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As Jews rejoice the creation of the world, some are celebrating creativity itself

(RNS) — Like many on-line Jewish studying platforms, this one began with a textual content — a Excessive Holy Day litany referred to as “Avinu Malkeinu,” sung at providers between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

A bunch of 102 members break up up into smaller breakout rooms to think about a line from that textual content — “Create inside us justice and loving kindness and convey mutual redemption.”

Individuals have been then prompted to choose up no matter instrument or discovered object that they had at residence — pen, pencil, crayon or brush — and make a mark on a bit of paper. After which one other mark.

For some Jews, reemerging from a protracted pandemic and reengaging with their religion has meant making artwork. Not artwork with a capital “A,” the type that hangs in galleries or museums, however the sort which may fire up artistic potential and convey a few new consciousness or reference to their non secular selves.

The Jewish Studio Project, an 8-year-old nonprofit based mostly in Berkeley, California, permits individuals a extra meditative portal into Jewish observe, much less mental and extra instinct pushed. The concept is to observe the vitality or the pleasure of shifting a line throughout the web page and permitting the thoughts to calm down and lead the place it’s going to.

Its 90-minute on-line periods start with dialogue of a Jewish textual content after which transfer right into a free-flowing artistic observe.  At a time when many locations of worship have struggled to get individuals to return and reengage, this new observe — based mostly on artwork remedy strategies — is profitable converts.

The Jewish Studio Mission estimates it doubled its attain between 2019 and 2021, with the variety of individuals attending its free on-line packages leaping from 7,000 to 14,000 final 12 months.

Folks meet on the Jewish Studio Mission in Berkeley, California. Picture courtesy of JSP

Forward of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New 12 months, which begins Sunday (Sept. 25), the challenge supplied 11 Excessive Holy Day-themed packages and every day prompts to assist Jews spiritually put together for the Days of Awe, the 10-day season of reflection and repentance culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashana celebrates God’s creation of the world as informed within the e book of Genesis. Creation can also be the principle theme of the Jewish Studio Mission, which presupposes that every one individuals are, because it places it, “created artistic.”

“We’re made within the picture of that artistic drive and we take that to imply every one among us has a artistic capability,” stated Rabbi Adina Allen, co-founder and co-director of the challenge. “We attempt to assist individuals reclaim that energy. This can be a Jewish non secular observe.”


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Individuals of all faiths are more and more turning to non secular practices akin to yoga, meditation, being in nature — or making artwork. That’s true within the Jewish group as properly. A current ballot of Jewish voters discovered that 65% stated they have been not members of a synagogue or temple.

Many Jewish organizations are searching for methods to attach with with those that have disaffiliated or disengaged. Wilderness Torah, one other Berkeley-based group, offers earth-based Jewish programming that helps individuals renew their connection to Judaism in nature. Monthly women’s groups centered on the moon, referred to as Rosh Chodesh, convey Jewish girls collectively to higher align their non secular vitality with the Jewish, moon-based calendar.

Making artwork is one other.

Artists work at the Jewish Studio Project in Berkeley, California. Photo courtesy of JSP

Artists work on the Jewish Studio Mission in Berkeley, California. Picture courtesy of JSP

“It labored rather well with different mindfulness practices I’ve used up to now,” stated Holly Smith, a 37-year-old Jewish girl residing in Corvallis, Oregon, who discovered the Jewish Studio Mission in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. “It felt meditative to me. As we have been speaking, photographs would come to me after which as we began making artwork, I may allow them to come by way of me into no matter I used to be working with. It felt prefer it was connecting me to one thing larger.”

Smith preferred the work a lot she utilized for its artistic facilitator coaching — a two-year program that teaches individuals to guide Jewish Studio Mission packages of their locales (46 individuals have already been licensed facilitators).

The rules underlying the challenge are based mostly on the strategies developed by Allen’s mom, Pat Allen, an artwork therapist who has written extensively about making artwork as a non secular observe.

Pat Allen developed what she calls the open studio mannequin, a protected house full of discovered objects — scraps of cloth, tape, foil, glue and glue weapons, markers and pencils — the place individuals can start making issues.

Adina Allen, who earned her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew School in Newton, Massachusetts, tailored that method by including the examine of Jewish texts — the Torah, liturgical prayers or rabbinic interpretations. That examine is usually executed in small teams as a approach to discover questions, replicate and prime the thoughts for creating artwork.

An artist hangs a piece at the Jewish Studio Project in Berkeley, California. Photo courtesy of JSP

An artist hangs a bit on the Jewish Studio Mission in Berkeley, California. Picture courtesy of JSP

Many of the artwork created by way of the Jewish Studio Mission is in visible arts, as a result of, not like music or dance, it provides a decrease bar of entry for individuals with no prior expertise. Nobody is predicted to have ability or expertise, and Jewish Studio Mission guidelines don’t enable critiquing different individuals’s work.

Jay LeVine, a rabbi in Seattle, Washington, stated he had no formal expertise with visible artwork however tried the observe along with his spouse, additionally a rabbi, and beloved it.

“It pushed us out of our mental headspace,” LeVine stated. “There was one thing actually highly effective about taking part in with creative supplies. It was not my forte, but it surely was enjoyable in that new-to-us manner.”

Like Smith, LeVine and his spouse additionally signed up for the facilitator coaching, and he expects to convey the observe to his congregation, the Kavana Cooperative.

Since its inception, the Jewish Studio Mission has additionally supplied in-person Excessive Vacation providers — this 12 months on the Jewish Neighborhood Middle East Bay, as its leaders attempt to construct connection and group, particularly for individuals who haven’t any different Jewish affiliation.

For Sarah Stone, a writing teacher at Stanford College’s Persevering with Research program, the Jewish Studio Mission has turn into her foremost Jewish observe. She doesn’t belong to a synagogue.

She stated she finds the spirit of openness and exploration inspiring and has tailored among the approaches to her educating as properly.

“We’re in a second when there’s a number of despair,” Stone stated. “This specific work acts as a direct antidote to despair. It’s a casual, nurturing, regenerative house. There’s a hope to it.”


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