Vavi Toran

Havruta in Art and Beyond - Collaboration and Creativity in the Classroom

This past week, Vavi Toran, our Arts and Culture Specialist hosted an Integration of the Arts in Jewish Education program in collaboration with CJM and an exhibiting artist at the museum.

When she introduced herself, the program and Jewish LearningWorks, she mentioned that last year we started the Integration of the Arts Initiative the room broke into spontaneous applause!

This day of learning had three parts that interconnected and intersected seamlessly, thanks to an excellent collaboration in envisioning and implementing between the CJM educational staff, the artist and myself.

The first part, led by CJM educators Fraidy Aber and Janine Okmim, drew upon an exhibit that sparked the idea for this workshop. Educators engaged in Havruta text study from books' passages used by the collaborating artists and visual text study of the resulting exhibition. 

The second part, led by artist Ascha Drake, introduced participants to her installation "In The Studio" (an inspiration for a "Maker's lab") and several of her integration projects with other disciplines in a school environment. She is also an art teacher at Bay School, and author of several books.

The third part led by me brought us back to Havruta text study. Taking into account that the next Jewish holiday on the calendar is Purim, I chose 2 verses from the book of Esther. Participants engaged in text study, identified a "big idea" for Purim and translated it into a collaborative art work. It was, in a way, a small example of how to approach anew any Jewish theme that we revisit year after year, and how to interpret big ideas in a creative way. 

Participants were very engaged, sharing insights and ideas, collaborating with either their colleagues or someone we matched them up with. Many beautiful and thoughtful art works were produced based on the learning of the day.

This is one example of the way we work behind the scenes to support our community of educators.

For more information on our Integration of the Arts Initiative, please email VToran@JewishLearningWorks.org


Shalom from Tel Aviv, where life seems to run at 50%

Shalom to all of you from Tel Aviv where life seems to run at 50%. 

Last night we had to rush home in a cab from La La Land, our favorite beachfront cafe, in time to brace the promised barrage of missiles from Gaza. 

They arrived as promised  and the whole experience was very disconcerting. 

It is not that we are scared for our lives, but it takes constant planning of where we'll be and where is the Secure Area (where you need to be in about a minute after the air raid sirens wail). We even have to decide which PJ to wear in order to be presentable if we have to join a bunch of strange neighbors in the stairway in the middle of the night...

We received many concerned emails, Skype and some phone calls from family, friends, colleagues and we thank each and every one of you.

We are definitely OK and doing what all other Israelis do - continue as normal as possible. We are combining work and play, which in my case are sometimes one and the same. 

Today we went to Jaffa's flea market in search of old maps and had lunch at Pua - Chopped liver with horseradish and Challah and lentil salad with Tehini. Delicious!

Our short rest at home was interrupted by another air raid, but we refuse to stay put and are going to a play at the Cameri Theatre tonight. 

Later this week... A graffiti tour of florentine neighborhood, cartoon art museum meeting with the archivist, tour of story gardens in Holon (Classic Israeli tales as playgrounds for kids!), and more!

We miss you and will be happy to come home soon...

An Update from Israel by Vavi Toran

 

 

Tisha B’av

By Vavi Toran

In the past few weeks I argued with almost everyone I know. I also agreed with almost everyone I know. In the morning I am right-leaning and at night I am a leftist. In the morning I see no other way than continuing with all our might until the job is done (what job? When do we know it’s done?) and at night I mourn for victims of both sides. Most of all I wish this was over. I wish for an end to violence and suffering. When I talk or argue or try to get my point across I don’t always remain calm or listen attentively to my adversary. Many times we find out a few minutes into the heated argument that we have very similar beliefs after all. We argue because we care!

But not everywhere and every time there is a clash of ideas they remains civil and non-violent. On the streets of Jerusalem, in public places where people are demonstrating for this or that side, in written and broadcasted commentaries, and in social media, the discourse is far from civil and hatreds ancient and new come out in their ugliest manifestations.

Today is erev Tisha B'av, the commemoration of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.

“Why were the Temples destroyed? The ancient rabbis explain that the First Temple was destroyed because of three things that occurred in it: idolatry, unseemly sexual behavior, and bloodshed. And then they give what to me is a provocative answer as to why the Second Temple was destroyed: "Because there was sinat chinam, baseless hatred." The Talmud goes on to say: "This teaches that baseless hatred is equated with three sins: idolatry, unseemly sexual behavior and bloodshed." (Talmud Yoma 9B)

What is sinat chinam? It includes gratuitous internecine backbiting, malicious hurtful speech and the inability to discuss differences in a civil way. These behaviors are seen as being as bad as idolatry, adultery and murder.

The astonishing claim is that how we talk to and about each other around issues that matter can destroy a city or maybe even a country. Words matter. Innuendo can kill." (From an article by Rabbi Laura Geller)

On this Tisha b’Av let us remember to listen to one another, honor each other’s opinions, and respond with civility and compassion. 

This  poem by Yehuda Amichai “From the Place Where We Are Right” - is especially poignant on this day.

The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.


The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.


But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.


And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

 

Read more about Tisha B'av.