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 45 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, political affiliation, sexuality, or gender identity, only in terms of readiness and willingness to speak Yiddish for the entire week.
When is YV?
This year (2023), YV will be Wednesday, August 16th to Tuesday, August 22nd. YV starts at around 4 PM on Wednesday and ends at approximately 1:30 PM on Tuesday.
What COVID precautions will the YV be taking this year?
I can’t read or write Yiddish. Can I still come to the YV?
Yes! The schedule at the YV is written in both Yiddish (with the Yiddish alphabet) and in Yiddish transliteration (the English/Latin alphabet), though other materials (for example, the reading group texts) may be available only in Yiddish written with the Yiddish 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 CDs, 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. 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, or the Naomi Prawar Kadar Program, 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 after one course, unless you study Yiddish on your own as well. If you have made your way through several sequential Beginner’s courses, you may be ready. To determine which category you fall into, call one of the YV organizers and see if you are able to maintain a Yiddish conversation.
Can I at least speak English in order to ask “How do you say … in Yiddish?”
Of course! P.S. In Yiddish, it’s “Vi zogt men … af yidish?”
I’d like to come with my partner. They don’t speak Yiddish, but I’ll translate everything for them.
Sorry, but the YV is only for Yiddish speakers. People from all over the world who want to speak Yiddish for an entire week clamor every year for our unique Yiddish-only environment. We simply can’t 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. Anyone can come, as long as they commit to speaking only Yiddish!
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?
Is the Yidish-vokh queer-friendly?
All are welcome, regardless of sexuality or gender-identity. Yiddish pronoun pins are available at registration. Every room has a private bathroom. The bathrooms at the dining hall are gendered (male/female). The bathrooms at the theater (where many activities occur) are non-gendered single-stall bathrooms. We do our best to honor requests related to roommates for those who register for a double room; we encourage anyone who has any concerns to either identify a roommate prior to registration or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss their concerns.
Is the Yidish-vokh accessible?
The Yidish-vokh is partially accessible. The rooms and the dining hall are all accessible with wooden ramps. Some of the rooms have bathrooms with grab bars and shower seats. There is a paved path and ramp into the theater (where many activities occur), but the path may be steeper than would be considered accessible by the ADA. Many activities occur in outdoor tents on grassed areas and do not have paved path access. Those who need a refrigerator in their room for medicines may reserve one by emailing email@example.com. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific accessibility questions or requirements.
What types of activities are there?
First of all, of course, everything is in Yiddish. There are lectures, discussions, workshops, intermediate and advanced Yiddish classes, sports, and arts and crafts activities. The lectures and discussions are sometimes on Yiddish issues, sometimes on Jewish issues, and sometimes about nothing Jewish whatsoever. There is daily swimming in the outdoor swimming pool and swimming and boating in the beautiful lake. 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.
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. There are morning children’s groups 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 CDs, and private Yiddish tutors in your town before YV. 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. 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 (though they are offered a $50 discount on registration per session that they lead). 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 email@example.com as early as possible so that the organizers can carefully put together a schedule.
Can you send me a schedule of activities?
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 and is distributed upon arrival to YV. If you want, though, you can view the a 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 many or as few days as you like.
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?
Yes, a commuter rate can be arranged. Please contact the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are there any discounts for students? For first-timers? For seniors? For distant travelers?
1) We will be offering student scholarships this year! Stay tuned on how to apply. If you think you may be interested and don’t want to wait for application information, please email Jordan Kutzik at email@example.com.
2) This year, for the first time, we will be offering a 15% discount on room registration for all first-time attendees!
3) For seniors, no.
4) For distant travelers we encourage you to apply to your local Jewish/Yiddish organization/philanthropy, which may support you – it has happened in the past!
We also have a limited amount of funds to assist people who cannot pay full price. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the available options.
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.
If you cannot make the full payment immediately for financial reasons and want to set up a payment plan, that may be possible. Contact email@example.com to discuss the available options.
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. There is a late fee of $75 after July 15, which is waived for students of summer Yiddish programs. We strongly recommend that you register early.
Would you accept payment by credit card? Wire transfer?
We accept credit card payment through PayPal as the final step of the registration process.
If you need to pay by special methods, please contact the organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-212-796-5782.
Can I have a Yiddish speaking visitor/guest come for a meal?
Yes, please contact the organizers at email@example.com or 1-212-796-5782.
Who will my roommate be? I’m worried that we’ll be too different.
If you are registering for a double room, we strongly recommend you find your own roommate. If you cannot find your own roommate, we will try to match you up with an appropriate roommate. Please provide as many details as possible about the type of roommate you are looking for. We do not take any responsibility for roommate pairings that do not work out.
There is a strict no smoking policy anywhere on the grounds of Yidish-vokh, including in the rooms and on the porches.
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 June 24th
50% till July 8th
25% till July 22nd
No refunds after July 22nd, unless you cannot attend because of a COVID diagnosis.
Location and Transportation
Where is the YV located?
At the Berkshire Hills Eisenberg Camp (BHEC), 159 Empire Rd, Copake, NY 12516, USA.
What are the phone and fax numbers of the retreat center?
Telephone: (518) 329-3303 Fax: (646) 619-4488
What is the easiest way to get to YV?
The majority of our attendees drive up by car or take the bus provided by YV, which leaves NYC at 1:30 PM on August 16th from 247 W 30th St, New York, NY 10001, and returns to the same address on August 22rd, leaving camp at 1:30 PM. If you would like to take the bus, please pay for a seat during registration. If you cannot drive a car up or take the bus, read further to see what other options you have.
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.
Also, see the BHEC website for a map of how to get there.
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 1/2 and 3 hours from midtown Manhattan.
Can I be picked up anytime from the bus station in Great Barrington, MA?
We may be able to 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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, probably. But just keep in mind that NYC traffic can be unpredictable. The safest option would be to plan your flight later in the evening to be able to arrive without rushing.
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 provides an Orthodox mashgiach that oversees all Kashrus on site. Non-kosher food may be brought to camp, but may not be brought into the dining hall.
Do Orthodox Jews attend the YV?
Yes. Usually about 10% of those attending are Orthodox.
Are there Orthodox and/or egalitarian services?
We usually 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, email@example.com.