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February 2015 Workshops Prayer Beads in Three Faiths Thursday, February 5, 2015 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon The Atlantic Institute (Istanbul Cultural Center) 591 N Main Street, Alpharetta Meet Cathy Crosby of the Neshama Interfaith Center, Addie Schneider of Temple Kol Emeth & our friends at The Atlantic Institute for informal...

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American Guild of Judaic Art New Vision. New Website. New Year. This new “virtual” home for the Guild was created by dedicated  members from all over the country with different talents and skills, who worked diligently to make the site easy to use, informative and—most importantly—the best venue to display AGJA members’ art.  I stand...

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Neshama Interfaith Center Marian Monahan, a founder of the Neshama Interfaith Center, speaks in the voice of a prophet. She preached these words on Mother's Day at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, and has graciously allowed me to share them here: Those of you who know me are aware that I'm quite involved in the interfaith...

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Encountering Angels: Reading Genesis with my Children In this book, my children and I blend traditional Jewish learning and personal experience in our commentary on Genesis, making it unlike any other book written about the biblical text and rabbinic literature related to Genesis.  Like most books of biblical commentary written by rabbis, it examines the text through the...

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Pamela Jay Gottfried is an ordained rabbi, teacher, mother, and self-described wordie. An inveterate Scrabble player and New York Times Crossword Puzzle fanatic, she credits her love of words to her third grade teacher and her parents, who encouraged her to develop her vocabulary through reading and using the dictionary...

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Ink Blots

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It’s been two solid weeks of learning, teaching, professional development, curriculum development and preparation for an upcoming rabbi-in-residence weekend. Today, I stop to reflect before taking a ninety-minute certification test for the Interfaith Speakers Bureau (IFSB). I realize that I feel both exhilaration and dread.

It’s silly, I know, to be nervous about an open-book test on material that is within the scope of my expertise, ridiculous to allow my inner child’s test anxiety to resurface and interfere with my inner adult’s professional competence. But I can’t help it. While I’ve been almost completely occupied for two weeks by cramming new information and ideas into my brain, the back of my mind has allowed a mild preoccupation to creep in: can this middle-aged memory retain new information and ideas?

I am reminded of the words of Elisha ben Abuyah, a sage of the early Rabbinic period whose colleagues eventually shunned him for what they considered his heretical beliefs. One of his early statements, however, is preserved in Pirke Avot, a tractate of the Mishnah that contains aphorisms and ethical teachings of the first century rabbis:ink blots

“When a person studies as a child, to what may he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper.

When a person studies when he is old, to what may he be compared? To ink written on blotted paper.” (Avot 4:25)

This ancient teacher intuitively understood what experts of neuroscience now confirm about human memory: we have different channels and storage areas for memory, and often the lessons we learn in early childhood remain stored in our long term memory even as we have difficulty memorizing new facts.

I can still recite my street address that I learned when I was four or five years old, despite having moved from that home nearly four decades ago. But I can hardly remember what I read in yesterday’s newspaper, and in the last twenty four hours I’ve requested password retrieval from several online accounts that I visit every month to pay bills.

I can visualize Elisha ben Abuyah sitting at his desk, quill in hand, staring at an old parchment so dotted with ink splotches that fresh writing is absorbed and obscured. That is my brain—cluttered with telephone numbers and song lyrics from the 70’s, and several rabbinic adages learned in my youth—trying to discern what must be retrieved, whether anything can be purged.

To dispel the feeling of dread that impedes my studies, I summon a memory of the IFSB training session. Erasing the ink blots, I visualize this moment when Soumaya stretched one arm around me and Sucheta and the other in front of us, perfectly capturing the feeling of exhilaration that naturally accompanies sharing new ideas among friends.

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February 2015 Workshops

prayer beads by vicki web size

Prayer Beads in Three Faiths

Thursday, February 5, 2015

10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon

The Atlantic Institute (Istanbul Cultural Center)

591 N Main Street, Alpharetta

Meet Cathy Crosby of the Neshama Interfaith Center, Addie Schneider of Temple Kol Emeth & our friends at The Atlantic Institute for informal conversations about the use of prayer beads in Christianity, Islam & Judaism. Bring your own prayer beads or Jewish prayer shawl (talit) and share your personal customs during round-table discussions. Then we’ll make our own beads using polymer clay. Materials & refreshments provided; no previous art experience required.  Please register before January 31st to reserve your space.

Register for Prayer Bead Workshop: $25

Register with a Friend (20% discount): $40

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evil eye web

Mazel in the Morning

Thursday, February 19, 2015

9:30 a.m.

Crema Cafe

2458 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody

Celebrate the new moon (new month in lunar cycle), learn about symbols of luck in Jewish tradition, and create a good luck charm using polymer clay. Materials provided; no previous art experience is required. Space is limited to 10 participants.

Register for 2-hour workshop: $30

Register with a Friend (10% discount): $54

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One Word for 2015

I’m blogging over at the Rabbis Without Borders blog on MyJewishLearning.com this first week of 2015, where I write about choosing one word on which to focus during the year ahead. I chose a Hebrew word (see below). What’s your word? Please share it here!

rwb_logo196Choose Your Word Wisely: Have you already chosen your word for 2015? The word that will focus your attention on what you want to do and who you want to be this year? It’s not too late to choose.  Read more →

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