By Liza Moskowitz, MHWOW Program Manager
As a MHWOW host myself, I run away from text studies and source sheets faster than I can say, “Your MHWOW receipt needs attention!” I haven’t included any form of Jewish text in my programs since I began hosting, and I wanted to challenge myself.
I also know this is something in which other MHWOW hosts are interested! I constantly hear hosts wanting to infuse more Judaism into their programs but aren’t sure how. Keep reading if that’s you! I will be trying these three levels of text incorporation with my programs over the next couple of months.
What resource should I use?
The best resource I have found in this process is Sefaria. Sefaria is free living library of Jewish texts that is building the future of Jewish learning in an accessible and participatory way. Sounded perfect for a beginner like me! Moishe House even has a group in Sefaria with content made for and by Moishe House people.
Level 1: Find a “Grounding” Text
I felt that jumping straight in to facilitating a discussion based in text was a little daunting. I thought searching for a text that related to my MHWOW program to ground my gathering in Judaism would be the best place to start.
I especially wanted to do this for my next MHWOW program — Sangria & Stationery. A social program, I will be gathering my peers to enjoy summertime in Chicago with sangria and learn how to make marbled paper for stationery use.
I thought about the themes of my program: Earth, creativity, and community. I then used the “topics” feature in Sefaria to narrow down texts using the themes I had identified. I started reading A TON and found the following text that I loved:
(30) And Moses said unto the children of Israel: ‘See, Adonai has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. (31) And He has filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.
I like this text because I interpreted this as saying that Bezalel’s wisdom, understanding, and knowledge were displayed to the world through his workmanship or craft. I hope to be able to exemplify this to my peers while they are making their paper. No one is allowed to say negative things about their artwork results as it is equal to their inner qualities!
Don’t be discouraged if this takes you a little bit! Planning a MHWOW program should be a process, so this can take some time. I spent close to 45 minutes reading before I found a text I felt was relevant to me and my program. If you get stuck, reach out to a MHWOW staff member and we can help or connect you with Rabbi Brad or our regional Jewish educators.
Level 2: Utilize a Pre-Made Source Sheet & Facilitate a Discussion
Check Sefaria for all the pre-made source sheets! Thousands of sheets have already been prepared online on a variety of topics.
Want something on Tikkun Olam? Got it — all 529 of them!
How about leadership? There are 198 to choose from.
Everyone loves Shabbat! Sefaria does too with 200 sheets made.
Once you find a sheet you like, you can break your group into chevrutah — smaller groups (usually pairs) to dissect the text together. I found this source sheet for my program that looks at the connection between mitzvot (can be translated from Hebrew to commandment; refers to a moral deed performed within a religious duty) and art. The text looks at how creating art can be a form of Jewish expression!
Follow the three simple steps below after reading the text to drive discussion. I’ll use the last text on the source sheet from My Name is Asher Lev to demonstrate the steps below:
Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev
Jacob Kahn tells Asher, “As an artist you are responsible to no one and to nothing, except to yourself and to the truth as you see it.”
Understand — What exactly is the text saying?
- An artist should only be concerned with being their authentic true self for themselves and the way they see the world around them.
Interpret — What themes are present? How does this text make you feel? Do you have additional questions?
- I am conflicted by this text as artists are described to be self-centered and close-minded. If they are only concerned about themselves and aren’t open to seeing the world in a different way than their own perspective, how can they create art that is relevant and beautiful for all?
Apply — How can you apply this text to your life or the current world around you?
- I find the most joy in creating art when I can hang it in my home for guests and visitors to also enjoy. I think if an artist is too concerned with themselves or the truth, their art will not be appreciated by all. While art is an intimate form of personal expression, I want to be able to share my craft. I don’t necessarily want to be an artist like the one described in the text.
Level 3: BYOT — Bring Your Own Text and Create Your Own
This level definitely makes me nervous, but I am ready to tackle it head on… one day! When I was looking at the pre-made source sheets, I found 3 art source sheets that had texts that I liked: this one, this one, AND this one. So I thought, maybe I could combine the parts that I like the best to make my own custom source sheet!
Sefaria has a tool that makes it easy to literally drag and drop texts into your original source sheet. Check it out here. I will keep you updated when I create my own text sheet.
The video below describes how to do the process.
I am not the most fluent in Jewish texts, so I am looking forward to creating my own sheet with inspiration from others. As I become more comfortable with texts and where they all come from, I think I will transition into finding my own texts and splicing them all together.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong way to incorporate text into your programs. Experiment and let us know what works or doesn’t work for you! Always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to show us what you’re up to or if you have any questions.
*note: this article was originally published on June 27, 2018 on Medium