Friday, January 28, 2011

Fantastic Storahtelling Weekend

by EstherH78 / January 28, 2011
(reposted with permission by

It’s been almost seven years since I took a week-long Storahtelling seminar at Elat Chayyim (now part of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Seminar), for an entire week a group of about 12 people (who had never met) studied seven verses of Torah. The seminar guided us through the development a Storahtelling and concluded with our performance. I knew then that I wanted to bring Storahtelling to Massachusetts, to Sudbury, to Beth El to share the excitement that Torah reading could be! And.....they are here this weekend! For an actual Storahtelling and Saturday evening theatrical performance.

Torah Study on Saturday morning had always been more accessible for me than the Torah reading during services. Understanding, in my own language, the text has, over the years drawn me closer and closer to Torah. The idea of ‘translating’ is not new! In addition to the Rabbi and Cantor, hundreds of years ago, when Hebrew was not the language of the Jews in attendance, there was the m’turgeman, an Aramaic word for the person who would give a dramatic translation of the text.

Storahtelling revitalizes that tradition using music, performance, and interactive participation, bringing the page to the stage! During the Torah reading the Storatelling troupe not only conveys the text of the biblical heritage, but also the context of its timeless and contemporary relevance!

Friday night, January 28th 7:30 p.m. there will be a taste of things to come, with an introduction as part of evening services at Beth El.

Saturday morning join us for bagels at 9 a.m. and learn about the ancient art of Torah Translation and its contemporary relevance in today’s world. Join us for services at 10:30 and experience an actual Storahtelling, in which the Mavens bring the Torah to life through a fresh fusion of Hebrew Chanting, dramatized English translation and interactive commentary during our Saturday morning service. Stay for lunch!

Three parallel lives intertwine to discover their shared story and their common name—Israel—“The One Who Struggles with God.”

Leah, a Biblical wife, meets Rachel, a Holocaust survivor, and Jake, a young American on his first trip to Israel. Fusing sacred scripture with contemporary stagecraft, Becoming Israel examines the intersection between individual identity and collective memory, inviting audiences for a closer look at the legacy of Israel in a global reality.

Tickets for the evening performance are $10.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Welcome Back…

by Naomi Less, Director of Education and Training 

It's become a tradition (Three times makes something a tradition, right?) that in January, Storahtelling comes to Reform Temple of Forest Hills for a family Shabbat program.  We set the stage with the religious school families and then have a beautiful service featuring a Maven program during the Torah Service.  This was my second year at Reform Temple of Forest Hills (RTFH), so I wanted to be sure we renewed and refreshed the congregation's experience.  B'shalach, the parsha in the Torah where the Hebrews flee and meet the sea, provided a great context.  Instead of featuring the journey to the sea and the famous Song of the Sea, we opened up the story at the time where there seems to be some dissension in the ranks - some doubt, fear, anxiety and lack of faith - even AFTER the great miracles of the plagues, the sea, the pillar of fire and cloud, the Hebrews (some of them) have doubts.  Their Maslow-ian needs for food and water have not been met. 

The midrashic hero Nachshon is so faithful to God he that jumps into the sea of reeds before any signs of splitting.  Nina bat Aminidav, a fictitious character who is the opposite of her super-faithful brother, Nachshon, joined us at RTFH.  Full of fear, doubt and skepticism, she led the congregation through an investigation of whether faith can change the bottom line - what's the benefit of even having faith?  Where do we see faith in our lives - how does faith serve us as human beings?  In a world where the news focuses on collapsed economies, tragic disasters, human kind senselessly attacking one another because of differing beliefs, one wonders the place of faith in our world today.  This ancient question hits close to home…

The good news is, faith is alive and well in Forest Hills Queens, Nina bat Aminidav got her food, and Storahtelling enjoyed a fresh and new experience diving into the contemporary conversation the weekly reading brought to bear.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Couple's Experience at the First Ever StorahShabbat

On December 18th, 2010, my partner Ann and I attended the StorahShabbat event at City Winery in Manhattan.

To give you a little background on us: I was raised in a very very very Reform Jewish home. I grew up in a town with a high Jewish population (Sharon, MA) and I attended Hebrew school for a few years as a child, but never became a Bat Mitsvah. I am able to recognize a few of the prayers and songs from the 50+ Bar and Bat Mitsvah’s I attended as a teen Ann was raised Catholic, but is not practicing. She is very spiritual and interested in all religions. We are engaged, and she is very interested in learning about the Jewish traditions since they will be a big part of our wedding. It has been a struggle to find a congregation that is accepting to our relationship and is a fit for us. I am happy to say that we have found it! Thank you, Storahtelling!

When we walked into City Winery for Storah Shabbat, we both felt a sense of belonging. Ann felt that it was okay for her to be there, even though she wasn’t Jewish. Amichai began the service with both children and adults together and explained the meaning of Shabbat. Ann liked that the kids were present for the intro because she learned about the meaning of Shabbat and different names for G-d. Ann says, “it taught me what I needed to know from the beginning”.

For me, this was the first time that I was an active participant in the service. In the past, I would bury my head in the Sidur and pretend to read along, but Amichai had the songs on the power point for everyone to follow along!

After about 30 minutes, the children were taken into the winery to enjoy songs with Shira Kline ( Shira has a passion for what she does, and it shows. She gathered all the children and parents into a corner of the winery and started singing and playing guitar. All of her songs had a meaning and directly related to what Amichai talked about at the beginning of Storah Shabbat. Then, the children got to experience the puppet with the guys of Storah Steps! They enjoyed the play, but also enjoyed singing and dancing with the puppet to Shira’s music.

While I hung out with the children, Ann stayed in the main service for the Mavens. Ann said, “this was really good for me. I understood the story because it was acted out and enjoyable to watch. I got it.”

What Amichai and the staff of Storahtelling have created is nothing like I have ever seen before. The Storahtelling family is welcoming, and wonderful in every way. Ann and I will most certainly attend the next StorahShabbat on January 22nd, 2011 at City Winery!

Amy Beckerman is a Standup Comic and Educator working in New York City. More information about her can be found at

Face to Face: First Unitarian Maven brings Storahtelling to Colorado Church!

What do you get when you mix  a Unitarian minister, a rabbi, a Professor, and an ancient saga of wrestling? A Storahtelling Inter-reglious program! On Sunday, January 2nd, the first interfaith Storahtelling program in Colorado took place at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, CO. Tracey Wilkinson, a Maven-in-the-Making and Unitarian minister, along with Mavens Rabbi Birdie Becker, and Professor Caryn Aviv co-wrote and produced "Face to Face," a creative adaptation of  Chapter 32 in Genesis, serving as the centerpiece of the congregation's worship service that morning, playing to a packed house of over 350 people during two separate services. After the program, Tracey said:

"I cannot tell you how blessed I feel. It was amazing to be able to become the Maven, to bring Jacob's story to Jefferson Unitarian Church, to be able to work with Caryn and Birdie, and to do things I never ever knew existed, let alone that I could do them! 

"When I first heard of Storahtelling I asked Caryn, 'Do you fall in love with every Story you work with?! I would!' I was so right! I fell in love with this story of Jacob and with Storahtelling method of becoming a Maven and bringing it to life in my congregation. They loved it. May there be much more to come!"

'Face to Face' was the culmination of a few historic 'firsts' for Storahtelling: the first non-Jewish clergy to participate in our August 2010 Maven training, and the first ever Storahtelling Maven event in a different religious setting in Colorado. A great way to start a new year.

For more information on the Mile High Mavens, please contact Dr. Caryn Aviv, Storahtelling’s Mile High Maven Coordinator.