer to the deadline?
The filled-out YV Registration Form is only valid together with the payment. Your reservation is not recorded until we receive payment.
Can I just make a down payment now and pay the remainder later?
No. Payments are only accepted in full.
Also, if you haven’t paid membership yet this year, do include that in your registration and payment.
How late can I decide that I want to come to this year’s YV?
You can decide as late as you want, but at your own risk. If you have a specific room preference, we cannot guarantee that a space will be available. The bus from New York also has limited spots, and often fills up early.
Still, 1) there are sometimes cancellations in August, 2) if you have a car and you’re willing and able either to bring and stay in a lower-tier room, it may allow you to sign up to the last minute (though it’s not recommended), and 3) if you’re coming just for a day or two on the weekdays, we may be able to squeeze you in pretty late in the game. Finally, if you need a specific kind of room – in size, location or any other parameter – the answer is: sign up as soon as possible. You will be informed if your room request cannot be granted.
Would you accept payment by credit card? Wire transfer?
We accept payment through PayPal as the final step of the registration process.
If you need to pay by special methods, please contact the organizers at email@example.com or 1-212-796-5782.
Can I have a Yiddish speaking visitor/guest come for a meal?
The cost for coming for one meal is $25 per person. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-212-796-5782 to arrange this option.
Who will my roommate be? I’m worried that we’ll be too different.
The organizers try to get a sense of the people who have requested roommates, and try to match them up accordingly. Age is one determining factor – people of like age are usually matched up. Another factor may be level of Yiddish; i.e., sometimes a weaker Yiddish speaker requests to be with one who is more fluent, and if we can find a complement, we have a match. No one is allowed to smoke anywhere on the premises. Please be open with the Yidish Vokh coordinator about any concerns, such as health, accessibility, gender, or lifestyle concerns so we can help you find a comfortable situation.
I already paid my membership last year. Why do I have to pay again?
As with most other organizations, Yugntruf membership is annual, and a paid member is one who has paid during the current year. Any adult who comes to the YV must be a paid member.
I need to cancel. Can I get a refund?
Our refund policy is as follows:
100% till July 8th
50% till July 22rd
25% till August 5th
No refunds after the start of YV
Location and Transportation
Where is the YV located?
At the Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp (BHEC), 159 Empire Rd, Copake, NY 12516, USA.
This is our second year back in Copake, NY after several years in Maryland.
What are the phone and fax numbers of the retreat center?
Telephone: (518) 329-3303 Fax: (646) 619-4488
What is the closest airport to the camp? How would I get from that airport to the YV?
The closest airport is Albany International, about one hour away from the camp. From there you will need to take a car, shuttle, or taxi.
See below for information about the YV bus leaving from New York City.
Also, the BHEC website for a map of how to get there.
Which NYC-area airport is closest to the YV bus that leaves from the bus location?
LaGuardia Airport – about 20 minutes with no traffic. Kennedy and Newark – about 40 minutes with no traffic. The bus will leave August 16th and return to NYC after YV on August 22nd.
If my plane flies into New York the evening before the YV starts, with whom can I stay?
We can find out during the summer if there are any willing hosts. If not, you would need to stay in a hotel, at your expense.
Can I rent a car and drive there?
Sure. It’s up to you. If neither the long drive nor the expense are an obstacle, and if you feel you may need to come and go from the campus during the YV, then renting a car may make life easier for you. However, there are no car rental locations within walking distance of BHEC, so you would need to rent the car for the entire week.
Can you send me the car directions?
Yes. They are available online on BHEC’s website. They’ll also be sent out in early August to those who have signed up for the YV who don’t have internet access.
How long does it take to drive from New York City?
Depending on the driving speed, between 2 1/4 and 3 hours from midtown Manhattan.
If I think I will be arriving late for the YV-bus, what should I do? / Whom should I call?
Do not be late for the bus.
All details about the bus will be provided in early August to all those who will have registered at that point.
Can I be picked up anytime from the bus station in Great Barrington, MA (not the YV-bus)?
We can arrange group pickup times on any days where there are more than a few people arriving by bus. Please plan to arrive during those times; otherwise you will have to arrange for your own transportation from the bus stop to the camp. If you do plan on arriving by local bus during the week, please contact email@example.com in advance.
I need to leave the YV early. Can I be dropped off at the bus stop any time?
Can I catch a 6:00 flight back home on the last day of the YV from a New York airport?
If you’re driving by car straight to the airport, yes. But if you’re traveling by the YV bus be aware that we plan to return to Manhattan by 1:30 but due to traffic it could be more like 2-2:30 in which case you technically still have enough time to take public transportation but it could be tight and NYC can be unpredictable. The safest would be to plan your flight later in the evening to be able to arrive without rushing.
Someone has to meet me at the drop-off point on the way home. Exactly where and at what time should I tell them to meet me?
The bus will drop off outside of Penn Station, at West 30th street, between 7th Ave and 8th Ave, NYC, between 1:00 and 2:30 pm (depending on traffic).
Is the food kosher?
Yes. This is answered in depth here.
What is the food like?
It’s good. It’s healthy, it’s kosher, and it’s tasty. Gourmet cuisine, it’s not.
Can a vegetarian get by?
Absolutely. There are vegetarian alternatives at all meat meals.
Kashres (Kashrut) and Religion
How kosher is the food?
Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp has their own mashgiach that oversees all Kashrus on site.
Do Orthodox Jews attend the YV?
Yes. Usually about 10% of those attending are Orthodox.
Are there Orthodox and/or egalitarian services?
Every year there is a Shabes minyen. We have an Orthodox and egalitarian minyen both Friday night and Saturday morning. Please note both minyonim are held only when there are enough volunteers, who organize themselves beforehand. If you want to help organize these, please be in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org