Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Incredible, Edible Weekend

An Incredible, Edible Weekend in Wayland, Massachusetts
Emily Warshaw, Maven
Etan Bednarsh, Maven
Jessica Bay Blyweiess, Maven
Isadore "Alex" Wolfson, Maven

What an incredible weekend at Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, MA. We (Mavens Jessica Bay Blyweiss, Emily Warshaw, and Alex Wolfson, and myself - Etan Bednarsh) were warmly welcomed with open hearts, warm feelings, and gigantic fruit baskets.
Friday night’s beautiful services were a welcome start to Shabbat. We were treated to mellifluent prayers led by Rabbis Gold and Litcovsky and Cantor Lori Weinstein accompanied by piano, cello, and bongo drums, and an appearance by the Shir Tikva Women’s Choir.
At the delicious dinner (a recurring theme of the weekend), after services, Emily led a Meet the Maven workshop discussing the torah reading in biblical times, translation, and the nature of stories. In a discussion of the translation and meaning of the shema, one of the congregants shared an idea that the congregation had come across on the Temple trip to Israel last year. He told us that when he says the shema, he pinches his thumb and pinky forming a shin on his forehead and helping him to personalize the shema as a mantra.
Emily and Etan led the Maven StorahService Shabbat morning with a production of “Assumptions Make a Calf of You and Me.” Emily and Etan, playing angels, explored the story of the golden calf and ultimately asked what forgiveness looks like in our lives, and how we can change our patterns and reactions to specific people and situations. Thank you to our wonderful Torah readers: Sheila Deitchman, Marissa Kaye and Joel Sadagursky. Thank you to Sheila in particular for this beautiful picture (and for a perfect attendance record for the weekend!):

On Saturday night, after a havdala led by Rabbi Gold, Jessica, Emily, and Alex performed the full length theatrical production, “Becoming Israel.” After the play, many of the members drew a connection between the performance and their own experiences in visiting Israel as a group one year earlier. One woman shared that her grandfather’s own life story was eerily echoed by one of the characters journey in the play.
After the performance and talk back, Shir Tikva held a reception with wine and cocktails (we told you, recurring theme. We skipped some. Trust us) where we were able to talk more about the play and our own stories with our audience. As wonderful as all of those were, they were equaled by the incredible cake prepared for us. And we do mean – for us:
Said Maven Alex Wolfson “mnmnmn,” as he bit into his piece. Or something like that. We couldn’t really hear him through the cake.
On Sunday morning, Jessica and Alex brought a StorahSteps performance to the Hebrew School. A crowd of over 100 kids and kids-at-heart were treated to the story of Moses and the rock. Special thanks to Gersh, StorahSteps’ puppet in residence for his appearance, and to all our kids for their suggestions, and their fantastic yelling skills.
It really was a great weekend. We want to thank Deena, Julio, everyone else for welcoming us so warmly, providing and caring for us, and coordinating all our technical needs (Thank you Michael and Alan!). We’d especially like to thank all the people who came out to see one, two, or all three of our performances and for actively participating and dialoging with us so honestly.
Thank You!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Storahtelling & Conservative Principals' Council: Challenges & Inspirations

by Jake Goodman

This last week, I had the privilege of facilitating a 2-hour Storahtelling workshop with the Conservative Principals' Council (CPC) at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn Heights, NY. The attendees were all principals or educational leaders in various settings, very experienced, knowledgeable and hungry for innovation - if it fit within their understandings of what is responsible Jewish education. I so respect them for their rigor and passion, and teaching Storahtelling's methodology to them was an exciting challenge because I was constantly asked to reflect upon Storahtelling's philosophy: why do we make certain choices? For us, what is the difference between translation and interpretation? Do we care at all about teaching values from our "style" of Jewish text study? If so, what? If so, how? How can our Maven Method be translated for a wide range of learners, from high school all the way down to kindergarten?

These questions were not easy to answer, but trying to do so was great fun! I really felt that the principals and I were engaged in an important conversation and, miraculously, we all seemed to be on the same page at the end, laughing, inspired by each other. For me, this was proof of Storahtelling's universality and power. The access this methodology creates is relevant and vital to Jews of all stripes and colors, to humans of all stripes of color - regardless of denomination, experience or preexisting content knowledge.

As a side note, it also reinforced for me how much I love being an educator - especially when the learners are unafraid to voice their concerns, challenges and curiosities.