Monday, December 24, 2018

Paper Midrash – Thanks for a great 2018!

It's been a wonderful year; we are so honored to have been able to bring Paper Midrash to so many wonderful communities in 2018. We've got a bunch of bookings for the first half of 2019 already; if you're interested in bringing us to YOU in 2019-2020, drop us a line!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Paper Midrash in Stockton,
Birthplace of the Fantastic Four

Another great weekend, this time at Temple Israel in Stockton, California! And another great batch of photos to share with you, so you can see the incredible art we created with this congregation! We spent the weekend talking about this week's parasha, Vayigash – in which Joseph reveals himself to his brothers – and we talked about secret identities in Torah (and comic books).

Friday night we presented "Secret Identities: Super Heroes and Torah Heroes"
and Saturday we started our papercutting workshop with our "Intro to Midrash."

I love these pix – using windows to transfer designs from regular paper to watercolor paper.

We turned a roomful of congregants into papercutters!

Rabbi Shawna giving a little guidance to a workshop participant

Some of the final artwork was inspired by the parasha, but very personal as well

Beautiful work exploring Judah's part in Vayigash, created by a workshop particpant

A papercut about reconciliation, one of the parasha's themes

We always end workshops with time to share our work with each other

Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff at work on his paper midrash

Cantorial Soloist Lindy Passer with congregants at work on one of the four community tallitot we made

Having fun getting messy, making tallitot!

Local celebrity Mel making his mark on the Etz Chaim tallit

Painting in the atara for a community tallit

"Shirat HaYam" community tallit

"Vine and Fig Tree" community tallit

"Who Orders the Universe" community tallit
Our papercutters with their finished paper midrash artwork

Part of our community tallit team with the "Etz Chaim" tallit

Paper Midrash and Protest Art in Washington

So much great stuff to share with you from our weekend residency at Congregation Kol Ami in Vancouver, Washington (and our getaway in nearby Portland!) – but a picture is worth 1000 words, right? So here are a few thousand words, in picture form (you know what I mean).

We met Allie Goertz on the plane ride up!

The famous Portland Airport carpet

We braved the cold (high temp of 46ยบ!!) to hit Portland's Saturday market

...and picked up a copy of the X-Men holiday special at Floating World Comics

CKA is a beautiful place to work – views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens!

Cutting out paper midrash designs

Finding just the right comics

A finished protest art papercut

Another finished protest art papercut

During the "teachback" session, this young artist read from the comic he cut up to make his art!

Another finished protest art papercut

What a great group we worked with!

We presented "Maccabees and Other Super Heroes" at the congregation's latke party – great turnout!

And what visit would be complete without a few hours at Powell's?

And some DELICIOUS late-night pizza!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Farewell to Stan Lee

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
I grew up reading comics. (Full disclosure: I'm still growing up reading comics.) Stan Lee, alongside some fabulous artists and other fabulous writers, created some of the characters and stories that have thrilled and inspired me all my life, and continue to inform my art and outlook. His memory will be a blessing – and a reminder to all of us that with great power must also come great responsibility. Seriously. His stories told us to embrace those that are different from us, to embrace our own differentness, to embrace the awkward within ourselves, to celebrate our differences and use them to save the world.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Paper Midrash at Temple Israel of Long Beach

The obligatory selfie out front

Rabbi Shawna had an amazing Paper Midrash weekend at Temple Israel of Long Beach this past weekend – praying, studying, and creating with the whole community. What a pleasure it is to be able to find so many different ways to connect with people, no matter what they're into; it's the secret to the best Paper Midrash weekend, really: bring us in for a weekend and let us do EVERYTHING with EVERYONE.

What did that include in Long Beach?

Accompanist David York at the piano under the VT screen

Lech L'cha and Star Trek: a beautiful intersection

Friday night Rabbi Moskowitz and Cantor Hass led services with our "Paper T'filah Visual T'filah" (now available for purchase from the CCAR web site), and Rabbi Shawna and I gave a visual sermon on parasha hashavua called "Lech L'cha: Boldly Go."

Yes, that's the The Thing becoming an adult bar mitzvah in that comic panel

Saturday morning we spent time with the pre-b'nai mitzvah students and their parents, talking about "Getting More Out of Your Torah Portion" by studying midrash and talking about the deeper meaning in Lech L'cha – as an analogous process to what they'll all be going through when they have to write and teach about their Torah portions when they become b'nai mitzvah.

Rabbi Shawna working with the adults in our workshop

Saturday afternoon we led a papercutting workshop for adults in the congregation. It's always wonderful to see how we can all start with the same bit of text, but have such different and fascinating midrash we make from them.

Abraham is told to "count the stars in the sky"

"You shall be a blessing."

Abram and Sarai head out on their journey

Finding just the right comic books to tell our stories

Sarah will be the mother of a great nation

From Abram and Sarai setting out on their journey, becoming Abraham and Sarah... filling in gaps in the narrative, addressing apparent contradictions and exploring word choices... some very thoughtful Torah and midrash came out of the workshop.

Talking about the patriarchs (Siegel, Shuster, Lee, Kirby)

Saturday night at the house of a congregant Rabbi Shawna and I gave a presentation (with slides!) about Jews in the comic book industry, which we call "People of the (Comic) Book." Jewish comic writers like Stan Lee, artists like Jack Kirby and Siegel & Shuster, and publishers like Max Gaines... Jewish heroes like Ragman and Moon Knight and Batwoman... and some hilarious "Jewish-adjacent" moments from Spider-Man, Robin, and more... we could have talked all night (but there was wine and cheese to be enjoyed). It's an incredible little history lesson, filled with connections between the Jewish tradition and stories of heroes trying to save the world... and how and why so many Jews got involved in a tiny little industry and made it the powerhouse it is today.

At work in our high school workshop

Sunday morning we led a workshop for the Temple Israel high school students, and again: same Torah portion, but so many new ideas!

So many paths to consider, so much responsibility

A student searching for meaning in comic books

The journey to a land God has shown them

A student with his superhero midrash

After the workshop, the students taught each other their midrash

And we had a little pop-up gallery going in the lobby and social hall all weekend, for people to see my work up close. A big thanks to Sharon Amster Brown and Temple Israel for bringing us out, and to everyone in the community who came to pray, study, and create with us!

My three "dreamers" in the pop-up gallery