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The Creativity Braintrust
Beit HaYotzer/the Creativity Braintrust is an incubator designed to catalyze Jewish creative thinkers – artists, practitioners, and academics – in collaborative experimentation around what Jewish teaching, educational leadership, and learning can become in the creative age, and disseminate the teaching and the artistic works to individuals and communities everywhere. The initiative provides collegial support for the artists’ emerging creative projects while providing sustained opportunities for them to teach creative practice and Jewish texts, history, ethics, and culture in HUC-JIR’s graduate programs in education. In the words of project director Dr. Miriam Heller Stern: “Our moment in history is filled with uncertainty and opportunity, and we want to foster a Jewish educational enterprise that prepares this generation of learners to think and act creatively as they face challenges and imagine a world they want to see.”
Partnering with Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director of the School of Education and Associate Professor (blended track), are Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger, author of Witness: Lessons for Elie Wiesel’s Classroom; Aaron Henne, founder and artistic director of theatre dybbuk; singer and songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins; and actor Jon Adam Ross, founder and Managing Director of the in[heir]itance project. Additional creative collaborators will participate in the initiative as well.
Beit HaYotzer/the Creativity Braintrust is a proud recipient of a 2019 Signature Grant from the Covenant Foundation.
Embracing Uncertainty with a Creative Spirit: Navigating the Month of Tishrei
The Jewish month of Tishrei holds so many emotions of the human experience: hope and fear, strength and vulnerability, joy and despair, celebration, and loss. We will explore some of the texts, metaphors, poems, and stories that help us navigate the non-linear landscape we face today. This conversation is a sequel to Revelation is Just the Beginning, a conversation about finding perspective, insight, and clarity in the wilderness of Counting the Omer.
“Revelation is Just the Beginning” is a curation of the ideas shared in the culminating episode of the web series “Reclaiming Time, Self and Voice: Counting and Recounting the Omer.” It features the contributions of the four artist-scholars affiliated with Beit HaYotzer/the Creativity Braintrust—a project of the School of Education at Hebrew Union College made possible by the generous support of the Covenant Foundation. Our web series took place during the traditional counting of 49 days from Passover to Shavuot, in April and May 2020, Nisan and Iyar 5780. During those trying weeks in the early surge of the pandemic, we explored these themes:
What emerged in the final conversation was a series of evergreen lessons about what it means to be human that continue to guide us as our experience unfolds.
The publication is an invitation to join the conversation, as all of our yearning for revelation and understanding continues to emerge. Whether you are preparing for Shavuot, the holiday associated with receiving Torah, or in a reflective stance any time of the year, this conversation will nourish your individual contemplation and your engagement with others.
In this moment of awakening and hope for change, what are you dreaming about? What dreams would you like to share?
Click here to download our new publication, “Revelation is Just the Beginning,” edited by Miriam Heller Stern and Miriam R. Haier, featuring the voices of Ariel Burger, Aaron Henne, Alicia Jo Rabins, and Jon Adam Ross.
Dr. Stern is the National Director of the School of Education and Associate Professor at HUC-JIR, based at the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at HUC-JIR’s Skirball Campus in Los Angeles. She is passionate about empowering Jewish educational leaders and teachers to engage in their work intentionally, skillfully and creatively. Her graduate courses include Teaching for the New Millennium, Social Foundations of Jewish Education, and Understanding Learners. Read Full Bio
Ariel Burger is the author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom, which won the 2019 National Jewish Book Award in Biography. He is also an artist and teacher whose work integrates education, spirituality, the arts, and strategies for social change. An Orthodox rabbi, Ariel received his PhD in Jewish Studies and Conflict under Elie Wiesel. A lifelong student of Professor Wiesel, Ariel served as his Teaching Fellow from 2003-2008, after which he directed education initiatives at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. A Covenant Foundation grantee, Ariel develops cutting-edge arts and educational programming for adults, facilitates workshops for educators, consults with non-profits, and serves as scholar/artist-in-residence for institutions around the U.S. When Ariel’s not learning or teaching, he is creating music, art, and poetry. He lives outside of Boston with his family. Read Full Bio
Aaron Henne is the artistic director of theatre dybbuk, a company whose work focuses on Jewish folklore and history and whose projects include cave…a dance for lilith, exagoge, and lost tribes. In addition to his work as theatre dybbuk’s Artistic Director, Henne’s plays include King Cat Calico Finally Flies Free! (published by Original Works Publishing) and Sliding Into Hades (LA Weekly Awards for Playwriting and Production of the Year). His exploration of machines and their relationships to humanity, Body Mecanique, was developed and produced by LA Contemporary Dance Company (LACDC). Henne was commissioned by The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to create new pieces about the natural world for that institution’s family audiences.
