Roaming Europe in Search of Yiddish Joy


To hear some people tell it, you’d think Jewish history was one long calamity: the Spanish Inquisition, the expulsionpogroms and, of course, the Holocaust. Didn’t European Jews ever smile or sing or enjoy life?

Actually, yes. That’s the message the Helix Project is passing on to young Jewish scholars.

Helix is a project of Yiddishkayt, a Los Angeles organization dedicated to spreading the joys of European Judaism. For too long, the group believes, students have been taught about Jewish loss, “but not what was lost. When Jewish culture is taught from its endpoints, the Holocaust is allowed to triumph over the memory of the vibrancy of Jewish life.”

Last year, Helix sent 6 students to Europe to explore the richness of Yiddish culture, and this summer, they sent 12 more. One participant, Alana Fichman of Santa Rosa, California, felt a previous visit to European concentration camps only told part of the story. “It was not the barracks of the death camp that defined my ancestry. I want to meet the people.”

Through this cool new project, students like Fichman can learn not how their ancestors died, but how they lived.

Watch a highlight reel from a past Helix trip:

Recommended from JTA