Also featuring Israeli human rights activists and Middle East journalists, such as leaders of last summer’s 500K-strong social protests, +972 Mag, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity, Ir Amim, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Peace Now, the New Israel Fund, Rabbis for Human Rights and others. From Europe will be France’s J Call and the UK’s Yachad. There is a parade of former military leaders, journalists from America’s top publications, and Jewish institutions from around the world. The conference also features notable Palestinian perspectives, including +972 Mag’s Aziz Abu Sarah and One Voice Palestine’s Rami Rabaya.
Register here — and this year, take advantage of the “pay what you can” registration rate of $36.
(Will you be in San Francisco for this? Email us and cover it!)
4th Annual Bay Area Inside the Activists’ Studio
Sunday, February 27 at 10:30 am
Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission Street, San Francisco
Join us to learn from and be energized by local Jewish change-makers and to celebrate the multitude of ways we are working to create a more just world! This signature annual event features skill-building social change workshops, catered lunch, panel discussion with local change-makers, networking opportunities, and a who’s who of local Jewish social change organizations.
Panelists: Sasha T. Goldberg, Associate Director and Director of Student Programming at Nehirim.
Seth Linden, Founding Director, Tutorpedia.
Workshops: The Game of Life 2.0: Identity, Power and Privilege
Giving Loving Rebuke
Community Organizing for Economic Justice
And more! (Lists in formation and subject to change, stay tuned for more details!)
On Sunday December 5th, Pursue New York hosted its 3rd annual Inside the Activists’ Studio (IAS) event at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca. Hip-hop artist and Jewish activist, Y-Love – the event’s emcee – welcomed the crowd and warmed us up for a full evening of dialogue, debate, learning and of course, eating.
I was particularly inspired by the cornerstone of the IAS experience – a panel discussion with four compelling, young, New York area-based change-makers. Tablet’s senior writer, Alison Hoffman, moderated the discussion with thoughtfulness and humor, eliciting “coming of age as an activist” stories from Karin Fleisch, Taylor Krauss, Annie Lewis and Lucas Shapiro, as well as diverse and insightful reflections on how their Jewish backgrounds did – or did not – shape their identities, careers, volunteer choices, and life paths.
Their stories were powerful and accessible – everyone in the audience could likely relate to at least one perspective or experience that the panel shared in the course of their dialogue with Alison and with each other. For example, Karin Fleisch spoke movingly about the successful letter-writing campaign she participated in during college that led to the release of Tibetan nuns from Chinese prison, and how it convinced her that, in some instances, individual actions can make a significant impact .She applies that inspiration now working at the Food Bank for NYC and serving as a compliance officer for Uri L’Tzedek’s Tav HaYosher (ethical seal), ensuring that NYC restaurants follow basic labor laws.
Taylor Krauss educated the audience on his experience documenting national and global issues including healthcare, sexual violence, the war on drugs and genocide. He emphasized the importance of showing people the truth, coming to terms with identifying unjust and inhumane practices, and taking the right steps to work towards necessary change in creating more humane societies in the United States and abroad. He also shared his unique story of growing up Reform and being among the few Jews in his Catholic high school in Phoenix. As a result of being in that environment, he felt compelled to explore his own Jewish identity further. While in high school he traveled to South America which influenced his work both in college and in his professional career as a dedicated video journalist – for instance, filming in Rwanda where he has been building an archive for genocide survivor testimonies. He noted that the survivor community in Rwanda feels a sense of solidarity with Jews because of a shared history of genocide.
Annie Lewis discussed the unique path that led her to rabbinical school after working at a women’s center in Jerusalem and a citizens’ rights center in Ashkelon. She expressed her enthusiasm for being a part of the first LGBTQ-friendly program as a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary and spoke of the challenge of spending a year in an Israeli yeshiva that had not yet embraced the same policy as part of her rabbinical program. This perspective affirmed that change takes time, and a policy changes does not mean that the culture will automatically shift – it may take awhile.
As an experienced organizer and active voice in a number of causes ranging from political projects to building queer communities, Lucas Shapiro expressed his frustration with society’s current obsession with social networking devices. He shared with the audience his belief that social networking devices such as Facebook and Twitter often prevent individuals from connecting on a personal level, and more face-to-face contact can allow for better communication in working together to move projects forward. Lucas referenced an ambivalence about his Jewish identity, but even as he spoke, he was wearing a JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice) t-shirt, on whose board he sits, and was participating in a Jewish event; an inspiring example of how you can constantly question and struggle with your Jewish identity and still consider yourself a proud Jew.