His multimedia adaptation of a 12th Century epic poem, collision/ theory’s Blood Red Lost Head Dead Falcon: The Nibelungen, was a partner in the LA Opera’s Ring Festival LA. Mr. Henne’s investigation of Kafka’s novel The Castle, called A Man’s Home, as well as his play Mesmeric Revelation (SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Original Script), a clash of science and mysticism, were both developed and produced by Central Works in Berkeley, CA.
He teaches storytelling throughout the country and has designed and facilitated workshops for Lucasfilm, Pixar and Dreamworks. He was a Pilot Wexner Field Fellow, an American Jewish University Dream Lab Fellow, and the Diane Luboff Scholar at the Cutter Colloquium at HUC-JIR. Aaron has also served as a professional mentor at Otis College of Art and Design, as faculty for the Wexner Heritage Program, and as a consultant for a wide variety of organizations.
Alicia Jo Rabins is a writer, musician, performer and Torah teacher. The New York Times calls her voice “gorgeous”; the San Francisco Chronicle calls her writing “a poetry page-turner.” Rabins is the author of Divinity School (2015
APR/Honickman First Book Prize) and Fruit Geode (finalist for the 2018 Jewish Book Award). She has released three albums with Girls in Trouble, her indie-folk song cycle about women in Torah, and with the support of a Covenant Foundation grant, is in the process of creating a curriculum for teens and adults around the songs, which is already being used in schools, synagogues, universities and prisons.
A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff, Rabins’ one-woman chamber-rock opera about the intersection of finance and spirituality, debuted at Joe’s Pub, toured nationally, was named one of Portland’s best theater shows of 2014, and is currently being made into an independent feature film. She also toured for eight years playing klezmer fiddle with pioneering klezmer-punk band Golem, and traveled Central America and Kuwait playing old-time and bluegrass music as a cultural ambassador for the US State Department. Rabins lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, bassist Aaron Hartman, and their two children. Read full bio
Jon Adam Ross is the managing director of The In[HEIR]itance Project, a national arts organization that collaborates with communities using a unique methodology of collective artmaking that puts lived experiences in relationship with sacred texts to instigate engagement around challenging civic conversations. Jon has spent nearly 20 years making art with religious communities around the country as an actor, playwright, and teaching artist.
He has served as an artist in residence at Union Theological Seminary, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and many other religious and educational institutions. Jon was a Spielberg Fellow in Jewish Theater Education with the Foundation for Jewish Camp and received a Fellowship from the Covenant Foundation to create the In[HEIR]itance Project in 2015. As an actor, Jon has performed his solo shows in over 90 cities around the globe. Notably, Jon has performed at the Guthrie Theater (MN), Playhouse on the Square (TN), and in NYC where his stage credits include: a dog, a 2,000-year-old bird, an elderly orthodox Jew, a spurned housewife, a horse, a British naval officer in 1700’s Jamaica, a goat, Jesus Christ, a lawyer, a wrestler, a hapless police chief, and a cyclops. Jon holds a BFA in Acting from NYU/Tisch.