Tuesday, October 23, 2007

RituaLab & Maven at Queer Shabbaton NYC

October 19-21, 2007

By Jake Goodman

Storah On The Road

This weekend was the much-anticipated Queer Shabbaton at the JCC Manhattan, which was sponsored by Nehirim. I could go on talking about how amazing and truly awesome it was to be surrounded by so many queer Jews, and how inspiring the programming that I was able to attend was. But this blog will be long enough…

Shoshana Jedwab, Jill Hammer, Shawn Shafner, Shira Kline and I led a Saturday morning RituaLab and Maven. The parsha was Lech L'cha (the story that begins with Avram leaving his homeland and includes Avram trying to "pass" his wife Sarai off as his sister), and our theme was Journeys and boxes (...to be explained soon below).

The RituaLab was so special. Shira took the lead and eased everybody into and through prayer in a way that positively and visibly surprised people and allowed them access to a depth of prayer that many later commented to me they can not usually achieve; Jill helped to guide and connect the RituaLab with meaningful, creative and simply gorgeous commentary; Shosh helped drive the RituaLab with her sexy drums (you've all seen how her rhythms affect people), interjections and Ashrei; and Shawny and I interjected 2 monologues in character (Shawn was a hilarious customs officer and I was a nosy neighbor) that helped set the context for the upcoming Maven Torah translation.

The Maven Torah Translation Ritual was very interesting. We decided to focus on the part of Lech L'cha in which Avram begs his wife Sarai to pass herself as his sister, so that when the Egyptians see how beautiful she is, they will not think she is his (Avram's) wife, and kill him and let her live. We related this to the times in our lives when we feel the need to pass, or others would like us to hide our relationships with our partners or (major) parts of our identities so that we can pass as something we are not, so that things "might go well by" other people. Using a Midrash from Genesis Rabbah 42a in which God places Sarai in a protective box while she was in Pharaoh’s harem, the big idea of the Torah service was: The Boxes We Put Ourselves In/Others Try To Put Us In. You can imagine, I'm sure, how resonant this was for a queer Jewish audience.

Afterwards, so many people came up to all of us, telling us how meaningful it was for them. I know of one young woman who said that if ALL services were like this, she would attend shul. There is one lovely gay couple who is getting married in Florida and are very excited about the possibility of Storahtelling coming down to do a Torah service during their special weekend! (I am sooooo excited about that.) There's so much more to say!

I think we would all agree that the Queer Shabbaton is a very special event to be part of. Mazal tov to Storahtelling! Mazal tov to all the participants! L'chayim!

1 comment:

  1. You make it sound positively magical! Almost makes a man wanna switch teams.