During our fifth year of rabbinical study, each of us are tasked with completing a rabbinic thesis. I am the first student to be granted permission on the New York campus to engage a thesis project based in creativity. The title of my project is "Bavel--a Story of Exile." Exile--both literal and metaphorical--is so completely central to Judaism. When completed (March 2013), Bavel will be a novella rooted in both biblical and contemporary exile studies and told through the lens of struggle in rural America.
The Jewish Teachers' Network.
In late 2010, I worked as a Hebrew School teacher in a Manhattan synagogue. Much to my frustration, constant emails would go out from fellow teachers across the country asking for resources: Does any one have a lesson plan for Chanukah? How can I effectively teach the Aleinu to my 4th graders? Time and time again the same emailed pleas would circulate. In response, I decided to create The Jewish Teachers' Network--an online collaborative space designed to facilitate effective teaching in Jewish supplementary education. In 2011, I was awarded a PresenTense Fellowship to help turn my idea into an organization. The project became the subject of my thesis for my first Masters Degree (in Jewish education), and was the launching point for innovations in supplementary education and administration.
To learn more about PresenTense click here.
Art In The Garden.
I founded an annual not-for-profit art show in the economically strapped, tiny town where I went to high school. People back home loved their garden tours, yet in their rural farming and coal mining setting, art was largely inaccessible to them. There was little understanding about artistic ability, and no one knew of the dozens of artists that were living in their midst. The show, free and open to the public, displayed local art and artistry in the setting of a garden. Visitors came for the flowers and got the opportunity to not only learn about art but to meet the artists (who were often living just down the block!). In its first year, Art in the Garden's operating budget was $50.00 and garnered 250 visitors. In its third year, the show highlighted a guest artist from Belgium, welcomed over 800 visitors, and our operating budget had increased to a whopping $62.50 (effective community organizing and relationship building can work wonders)! Since the inception of Art in the Garden, regular programming in the visual arts has continued and flourished in our tiny farming community.