Friday, December 22, 2017

Maccabees and Other Super Heroes:
A Weekend with Congregation B'nai Israel

Rabbi Shawna and I spent our Hanukkah weekend at Congregation B'nai Israel in Sacramento for  three days of praying, studying, and creating – and what a great weekend it was!

Getting ready for services (from left: Cantor Julie Steinberg, Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik, and Rabbi Mona Alfi)
Friday night after a delicious latke dinner, Rabbi Shawna led services with Rabbi Mona Alfi and Cantor Julie Steinberg, using the "visual tefillah" service we crafted which is built around my "paper tefillah" series of papercuts. For the drash we explored the idea of Jewish super heroes – what makes a superhero Jewish, and what we can do to be heroes. (BTW, sometimes the only way you know a comic book super hero is Jewish is they have a menorah at Christmas time, but sometimes — such as with Kitty Pryde and The Thing – you get a narrative inspired by the lessons we learn from Judaism).

CBI has a beautiful prayer space – light and airy and bright and open
Saturday we led two workshops, making papercuts to be displayed together in the synagogue. In the morning we worked with CBI's teens and in the afternoon, adults. The workshops were centered around the idea of worship and observance in the synagogue – reflecting on the meaning of the hagim and life cycle events that are the fabric of Judaism, with participants leveraging their personal experiences and memories as inspiration for their papercuts.

With a group of our teen workshop participants and their finished work

With our adult workshop participants and their finished work

Inspired by Rosh HaShanah

Mask, grogger and hamantashen for Purim

Hand holding a yad to read Torah

Rabbi Mona Alfi and her Sukkot papercut

Saturday night the temple hosted an evening of arts and entertainment, bringing in three local artists to show their work (while I showed mine), and then Rabbi Shawna and I gave a "dynamic duo" presentation on "Maccabees and Other Super Heroes."

Sunday every class in the CBI religious school made papercuts with a special lesson we prepared so even the youngsters could participate (WITHOUT KNIVES). Meanwhile Rabbi Shawna and I gave a presentation to the pre-b'nai mitzvah kids and their parents on "Midrash: Jewish Fan Fiction" – and led a mini-workshop with the same papercutting activity, exploring ideas of Jewish values and the heroes who exemplify them.

Working with the pre-b'nai mitzvah students

Students making Torah papercuts

Even the younger grades were able to make "paper midrash"

And one last thing before we got on the road to get back home – a dedication ceremony in the entrance to the synagogue, where we had installed the papercuts from our workshops. Rabbi Alfi said a few words, Cantor Steinberg sang a few songs, and a good time was had by all.

Dedicating the new art in the synagogue entrance

Isaac and Rabbi Shawna with one of the walls of art

And of course, if you're interested in having me and Rabbi Shawna come to YOUR community, check out more info about what we do on our webpage: