The lives of young 21st century European Jews in the in their own words.

Looking for young writers and community partners!

Between 1934-1939, YIVO, the Yiddish Scientific Institute invited Polish Jews between the ages of 16 and 22 to send in their life stories in exchange for the opportunity to win cash prizes. YIVO’s goal in collecting the stories was to help researchers understand the lives of Jewish youth in Poland who were coming of age in the 1930s. They were especially interested in these experiences because the youth embodied the future of the Jewish people.

627 young people responded to the call. Contest entrants were guaranteed anonymity and many writers used a pseudonym. The stories are first-person accounts written by interwar teens who were not professional writers. Their memoirs are extremely personal and subjective interpretations of the events and forces which shaped the lives of their families: poverty and wealth, school, living in a shtetl, work, youth groups, and many other factors.

The lives that these young people describe are, on the one hand, quite unique and specific, documenting Jewish life on the brink of one of the darkest chapters of our history. At the same time their lives and stories also contain threads that may seem familiar to teenagers from other times and places. Like any teenagers, these amateur writers were full of confusion, joy, fear, curiosity, and idealism; they worried about friends, pleasing their parents, fitting in, getting an education, finding a job, rebelling, and surviving.

These personal accounts also reveal some of the diversity of Jewish experience, which occurred even in small Polish towns. They remind us that “Jewish culture” is very hard to define and pin down. Most of these writers spoke Yiddish, but some spoke only Polish. Most were poor, but others came from wealthy families. Many were religious, and many others were more secular. These autobiographies are a unique and insightful resource, offering us an intimate glimpse into the lives of ordinary Jewish teenagers and young adults in the 1930s. (Adapted from  

Almost a hundred years later and inspired by these stories, the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe will invite young European Jews to write their life stories. While individuals will reflect on their personal (Jewish and secular) journeys, readers will get a glimpse on their dreams and struggles and delight on a snapshot of the collective picture of contemporary Jewish life.

Who should participate?

Snapshot will gather autobiographies of young European Jews aged 16-22, encouraging them to tell their personal stories candidly with no embellishments but with a sense of historical testimony of the lives of young Jews in Europe in the second decade of the 21st century.

We are interested in a wide range of voices. The more the better! Stories should be authentic. This is an opportunity to express yourself. We are working on the logistics and process to receive written pieces and vlogs in multiple languages. There will be different categories and lots of prizes, as well as publication of a selection of the stories. Participants will have the option to submit under a pseudonym.

What should I write about?

Your entry can cover all and any aspects of your life, please relate to how being part of the Jewish community (or choosing not to take part) is a factor in your life. You can write about your past (memories of cheder, camp, Jewish school, youth movement, visits to Israel, personal relationships with family and friends) but please also relate to this moment when you are in the cusp of adulthood and the choices that you need to make for your life. What is important to you? Where do you see yourself in the future?

What if English is not my mother tongue?

We want entries by native and non-native English writers. We are working on the mechanics of this.

How can I participate?

Please register your interest here and we will let you know when the project is officially launched.

Are you a Jewish media organisation, camp or community that would like to partner in this project?

Please email Daniela Greiber at to have a chat.