After participants returned from their workshops, they were greeted with a delicious Hanukkah-themed, Tav HaYosher meal provided by Café 76 of the JCC. Emcee Y-Love closed out the evening with a mini-concert, showcasing hip-hop coated with messages of social activism. With a hearty blend of panel discussions, group workshops, and a hip-hop infused social justice concert, the evening had its fill of inspiring stories and positive ideas for change in the Jewish justice world. As an individual who is new to New York and its Jewish community, I found the event to be incredibly inspiring, and am looking forward to becoming more involved in future change-making events.
If you’re looking for both inspiration and practical skills, register now for Inside the Activists’ Studio 2010and get yourself to Joanna Kent Katz’s interactive workshop.
During the day, Kent Katz is an urban farmer in Philadelphia, working with a group of ten high school students from a neighborhood which is mostly Jamaican and African American. Together, they address issues of food sovereignty, building leadership and knowledge and holding two markets a week in the “food desert,” meaning there are no fresh, green vegetables available for purchase within a mile of the neighborhood.
“It’s not just about making healthy choices.” says Kent Katz, “It’s about creating healthy options.” She, her coworkers and their team of students have also built a food justice curriculum, addressing racism, the legacy of slavery and how it plays out in the community, undermining the connection between people and where their food comes from and moving towards a reclamation of the wisdom and action of growing food.
Kent Katz is also a social justice educator in the Jewish community, where she works with young Jewish adults around issues of liberation and oppression. “Cleaning up your own backyard” refers to bringing work done outside the Jewish community back home, helping Jews connect to their own isolation from one another, the result of internalized anti Semitism, sexism, and the roles imposed by privileged identity.
Kent Katz cites her mentor, Barbara Love, as helping her learn how to teach anti oppression with tools that will actually free the world, as opposed to approaching the work within the context of blame and guilt. “It has been work towards liberation,” Kent Katz says, “not just anti-oppression.”
At this year’s Inside the Activists’ Studio, Kent Katz will share her skills as a practitioner of the Theatre of the Oppressed. “That’s my gem,” she says. “We’ll get into our bodies.” This framework presents the possibility for folks to both understand how oppression works on a cultural and institutional level and to think about what the world could look like. “I’m only interested in talking about oppression without shame, blame and guilt. I invite people to try it out with me, learn together.”
For an innovative, genuine encounter with politics, your body and social justice, join Joanna Kent Katz and other dynamic folks onSunday, December 5that the 92nd street Y in Tribeca. Inside the Activists’ Studio 2010is hosted byPurse: Action for a Just World, a project of Avodah and American Jewish World Service, and is co sponsored by Jewschool.
The premise behind the Love/Hate series is that social justice and Israel feel awkward together. They just mix poorly. And the Jewish establishment is breathing down our necks trying to get young people to check their liberalism at the door instead of their loyalties to Israel. So this event represents a coalition of emerging Jewish communities who want an open space to discuss the most difficult issues.
As a taste of what NIF and Makom have been cooking up, here’s a question from the interactive part of the evening. Agree or disagree with each of these statements:
Anybody should be able to become an American citizen.
Anybody should be able to become an Israeli citizen.
Whoa, the guilt-and-fear-o-meter just spiked. More »
Love, Hate and the Jewish State 3.0: What’s Jewish about a Jewish state?
Thursday, June 24 at 7:00 pm
The JCC in Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th Street
Do your social justice values impact the way that you relate to Israel as the Jewish state?
Social justice and Israel are often polarizing and separate conversations. Israel’s Jewish character affects government policy, life-cycle events, state symbols, and everyday life for both Jews and non-Jews.
Join us for the third in a series of highly interactive, non-persuasive, open discussions with a diverse group of people in their 20s and 30s. The program will be followed by a reception.
Hosted by Joel Chasnoff, Comedian and Author of The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah
This event is brought to you by the New Israel Fund and Makom, co-sponsored by a growing list of organizations, including: Bnai Jeshurun’s Tzeirim, Brooklyn Jews, Encounter, the Foundation for Jewish Culture, Hazon, J Street NYC, the JCC in Manhattan, JDub Records, Jewcy.com, Jewschool.com, Kehillat Hadar, Pursue: Action for a Just World, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, and Zeek.
I recently heard a favorite rabbi of mine say that the American Jewish community may have made a mistake early on by placing all of its communal institution eggs in the beit kneset, or synagogue, basket. He suggested that the beit midrash, or house of study might have been a better choice.
