Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Senior Educators Program - Final Update

,וְהָיוּ הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--עַל-לְבָבֶךָ. וְשִׁנַּנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ, וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם,
בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ
Deuteronomy 6:6

I have been working in the field of informal and formal Jewish education for over ten years. Of all the subjects I teach, I have the greatest passion and interest for the teaching of Tanach. It is a book that never ceases to enthrall me in its characterization of the human condition, its sparse narrative, the special obligation it outlines for the Jewish people and the real and imagined history it tells of my nation. In addition to a book of religious instruction, I also read the Tanach as the central text of Jewish collective memory. After touch, taste, hearing, sight and smell, Tanach opens me to my sixth sense, memory. Jonathan Safran Foer elaborates on this idea in his book Everything is Illuminated:

The Jew is pricked by a pin and remembers other pins. It is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks – when his mother tried to fix his sleeve while his arm was still in it, when his grandfather's fingers fell asleep while stroking his great-grandfather's damp forehead, when Abraham tested the knife point to be sure Isaac would feel no pain – that the Jew is able to know why it hurts.When a Jew encounters a pin, he asks: What does it remember like?"

Over the past year I have had a first class tutorial in Jewish memory through living and studying in Jerusalem as a fellow on the Melton Centre's Senior Educators Program. Each day I woke up, ate, read, traveled, socialized, studied, questioned, rested, prayed, wrestled and hugged. The fact that I was doing all of this in the State of Israel provided a constant commentary to each of my activities. I encountered people from across the globe who love this land because of, and in spite of, what it is. I encountered a contemporary spoken language revived from the bible, sounds and songs of deep longing, food flavored with a rainbow of spices and a culture of deep searching for meaning, ritual, money and peace. Being in this most dynamic of societies, everything I learnt this year entered my mind through one of its many filters. After absorbing hundreds of lectures, websites, books, religious and secular shiurim, films,
concerts and tiyulim, I strove to find a medium for professional expression from these encounters.

From Tree of Knowledge to Tree of life, the project I worked on for the past year, is one product of this encounter. For the rest of what I have learnt this year, I invite you to join me at a Shabbat table, class, living room, or lecture theatre in the future.

Thank you very much to The King David School, Melton Mini-School, VUPJ, UPJ and the Jewish Agency for Israel who made this experience possible.

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