Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Storahtelling Summer Institute at Brandeis University

By Amichai Lau-Lavie

Storah On The Road

Dear Storah Friend,

I am thrilled and proud to share with you a few highlights from last week’s Storahtelling’s Summer Institute on Brandeis University Campus in Boston.

Please also scroll down for Peter Pitzele’s reflections on the training – we were lucky to have him present to us and be with us over the weekend.

Summer Institute 2008 - Highlights

After years of planning, we launched a two track training institute on July 14th 2008 – one track for Jewish Educators within the Hebrew School system, and the second track for Mavens who will use the Storahtelling skills either as our NY company members or as independent mavens in their home communities. This was the third summer we’ve had the StorahLab educators training and the first year we had a public Maven training. The overall feedback is very positive and the success of both tracks is a big thumbs up towards our focus on training change agents in the wider community.

Participants: We had 18 educators as part of StorahLab, and 16 Maven trainees. In both groups we had great diversity – ages spanning 20’s- 60’s, good gender mix, representatives of all denominations including Modern Orthodox and Chabad (!), a professor of Biblical Studies, several school principals, a very talented cadre of actors and musicians, and a sizable group of Gay and Lesbian trainees. Spotted among the trainees were quite a few interesting tattoos in Hebrew, each with a fascinating story.. I tell you – it’s a new generation…

People came from 11 states and three countries - Oregon, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, Missouri and Florida – as well as England and Canada.

Faculty Our faculty and team, headed by Naomi Less, our director of Training and Education, were fantastic. Sarah Sokolic led the StorahLab Educators Training accompanied by Rosana Berdichevsky of Portland, Oregon – a former Storahtelling trainee and Hebrew School teacher, now stepping up as faculty member, demonstrating ‘hands on’ translation of our curriculum in action. Jake Goodman and I led the Maven training, supported by Storah Mavens Shoshana Jedwab and Deanna Neil.

Peter Pitzele led all tracks in bibliodrama training over the weekend, and as always, provided mentorship and feedback to all of us.

A great logistics team - both in the office in NY and on site on campus made sure all complex details for a two track institute with over 40 participants and staff members ran smoothly – no small achievement! A big BRAVA goes out to Sam Hirsch – logistics and operations diva, AKA ‘smooth operator’.

Big Picture - 18 Jewish Educators are out there now, fully trained and motivated, joining the 45 schools already using our Cool Tool for School in classrooms all over the country. 16 new mavens – 9 of them joining us here in NYC and others are starting Maven teams in London, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Riverdale. We’ve got some amazing new talented people on board!

Our ‘COOL TOOL FOR SCHOOL’ - the curriculum for the educators, now in its fourth edition with six lesson plans is stellar and keeps proving itself as a very useful tool for a wide variety of students of all ages.

The Maven Training Curriculum with a total of 12 steps and a comprehensive template structure also proved itself quite successful and will probably go though some more edits and fixing before next usages. The bottom line – IT WORKS!

Thus, the big picture is a rosy one. The two track institute works, the trainees' evaluation forms are very encouraging and our work, impact and reach in the world is expanding organically and with vigor.

Stay tuned for more specifics, pictures and reports, and please see Peter’s notes below.


From Peter Pitzele:

To fellow Storah-board members: July 20, 2008

In a word: Wow!

I am writing you on my return from Brandeis University in Boston where I have spent the last three days involved in and observing the 2008 Storahtelling Summer Institute.

I was here last year when Amichai piloted an in-house version of the Maven training and was plotting the bigger dream of a summer institute with two tracks –for Mavens and Educators. This week it happened – the third StorahLab training for Jewish educators had about 20 passionate participants from all over the country, and the first formal Maven training program had 16 amazing new mavens in the making from as far as London, UK and Cleveland, Ohio. In the course of this past year, Amichai and the Storah Team – especially Naomi and Jake - have created '12/24: a twelve-step Maven training manual' - a progression of 12 exercises that takes twenty four hours to implement, and that brings the participant to the point where he or she can demonstrate a level of competency over the essentials of the Maven skill-set. Think Actor's Studio meets Yeshiva.

I was present for those demonstrations and I can say that the level of performance wedded to a mastery of the demands of translation, the quality of collaboration, and the flood of theatrical inventiveness informing the Torah service was nothing short of astonishing. It was way beyond my expectations and I believe beyond Amichai's as well.

What is additionally significant and heartening to me is the fact that Amichai arrived on Monday from Israel and began teaching almost as soon as his feet hit the ground. He was able in effect to move, even in a jet-lagged state, into the 12/24 program as master-trainer. The delegation of responsibility---challenge offered and accepted--- was one of the biggest success stories of the week. From an organizational standpoint it appeared the week brought about a new sense of empowerment, excitement, and mutual respect among a senior staff. Amichai leaves for Israel in a few months and I believe he leaves behind a program that has proven itself, a staff that has gained a new level of confidence, and an infusion of new talent---the Maven artist-ambassadors---who will take this work to their home communities. Some of these Mavens may return next year to be staff and associates, and some will, I predict, become master teachers themselves.

This is good news indeed. The prototype is on line. Here comes a brilliant piece of the next ten years.

Peter Pitzele Ph.D.

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