What the beit midrash has going for it is the potential to do highly diverse learning that will attract Jews from many background to sit together and learn. What it doesn’t have going for it is its format. It’s formal and it brings to mind all kinds of imagery and connotations that will turn off many contemporary Jews.
But what about a third kind of beit? What about the modern institution known as the Beit Cafe, perhaps better known in America as the Coffee House? It’s place where discussions happen, planned or spontaneous, as well as cultural events like readings and musical performances. In the contemporary American mind, exciting intellectual and cultural movements are associated with coffee shops, a definite plus for this model.
I’ll start by describing the place I’m imagining and then I’ll talk about why it makes sense for the American Jewish community today. More »
Remember a year or two ago when GPS technology started being added to cell phone applications? Many of us scoffed at the idea of being trackable by Big Brother or God knows who else, imagining the worst case scenarios of a privacy-free world. Fast-forward to today, and we can’t imagine walking from the subway to a meeting at an unfamiliar location without whipping out our phone and asking Google Maps to guide us, and when the meeting is over, we ask Google Local to guide us to the closest bar with a happy hour.
Well, my friends, Augmented Reality is the next feature coming to your phones that you won’t be able to live without. At its most basic, AR technology allows you to point your phone’s camera lens at objects in the real world to conjure all sorts of information related to it on your screen. The Boston Globe had a great introduction to the technology published in September.
AR technology has many potential applications in Jewish life. The most obvious to me fall in the categories of preservation of memory. Imagine walking through a Jewish cemetery and having instant access to biographical information, photographs, videos, family trees, and more, all available on your phone simply by focusing your camera on a particular headstone. Or envision a tour through the Lower East Side where every building unlocks an oral history from the people who grew up, lived, and worked there. Or think about all those portraits hanging on your synagogue’s walls — wouldn’t it be great to hear your beloved old cantor sing once more, simply by pointing your phone at the painting of him? More »
The idea: A site to host the development of “open source” curriculum for learning how to learn Talmud and other texts in Hebrew/Aramaic.
The need: There are few if any curriculae which are targeted at the student who wants to start a serious learning practice, or for use by teachers who want to initiate students into a serious learning practice. There are many, many sites for introducing the unaffiliated and the uninterested. However, the interested and affiliated who want to take their study practice one step up are in a bind. This is especially so for those who don’t live in a major urban center. Moreover, teachers in day schools and the growing number of community high schools who want to up their game and teach on a higher level are also in bind.
The project: The web site would be a collaboration between Jewish educators and web designers. Tools would be developed that would allow educators to collaborate with each other across geographical boundaries on curriculae and methodologies.
Obstacles: Years ago when I was the chair of the Rabbinics Department at the Ziegler School, I wanted to start a conversation about teaching Talmud in the original languages to adults on a graduate level. I discovered that there was almost nothing published on the subject. There was one article by Dr. Marjorie Lehman of JTS in the Journal of Jewish Education. The situation has improved somewhat. A conference was convened two years ago at Brandeis University to address the issue. Some more articles have since been published. However, when a teacher, pressed by time and not compensated for creating curriculae on her own, wants to teach Talmud to her tenth grade class, she is back with her Talmud and nothing else. (The level of compensation for most Jewish educators at all levels is a stain on the Jewish community and an insult to Torah—but that is a rant for another day.)
What I suggest is that the ability to collaborate—either to have a great idea and put it up to allow someone else to develop; to step into the middle of the process and add a twist which will make it better—will spread the work out and also keep the means of production in the hands of the workers. Credit for the work will be assigned to those who do the work and not to the institutions who benefit from it.
Process: While the curriculum will be “open source,” in that permission will be given to modify, add, etc. to the educational products in process, there will have to be a screening process for collaborators to avoid the wikipedia fallacy, otherwise known as the blind leading the blind. Those who collaborate will have to have been trained and perhaps credentialed in recognized ways so that there is a serious element of quality control.
As an example of the type of curriculum I am referring to, I am appending here for download, a pdf textbook that I created several years ago for Kiddushin 29aƒƒ—the discussions dealing with the obligations of parents and children. This curriculum has been used successfully in various different high-school and graduate school settings by several different teachers, and, not to sound like the bitter old man that I am, I should have been well-compensated for developing this—but I harbor no illusions that that will ever be the case. So I present it here in its uncompleted form as an example of the type of curriculum that could benefit from further development by qualified collaborators. (If you are interested in exploring the curriculum, you must download it to your computer and open it with Adobe Reader or the full Acrobat, otherwise most of the functionality won’t be available.)
Do you like playing computer games? You can play more than 10,000 different games on Kongregate.com, for free. More games are added to the site every day, written by a legion of programmers hoping to win fame… and perhaps a very modest fortune … by creating a popular game.
