Posts Tagged 'Idea'

We Feel Israel

We Feel Fine is a brilliant project by Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar. It is an attempt to map out how the blogosphere “feels”. This program tracks all of the times that anyone blogs the word feel, feels, or feeling. It then collects the words around it to discern the “feeling”.  Using various and visually stunning techniques this website shares this vast and growing data set. We Feel Fine allows the user to simultaneously see trends and to connect to individual blogs entries. You can be searching for a certain feeling, by gender,  in a certain location, posted at a during a certain weather (this last one is mind numbing). Or you might just want to know who else is feeling morose,content, or  gleeful ( I think that is where I am right now). If is worth checking out Jonathan Harris’s  talk about this project on TED.

So, I got your attention, but you ask yourself, why am I blogging about this? I feel (just could not resist) that the technology that they have created for We Feel Fine would be an amazing way of doing an honest assessment of how the blogosphere “feels” about Israel. If the right people reached out to Jonathan Harris and Sep Kamvar, I am sure that they could set up a computer to collect every time someone blogged Israel, Zion, Zionism, Zionist, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. It then could collect the words around it to discern the “feeling” about Israel.  Using similar various and visually stunning techniques this website could shares this vast and growing data set.

So who should undertake this project? I really do not know or care. It could be AIPAC, J Street, Makom, Camera, the David Project, AJC, or anyone. This kind of project would just reflect how people feel about Israel. It can only represents data, it does not spin it. Who knows maybe they could all work together on this? But, still, are you curious? How would you feel looking into this virtual looking glass? What do you think we will see?

To Be in the Story

In these weeks, as we are reading about the exodus from Egypt and the march toward the Promised Land, I have been thinking about the connection between literature and space.  Every year for Passover we reread this story and I  return to my own childhood memories of Seder at my parents’ house. In our keeping the Passover law (nomos) we relive the Passover narrative. In retelling this story we are transported to another time and place. Our people was born when we left Egypt, became Bnai Mitvah at Har Sinai, only to wander around the desert in our teen years seeking a new home.  This has become more interesting to me as I continue to work on being a better father.

Last year as part of my work for the Foundation for Jewish Camp I had the pleasure of going to Israel. As part of that trip I went to Holon to see the municipal gardens there. The municipality has intentionally designed public parks to educate their children. The unique part is that some of the parks represent the canon of Israeli children’s literature. So children can read the stories of their country at home and then go into a public space to realize that the culture in their private homes is really the national culture. It is their story and their land. It is empowering to young children to know they have a space and a story in this young country.

After my trip to Holon, I had the fortune of going to Pinat Shorashim, when it was still on Kibbutz Gezer. David Leichman created a space to enable people of all ages, including prisoners, to come to a place to reimage themselves as part of the story of Biblical Israel. If we allowed ourselves to be present in the space what story could the land of Israel teach us? There at Pinat Shorashim the Biblical stories become alive. There, the story of the exodus from Egypt was not just a story, visitors would actually have to make their way through an obsticle course representing the plagues.  Like the “story park” in Holon, David enjoined the visitors to revisit themselves as part of this living canon of Jewish/Israeli literature.In the words of Rebecca Leibowitz, my co-worker at the Foundation for Jewish camp, “Reverence is transformed into relevance”. 

But, how could I bring this back to North America? I could not exactly put it in my carry-on bag. It was then that I realized, my children are beneficiaries of an emergent canon of Jewish children’s literature. Since Yadid was three years old we have been getting  PJ library books sent to our home.  Like many other parents in over 100 communities across America we have been introducing our children to characters of our Jewish heritage as part of their bedtime rituals.  How amazing would it be to find a Jewish space to bring these characters and these values to life?

The most logical place to do this would be in the JCC day camps in those 100 communities. How amazing would it be for the JCCs to bring in an artists-in-residence to engage PJ Library families to create a public garden in their day camp to bring these stories to life? This project  links the family to community.  The JCC would create a new context for the bed time stories of thousands of kids for generations. These parks will create a natural bridge between the private Jewish expression to public Jewish Life. This kind of creative use of space will not just help us tell our story, it could change the story of American Jewry.

Origami Tefilin

In my work at the Foundation for Jewish Camp I have the fortune of meeting people who are doing amazing work with Jewish youth across North America. With tefilin on my mind I wanted to share an idea inspired by Noah Greenberg. Noah is the man behind the Kesher Tefillin Project. He has figured out a way to make kosher tefilin inexpensive. More importantly Noah has used this process to get young people to connect to this Mitzvah.

Recently I was thinking about the technical genius of Noah’s design. We make tefilin out of one piece of leather. Until recently, with the invention of the hydraulic press, tefilin were made by wetting and molding a large piece of leather into the complicated shape. Noah uses a cut out of a piece of parchment to fold it into a kosher pair of tefilin.

In many ways he created an origami tefilin. So obviously when I saw this TED presentation  on origami by Robert Lang I just needed to connect the dots.

First of all, I got them in touch with each other to see if they might come up with an even more interesting pair of origami tefilin. But, the real dots to connect are how Robert Lang has discovered a skeleton key to unlock the wisdom the origami masters from the past. Ancient traditions have what to teach us if they open themselves up to science. The science of Robert Lang point to a brilliant unified theory of  this world. I was awe-struck to realize that Noah Greenberg and his tefilin can teach the same lesson.

Yasher Koach to Noah and Robert. They are both master artists endowed with  great minds.

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