Storahtelling and Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion held the first Maven Training Course for seminary students and alumni of the HUC-JIR in New York City from January 5 to 9, 2009.
Rabbi Howard Goldsmith of Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue, already known in his community as an innovative and charismatic leader, became an official “maven.” Goldsmith joined 25 other professional rabbis, cantors, educators, and students in downtown NYC for Storahtelling’s first Maven training course specially tailored for the future leaders of the Reform Movement.
Rachel Petroff, a second year education student at HUC-JIR/NY, said, “It is really exciting for me because it is a different way of looking at text than we learn in our classes. It is a good chance to stretch a different part of my brain.”
Maven is Hebrew for “expert’” a term originally used in the Bible to describe the role of the oral translator of Hebrew Scripture into local language. Until the early Middle Ages, Mavens regularly interpreted Torah to the general public, serving as storytellers and educators, enabling multi-generational access to Jewish literacy. The Maven profession faded out of Jewish life a thousand years ago, but has been restored by Storahtelling over the past decade, meeting modern needs for meaning with a unique and visionary integration of education and the arts.
“To face the challenges of a global reality we need change makers that think globally”, says Amichai Lau-Lavie, Storahtelling’s founder and executive director. “Jewish illiteracy is clearly one of Judaism’s greatest challenges, worldwide. Restoring the role of the Maven is a great way of meeting this challenge and providing the global Jewish community, in its widest sense with real access to the Jewish conversation”.
Rabbi Renni Altman, Associate Dean and Director of the Rabbinical Program for the New York Campus of HUC-JIR said, “We are so excited to be able to offer to our students and alumni the opportunity to be trained in the innovative approach to interpreting Torah that has been created by Storahtelling. It is very much in harmony with the goals of HUC-JIR to provide our students with exposure to the most current and creative approaches to worship, study and congregational life. This Maven-In-The-Making training will significantly enrich our students’ professional development as rabbis, cantors and educators and will enable our alumni to better serve the changing needs of their communities.”
ABOUT STORAHTELLING – Storahtelling is a pioneer in Jewish education via the arts and new media. Through innovative leadership training programs and theatrical performances, Storahtelling makes ancient stories and traditions accessible for new generations, advancing Judaic literacy and raising social consciousness. Established in 1999, Storahtelling has been identified as a “trailblazer of the Jewish World” (Bnai Brith magazine), inspiring “reverence and relevance” (the Washington Post) and hailed by Time Out NY as “Super Stars of David.” www.storahtelling.org
Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu