Rabbi Laura Novak Winer, Ed.D.
Director, Master of Educational Leadership Program
Through the exploration of ancient and contemporary texts, poetry, and visual art the students and faculty of the Master of Educational Leadership program of the School of Education found inspiration, developed new understandings of themselves and others, and created a community of learners, teachers, and colleagues.
The bi-annual Cutter Colloquium, which gathers the RHSOE community for two days of learning and community building, is funded by HUC-JIR alumni Rabbis Paul Citrin, Micah Citrin and Karen Citrin in honor of Dr. William Cutter, founding director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education and in memory of Dianne Luboff. This year, we were honored to have Alicia Jo Rabins guide the learning, as the Dianne Luboff Scholar in Residence. The retreat was designed as an opportunity to pause, reflect, and set personal and professional intentions for the year.
Alicia is a writer, musician, composer, performer, and Torah teacher. She creates multi-genre works of experimental beauty which explore the intersection of ancient wisdom texts with everyday life. She is a member of Beit HaYotzer/The Creativity Braintrust at HUC’s School of Education. Nurturing and encouraging the participants’ creativity, Alicia motivated those present to think about creativity as not just as a process of generating something ex nihilo, but also as finding inspiration from others, even borrowing and adapting in order to make it one’s own. Participants used the poetry of Yehuda Amichai, Joy Harjo, and others as liberating prompts to inspire their own poetry. Alicia told the story of her journey to become a Jewish educator, poet, artist, and songwriter, and performed selections from Girls in Trouble.
Plato is known to have said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” In this spirit, this year’s Cutter Colloquium enabled the Master of Educational Leadership students and their faculty to harness their creativity, build community, and (re)establish relationships that will contribute to strengthened learning together this year.Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, Vice Provost for Educational Strategy and National Director of the School of Education brought a selection of traditional Jewish texts which examined the concept of “neged” and its multifaceted and sometimes juxtaposed meanings of proximity, distance, closeness, opposition, and connection. This study led into a visual art experience in which participants created their own Shiviti, a form of textile or manuscript art which is commonly placed on the eastern wall of a home or Beit Knesset (sanctuary), includes the words “Shiviti YHVH l’negdi tamid” (I have set YHVH before me at all times) (Psalm 16:8), and is meant to serve as a reminder of God’s presence. In creating a personal interpretation of the Shiviti, each participant was able to meditate upon and visually represent their intellectual and spiritual intentions for the year.