It’s time to harness that raw creativity and technical talent for the Jewish community.
We can use games to teach the boring stuff of Jewish education, specifically Hebrew literacy and vocabulary.
Yes, there are already games to teach 100 words of Hebrew vocabulary, or the alef bet, or even which blessings to say when.
But these games haven’t taken off, for a simple reason: They don’t meet the needs of real Hebrew students.
Most Hebrew students — and I’m thinking here of Joey, my fourth grader whose favorite web site is Kongregate.com — have a specific goal in studying Hebrew. They want to do well on this week’s test.
So the words being taught have to be selected by a student’s teacher(s). There might be multiple lists for one student. Hebrew language and another for Tanakh class, in a day school setting. In a supplementary school, the vocabulary might consist of a few Hebrew letters… or of words that appear in the student’s Torah portion. It should be easy to select words keyed to a Biblical verse, a particular prayer, or a particular page of a Hebrew textbook.
But if the words are set by the teacher, the games need to be designed with the students in mind. They need to stand on their own as shoot-em-ups or puzzles or maze games or whatever genre is popular next year. But they don’t need to be programmed by educators… or even by Hebrew readers.
Kongregate.com offers programmers a set of instructions of how to interface the game they create to Kongregate’s back end of score keeping and advertising. The Hebrew game portal can similarly specify how each game would receive the player’s custom vocabulary list. How to take a dozen or two English-Hebrew word pairs and make a game out of it — that would be the programmer’s responsibility.
(Adobe did us a big favor last year when it released version 10 of its Flash player, the software in which the myriad free web games run. With the newest Flash, it’s easy to program bidirectional text — eliminating a practical obstacle to Hebrew in Flash games.)
The first games would have to be commissioned for the site, so it’s worth noting that the cost to hire a programmer to create a casual game like this has been estimated at below $10,000. When the project takes off, it can be largely self-supporting: a small membership fee, paid on a per-student basis by the participating school, could easily cover server and bandwidth costs.
Would-be players who aren’t enrolled by their school won’t be left out: They could be taught the Hebrew alphabet, and 100 basic words. But for participants, suddenly the stuff of homework — repetitive practice of vocabulary words — becomes a gaming matter. It’s a lot of Hebrew learning for a relatively small cost.
Let me start by saying that as excited as I was to fly the Jewschool flag, I was somewhat suspicious of the event itself. I tend to sneer at the kind of spirituality that comes with chanting and meditating and crystals and beads and what-have-you, and that’s sort of what I expected to be bombarded with here. After all, I know that Jay Michaelson is prone to running off to Tibet for a month of silent contemplation, and Seth Castleman has built his career on bringing the Dharma and the Torah together. I know that Danya holds a torch for the kind of traditional Jewish spirituality that I both crave and mock, although from reading her memoir I know that she’s adopted the lotus position herself on more than one occasion.
So let me be the first to say that the event was not that at all. Sure, Danya and Jay disagreed on whether aromatherapy bath crystals can really be considered spiritual tools, but the discussion was much more focused on the interplay between “religion” (i.e. the structures & strictures, rituals and communities of organized faith) and “spirituality” (what Danya calls the moments of feeling groovy). (Incidentally, if you were hoping for more of an exploration of how your boogers embody God, Jay is holding a series of conference calls for folks to come together in exploration of the non-dual Judaism he espouses in his book.)
The three speakers introduced themselves and their approaches but then quickly moved on to the Q&A portion of the evening. They did two rounds of four questions each. I tried to capture the entire Q&A session with my Flip Camera, but the darn thing crashed after Seth & Danya answered the first four questions and Jay had answered the first three. But the footage I did manage to get captures enough of the feeling of the event and many of the interesting points. I’ll lead with Jay’s answer to a question about the place of Judaism in his spirituality. (This is from the first round of questions, so I don’t have Danya & Seth’s answers to the same question.)
Behind the cut are more videos addressing the role of music in each person’s spirituality, the place of Israel in their spirituality, and approaches to balancing structured religion with a desire to “pick and choose” and get rid of bits of religion that don’t sit well with us. More »
I might have gotten that title mixed up a bit. Fuller report coming tomorrow, including video of most of the Q&A part of the panel. In the meantime, if you’re curious to know what it was about and you weren’t one of the lucky 120 or so people who made it in the room before the risk of fire hazard cut folks out, you can see tweets from me and Joanna Ware from the panel. (Scroll down to those with timestamps between 7:00 and 8:00 pm EST on Jan. 31st.) I took some snapshots of the Jewschool table and the crowd as well. My pictures of the panel didn’t come out so great (Danya talks with her hands too much for my crappy camera phone to focus!) so you’ll have to wait for the video to see Jay Michaelson, Seth Castleman, and Danya Ruttenberg in action.
