How do our best creative ideas spark, come to fruition, and most importantly, bring something of value? There isn’t a precise answer, but like most things, we learn through stories. Maybe I will inspire you to create something meaningful? Or at the very least see how powerful Judaism can be. This is a tale about creating layers of Jewish meaning with something that started out not being Jewish.
I live in Paris and have done a variety of workshops in which I connect Jews to basic elements of Judaism, and often inspiration comes from somewhere I do not expect. A young man had just returned from a three-month trip to Thailand, and was carrying this vibe of something new, and he had so many interesting questions. It all started with a discussion we had, one that was open, sharing feelings about our families and Judaism.
Through this discussion, I recognized that he had a strong need that I had heard already several times from others and felt that I had myself. He was thinking deeply about this important problem. I knew very little of his skills and potential to solve the problem, but he was thinking about the problem with depth and questioning his assumptions.
We continued talking about it, building on each other’s shared knowledge and ideas. Einstein suggests that if you want to find the solution to a problem you need to look outside of its environment. Elijah, had created that environment. He was filled with knowledge from a world I did not know. Is there an equivalent to what we were talking about in Judaism?
I have an eclectic knowledge of Jewish topics and also a background in psychological studies of creativity. We continued to meet or shared our thoughts by email and WhatsApp, each expanding from each other’s ideas until something formed. Half a year later, I am receiving messages from people asking me when our next Jewish Meditation workshop will be. This is an experience that fundamentally seeks to bring Jews who feel disconnected from Judaism closer.
They say, “the devil is in the detail” – having a nice workshop is about the little things, such as presentation, being well-nourished, and quality of food. We had food that reflected the mystical properties of Kabbalah and Tu Bishvat, and what seems to be people’s favorite food in at Jewish events Paris: cheese. We also had my favorite dark chocolate, made with coconut sugar to reflect fruits with an inedible and hard shell, a special meaning.
Designing the event, was also about being sensitive to the energy of people and balancing something intellectual with something social so people stayed engaged and were learning for three hours. To make things more sophisticated, we had a DIY activity where we created wall-hangings people could put up to remind them of their values of Shabbat. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan for the amount of time that this activity really needed, so they just created a reflection piece that was also somewhat visual, but they still seemed to enjoy it.
I have noticed that after a workshop, people tend to talk mostly about others who were at the event, and so it is important to design events in a way that we foster appreciation of each other. We appreciate each other fundamentally when we share the good and the bad about ourselves. We did this by starting out the event with some sharing about ourselves. Personally, my life would be better if I meditated more because I get burnt out easily, and finding new ways to meditate is the only way for me to counteract that, which is what the workshop is about.
The workshop was designed as a meaningful experience to inspire people to reflect, to creatively meditate on Shabbat, and to make it personal. Our goal is to work with different people, from different levels of observance and perspectives so that can increase impact and meaningful creative potential. Jewmeaning is what we call ourselves.
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