Monday, October 18, 2010

A Teen Workshop in Northern Westchester with Jon Adam Ross

There are two traditions I love about Shabbat. One is the reading of Torah, the other is the bagels and tuna salad served after we read from the Torah. Now you can imagine my excitement that I got to do both on a Wednesday night! Sara Beth Berman, Storahtelling's Associate Director, and I drove up to the JCC in Yorktown, New York for a Storah workshop with over 50 high school students from 4 different area synagogues. And it was so much fun! We began, of course, with a traditional Jewish dinner - Bagels, tuna salad, egg salad, and shmoozing. After we ate, we moved into the JCC nursery room where we moved the baby furniture out of the way and began our exploration of the Torah using the tools of the Storahtelling Maven method. The parsha this past week was Lech L'cha and with the help of Naomi Less, I was able to prepare a workshop for the teens that explored a part of the Torah that most kids do not know much about. Over the course of the workshop, the students - split into 6 groups - each took turns creating their own translations and stepping into the maven role to give a fresh perspective on Avram's journey from his family to the land of Canaan where he would begin to build a family and a nation. In Breishit chapter 12 verse 3, God tells Avram, "I will bless those who bless you, and he who curses you, I will curse." And I feel confident when I say the students camp up with the most creative blessings and curses imaginable. One student would come to Avram and curse him, and then God would come by and top that curse with an even more unimaginable fate such as: "You will have to eat sand and only sand for as long as you live - and you can never brush your teeth!" It was good stuff. It was also great to see our old Storahtelling friend (and former Development Director) Nicole Nevarez who is now the Director of Jewish Life at the JCC in Yorktown! When taking Storahtelling on the road, it's always nice to see a member of the storah family. All in all, a great night!

Bible, Interrupted
Amichai's NY Lecture @ Faith House

Can the oldest tool for transmission of sacred scriptures serve as a bridge between religions?

Faith House Manhattan - Living Room Gatherings
Twice a month, Faith House hosts LIVING ROOM gatherings where we share holy days, learn new spiritual practices, and address current cultural and social issues. Amichai Lau-Lavie is our guest teacher in October.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010
6 pm Doors, 7 pm Program

Intersections, 274 5th Ave
Btwn 29th and 30th Sts

2,500 years ago, in front of Jerusalem's Water Gate, the Bible was first presented as a publicly performed sacred narrative. Amichai Lau-Lavie, Judaic scholar, performance artist and the founder and director of the NY based Storahtelling Company, leads an exploration of this historic moment through text study and conversation, examining the radical implications of this ancient ritual for today's global search for meaningful ways of making our sacred legacies relevant, accessible, engaging and transformational.

RSVPs welcome, but not required, on Facebook and MeetUp.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Apple a Day
Kesher Israel with Mavens Daliya Karnofsky and Shawn Shafner

During the first weekend in October, Shawn Shafner and I went to West Chester, Pennsylvania to perform Parshat Bereishit: An Apple A Day. We played Adam and the Serpent and investigated that crucial moment when Eve bites the apple and Adam goes with her. Kesher Israel was a fascinating place to have this discussion. As someone from a small Midwestern town with an almost non-existent Jewish population, I wasn't expecting the impassioned, active, articulate congregation we found in this obscure location. Their Jewish community was small, but thriving. All of the congregation joined us for our Maven, and all seemed to enjoy it. There were two rows in the sanctuary reserved for the Junior Congregation, and I was a expecting two rows of bored, irritated, apathetic teens. This was not the case at all. First of all, the Junior Congregation was much younger than anticipated. This made me extremely nervous. I wasn't sure our Maven was appropriate, not just content-wise but idea-wise. What would happen when we tried to have a discussion about Good vs. Evil, and just who was responsible for this crucial moment in our history? Would we be able to capture and keep their attention? I'd say the age range was from six years old up to twelve. Add to that a handful of teenagers and a lot of discussion-hungry adults, and we had quite the audience to please.

Fortunately, everything went swimmingly. Everyone was captivated immediately. I credit us, the performers, somewhat, but also just the genuine thirst for knowledge so felt in this community. Six year olds and adults participated alike in our discussion, and all provided thoughtful, insightful comments. Afterwards, the teens were saying how much they wished Storahtelling could come every week, and the adults were wondering how they could learn to do it for themselves. This is exactly the response we hope for at Storahtelling, as educators and performers. It's the old "teach a man to fish" adage, and it feels so good when that is exactly the effect we have. Sure, the teens would just love a "less boring" service every week and so they love the idea of bringing in real live New York actors for their entertainment, but this community was left wanting more than just that. Across the board, they wanted to do it for themselves. So captivated were they, not just with what they had learned but how they had witnessed while we learned with them in the performing and discussing of it. There is no higher form of flattery than imitation. And we could all learn something from imitatiing the Kesher Israel population as well.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Scapegoat: Leaving Blame Behind
by Charna Rosenholtz

Congregation Nevei Kodesh, a renewal shul in Boulder Colorado, is under the leadership of senior Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, and assistant Rabbi Aviva Bass. Teen programming was held this year and taught by Maggid Charna Rosenholtz, where she led them in a Storahtelling program for post bar and bat mitzvah kids. In our exploration of the first Yom Kippur we explored sacrifice as a purification ritual and what the modern ways to fulfill this ancient practice are.

Our Storahtelling questions, designed to help the teens relate to the story, also explored the different perspectives of the High Priest, person leading the goat to the wilderness, and the goat himself! As the kids expanded their points of view, they gleaned that there was more to the story than first met the eye. There were many inventive goat stories, of how it felt to carry the burden of a larger community. One girl was angry, another felt the honor yet was sad to be dying. The morning culminated with one boy realizing that prayer may be the best way to exchange giving something up, without sacrificing a goat, or any other animal. The teens were all fully engaged and enthusiastic in their exploration of the first Yom Kippur.

High Holidays 5771 in Sonoma, CA
by Rabbi Irwin Keller

Congregation Ner Shalom in the heart of Sonoma County held Northern California's first Storahtelling over the holy days, led by Reb Irwin Keller, the congregation's spiritual leader. On Rosh Hashanah, Hagar came to life and the congregation explored what it feels like to be made nameless, and what happens when individuals or groups in our culture are rendered invisible or anonymous. This Storahtelling featured Ner Shalom's chantleader, Ellen Atzilah Solot.

On Yom Kippur, we had a most unusual maven - a goat, one awaiting determination of whether he'd be offered up in the Temple or sent into exile to the Wilderness of Azazel. The goat-maven, complete with a rather unsettling set of horns, led discussion on the two components of atonement that Torah seems to suggest: offering up and letting go. Even in our post-goat era, there is magic in pairing these two kinds of practices - the letting go (meditation, prayer, song, exercise?) and the offering up (community service, acts of kindness, a sense of surrender).