Vaguely interested in Jewish innovation but not committed enough to read an entire blog post each day? Have no fear, Jewschoolers, we’re reading Dan Sieradski’s 31 Days, 31 Ideas blog so you don’t have to! Missed our first two summaries? Start here and continue here. Today, I bring you our final round-up. More »
Hey everybody out there in Jewschool-land! Sometimes it feels lonely up here in Beantown. Sure, The Wandering Jew and Danya are here with me, but so many of the events posted about here on Jewschool take place 300 miles south of us, it’s hard to feel part of the cutting edge progressive Jewish community that we hear so much about.
Ok, I kid a bit, but those of you who are also reading these words from somewhere in orbit of the Hub of the Universe know they ring true. So for this reason alone, I encourage you to clear your calendars for Sunday night and join me, and Danya, and hopefully hundreds of like-minded others at Everything is God: A Boston Spiritual Woodstock.
From the accounts I heard and read, the first EIG event (held in Central Park a few months ago) was the bee’s knees. Well, as we all know from The Godfather II and Empire Strikes Back, the second one will be even better. And the second one is happening on Sunday at 7 pm at Harvard Hillel. Facebook it.Buy your ticket. And then make sure you stop by the Jewschool table at the Jewish Organizational Hoe-Down to say hi to me.
All the official information (including, you know, what the event actually IS), in the form of a press release, after the cut. More »
Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Dvora Meyers. She usually blogs at Unorthodox Gymnastics.
I saw Srugim for the first time over the summer. Ever since then I’ve been hooked on the Israeli television show that follows the romantic travails of four Modern Orthodox singles in Katamon, Jerusalem’s equivalent of the Upper West Side, as they search for partners and meals on Shabbat.
Since the program does not air on any channel in the U.S., I was forced to download it illegally on the Internet thus opening my computer up to a whole host of viral threats. But it was definitely worth it.
In addition to being entertained, it’s the perfect opportunity to sharpen your Hebrew comprehension skills. Or if you are seated next to a particularly cute man/woman, you can pretend to not understand what’s transpiring on-screen and ask for help. I’m sure that the show’s characters would approve. Or you can tally the number of halachic inaccuracies you can find throughout the two episodes. Sounds like a good idea for a drinking game to me… Though I suppose the alcohol part will have to wait ’til afterwards, when the Jewschool crew heads next door to Amsterdam Alehouse. Join us! Bloggers and readers alike will be toasting pints and sipping cocktails in the back party room.
SRUGIM COCKTAIL CONTEST: We’re taking suggestions for drink specials in the comments field of this post. The only rule is that you must include the name of the drink, its ingredients, and, of course, the name of the drink must be related to a character, place or theme of the show. The top three favorites will be served at the Jewschool after party on Wed. Feb. 3 – and those three lucky winners will suck down their first drink on Jewschool. RSVP on Facebook now!
So now, consider these six further snapshots from an internet-aware Jewish world of 2020:
#4: Surfcasting technology lets you play back a class on Jewish radicalism in which Sieradski narrates a tour of web sites on the topic. As you play the video of Sieradsky, your browser follows along and you pause to bookmark a sites on the tour. Then you copy some text to your Facebook status.
#6 An XML Jewish text specification, repository and API means that anyone who wants to download a classic Jewish text, adapt it, or reference it can do so easily. After all, Jewish classics are the property of the Jewish people, and they should be made available online.
#7 The Open Source Beit Midrash. Surfcasting meets XML Jewish text specification. An online environment where all the texts are at hand as you learn with a hevruta study partner through video chat.
#8 Jewish Book Builder. The traditional text is only the beginning of a Jewish book. The fun comes as you add commentary on the sides. Make your own Haggadah meets the Open Siddur project. Why settle for stamping your name when you can personalize a bencher for your wedding?
#9 Niggun Please is a Jewish Liturgical Music Database. Wouldn’t it be loverly if the website of your minyan, shul or school had a link to listen to the tunes and songs it uses? Imagine a playlist widget that could play a list of songs from a database of streaming niggunim — meaning Jewish liturgical tunes?
The posts are worth reading in full, as are the comments on them. Here on Jewschool, I thought I’d ask for thoughts and suggestions on making these visions a reality? How much effort and how much money will be required to make it happen? What sort of organizational structure(s)?