You Shall Pursue

July 10, 2013

Some thoughts from Camp

Filed under: Choosing Life, Jewish Communitty — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 9:49 am

There were finals, which ate my soul, and then I packed everything away into my car and went to New Hampshire. This summer, I am the head of Jewish Life and Learning (otherwise known as the “culture lady)” for an independent Jewish summer camp outside of Boston. And I have not had a moment to catch my breath until today. I’m at my day off, writing at a local Dunkin’ Donuts, and I LOVE my job.

The thing that is great about camp is that your curriculum MUST be creative, hands on, and practical, or it will not fly. We are building tower-and- fence settlements, and doing scavenger hunts, and tie-dyeing talitot. We are talking about speech ethics, and BDS (boycott, divest, sanction), and the importance of being a Jewish leader. I’m leading services, and helping the kids to lead services. And, more often than not, the kids seem to be enjoying themselves. They are talking to their counselors about the things that we do in class. That is huge.

It’s also my first time managing a staff. I have some really great counselors who are coming at our projects with a lot of enthusiasm and great ideas. I’m really blessed to have them, and I feel oddly protective of them and their growth as grownups and as teachers. I just really really really want them to be able to do a good job, and it’s weird not only being responsible for my own job performance, but for making sure that they are doing the best job possible as well.

Camp is strange, because it is simultaneously so transient and so stable. The counselors move in and out of the system as they age. It is very strange, at 25, to be considered one of the “old ladies” on staff and to have most of your colleagues be 18 and 19 years old. At the same time, these counselors are already veterans of the system; most of them have been at camp for eight, nine, ten years and they have so much to teach me about the way that camp operates. And into that deep commitment to camp tradition, I am trying to inject my own ideas, innovations, and trying to keep integrity to Jewish tradition and proper Jewish pedagogy as I see it. It’s a delicate balancing act!

Camp is also really really constant, just all the time. When I’m not teaching, I’m prepping, tutoring Bar/Bat Mitzvah students, helping that week’s Torah readers with their reading, planning an evening program (now I’m working on Tisha B’Av) and just trying to keep up with all of the different life and ritual pieces to infuse the life of this camp with Judaism. It’s a lot of work, but I’ve been fortunate that my co-workers have been so willing to help out.

And the kids. Oh my god, the kids. I wish I could post pictures of them and their fabulous (obviously I can’t because confidentiality) but the kids are awesome. They are excited and eager to learn and to ask me questions, which is just so gratifying. And it’s really cool seeing the older kids (who are 14 and 15) start to understand what it means to be Jewish leaders within camp. It’s such an important lesson for them to learn, and I’m so impressed with how seriously they take it. Plus they are just so GOOFY. It’s a delight watching kids being utter goofballs.

I think the structure and the busyness are actually really good for me. I’d been sinking into ennui and anxiety at the end of the finals period, because there just seemed like an overwhelming amount of STUFF to do. But what camp is teaching me is that I can get an absurd amount of stuff done, and make it work, even if things are not perfect, even if not every project comes off exactly right. The show goes on because it must, and I just have to throw myself into the process and hope for the best. And that even if my efforts fall short of my expectations, they can still produce amazing results. That is really powerful.

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March 8, 2013

Today in Jewish Education and Other Awesome Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 9:28 am

The Book of Leviticus is now anĀ iphone game! For those of you who have never read this book, it is one of the hardest books of the Torah to access on a surface level, because of the lack of narrative. And yet, this woman has created an innovative and creative way to get people engaging with the text through technology. I may be using this later in my TaNaKh class with my teenagers.

February 20, 2013

The Queerness of Patrilineal Judaism

So I had an idea for an educational program about the varied ways that Jews from interfaith families don’t fit the normative narrative of what is Jewish, and may not want to. I think there is a real lack of conversation about how to confront the reality that there is a whole generation of Jews who were raised in interfaith families, and are now coming into their own Jewish identity, and have a real lack of institutional and communal support around forming that identity. Here are my thoughts (which will have to be WAY fleshed out):

  • Rabbinic Judaism has certain beings/people that fall between different categories. Sometimes they are one thing, sometimes they are another, sometimes both, and sometimes neither. I have most commonly seen this sort of multiplicity used to talk about categories that would now be called intersex/ genderqueer people.
  • As a child from an interfaith family, I am both Jew and not-Jew, and different groups read me in different ways at different times.
  • Different children from interfaith families have different reactions to their multiple heritages, from wanting to be read only as Jewish all the time, to wanting to be read as only not-Jewish all the time, and everything in between.
  • Any way that a child of an interfaith family wants to be read is valid. No, really. They are all valid. What they do with that identity in the broader Jewish world that may disagree with them is what gets complicated…
  • Zelig Krymko, one of the Limmud participants who I had a chance to reconnect with this weekend, pointed out that in an interdenominational world, we live on a spectrum that is horizontal, not vertical and we play on these axes, jumping between them, and often ending up at very similar places for very different reasons, or in very different places for similar reasons. How do we embrace and play on that spectrum when not all parts of it recognize our Judaism?
  • How can we use rabbinic Judaism’s comfort with “queer” categories (meaning categories that encompass and shift between different identity markers in different situations) to create a Judaism that is more comfortable with people who are not interested in strict dichotomies of identity formation?

Jewish friends from interfaith families, what am I missing? What do you wish the broader Jewish world knew about your Jewish identity?

January 18, 2013

A Tool for Teaching Big Scary Concepts to Kids

Filed under: Social Justice — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 5:57 am

There is this nifty new tool called the Up-Goer 5, that forces a person to write using only the 1000 most common words in the English Language. A favorite feminist blogger of mine, Ozy Frantz, has used this to write easy-to-understand definitions of some complicated social justice topics. I may use this as a classroom tool to help my kids process some of the topics (like mitzvot, prophecy, and God) that we’ve been working on this year. I may also, when I’m done with my series on Reconstructionism, use the tool to define difficult theological and religious ideas.

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