BIMA Artist’s Beit Midrash – Kol Echad

In the Theater Artist’s Beit Midrash: Kol Echad, we are creating monologue scenes based in Bibliodrama and centered on an environmental theme. So far we have had three great sessions, including an acting workshop with BIMA faculty member Lynda Bachman on finding the impulse for action outside oneself.

We have been studying the story of the 12 spies sent by Israel from the wilderness into the land, from sefer Bamidbar (Parshat Shelach). The Bibliodrama we have created around this text has allowed us to try out speaking in the voice of a character from the text, bringing the feelings and relationships in the story to life.

One advantage of the Bibliodrama as a role play is that it allows multiple people to voice the same character and thus help us find some nuance. One such character in this story is Caleb, the voice of dissent:

From Parshat Shelach; Numbers 13:26-33 So they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word to them, and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.They told him, and said: ‘We came into the land where you sent us, and it really does flow with milk and honey; and this is it’s fruit. However, the people that dwell in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified, and very great; …

But Caleb hushed the people [and approached] toward Moses, and said: ‘Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.’ But the men that went up with him said: ‘We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.’ So they spread an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great size.

And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and looked to ourselves like  grasshoppers, and so we [must have] seemed to them.’

In our Bibliodrama, we interviewed Caleb about how he feels regarding the negative report of the other spies. Artists voiced Caleb with a sense of disappointment, but also expressed a sense of relief– in this moment, all the cards are on the table, and Caleb may feel he knows where he stands now in relationship to the others.

The Bibliodrama also helps us find characters who are not discussed in the text itself. One artist brought the voice of Moses’ wife Tzipporah into our study. Tzipporah expressed a deeply rooted fear for the man she loved and voiced the hurt that she feels on his behalf.

Dissent is a theme that we are picking up from this study– we see it in our modern political climate, in our local communities, and in the text. Dissent is itself becoming a character in our narrative. The nature of dissent can bring energy and change– or in the case of the parsha, it can condemn a generation. It is my hope that by giving each artist a singular voice, a monologue, we can transform the way we see and engage in discourse, and understand more deeply the challenges posed by incorporating various voices into a community.

-Jordan, BIMA Community Educator 

You can read about our other Artist’s Beit Midrash options below. Continue reading

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Genesis – Gender and Sexuality

Gender and Sexuality is the newest Genesis course. As one of the interns, I have the privilege of helping prepare and teach the class twice a week. Our activities range from fun games that help us think about the way we perceive all of the aspects of our identity — not just our gender and our sexual identities, but also our racial/ethnic, class, and a host of other aspects that make us who we are — to reading and debating some of the theorists that are writing about these issues today.

We also try and introduce uniquely Jewish aspects to understanding gender, such as using the story of Dinah and her brothers in the Bible (Genesis 34:1-31) to show not just how women were perceived, but also to understand the power of the male gaze– that is, the theory that what motivates people (specifically men) is how others from the same gender would perceive them.

One of the most challenging things for me has been finding materials that are both meaningful and engaging to the wide range of participants in our course, both Jewishly and nationally.  To make these challenging texts more accessible, we spend much of our time studying texts in hevruta, or study partners.

We also try to mix in artwork, short YouTube clips, and other media to take the texts off of the printed page and into our lives. When we read Judith Butler’s idea of how language affects our perception of gender, we can use a YouTube video to help understand it. We can take texts that discuss feminism in Islamic countries and place them in conversation with texts that talk about the empowerment of women in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. These make the texts, which are often dense, dry, and philosophical, both comprehensible and pertinent to our lives.

- Amram Altzman, Genesis Intern

BIMA Dance – Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company

Last week BIMA Dance participants spent a few days with the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company learning pilates, contact partnering, choreography and, as a bonus, a street jazz class!

On a more serious note, participants put their new learned skills to the test as they learn an excerpt of Carolyn Dorfman’s work, Interior Design. 

BAFF – Week 2

The BAFF group has been very busy this past week preparing for our final reception for our guests from CIEE on Wednesday evening.  The students were divided into various groups, each in charge of planning a different part of the reception, including music, food, and entertainment.  Despite these preparations, they have still managed to have a lot of fun!  Our final three participant activities this week involved the students participating in a karaoke competition and scavenger hunts around the campus.  We got a lot of exercise!

On Saturday night, the BAFF students spent some time in the kitchen together, with a “make – your – own pizza” night.

This was followed by a very successful talent show with some improv performances that got everyone laughing.


3D Game Design – Let the Games Begin!

Two weeks ago, we had a group of thirty-six very talented high schoolers who arrived at Brandeis from around the world with a passion for gaming and programming as well as a motivation to learn. As the participants developed their games throughout the program, they demonstrated their ability to “think outside the box” and the skills they mastered using Blender. From the initial steps of planning, to dividing their tasks, debugging, and the final execution of their games, the members from each group demonstrated the importance of working together as a team.

Through all of the field trips as well as afternoon workshops and programming, the participants were able to learn about the  different aspects of gaming and its impact on society. At Fable Vision in Boston for example, we had the chance to see the development of educational games and how the company functions.

Our 3D Game Design program culminated with a trip to Google’s offices in Boston, where our teams of game designers presented their work to Google programmers. This was such a unique experience as each team impressed everyone with the final product they brought to the stage and their hard work really paid off.

- Vanessa, 3D Game Design staff

BIMA Music – Carmina Burana

BIMA Instrumental Music had a special opportunity to hear a performance by the Boston Landmarks Orchestra and the One City Choir. Heavy rain nixed an outdoor performance, so everyone went to WGBH to record.  You can stream the performance on the Orchestra’s website at the following link:

The recording will be available until July 31st.


Escola Beit Yaacov (EBY) – State House Visit

Friday morning, July 18, the EBY group boarded the bus from Brandeis to the Massachusetts State House to learn a bit about American history. Teenagers aren’t usually thrilled by the idea of touring a government building, but somewhere between the good luck cod and the holy mackerel they got into it!

Our guide told us about the building’s history, some of the historical characters whose names and portraits grace the walls (Paul Revere, Sam Adams & co), and the strange animal sculptures that can be found around the building:

- The 300 pound good luck cod in the House Chamber: the house only meets if the cod is in the room, and it’s been stolen twice!

The Sacred Cod in the House Chamber (photo by
The Sacred Cod in the House Chamber (photo by

- The Teagle in the waiting room: they couldn’t decide whether it should be a turkey or an eagle, so they invented an animal.

- The ‘Holy Mackerel’ in the Senate Room: just for decoration.

The Holy Mackerel in the Senate Chamber (photo by
The Holy Mackerel in the Senate Chamber (photo by

We rounded out the day with lunch in the park at Boston Common, a tour of the New England Holocaust Memorial, and some free time and shopping around Quincy Market.

BIMA Visual Arts & Dance – Making Marks and Movement

Week 1 at BIMA explored lines and repetition. Artists danced and dancers drew!

The two combined classes divided into groups. Each group of four performed a sequence of movements while the others watched and then followed along with markers and paper.

Combined BIMA Art and Dance students followed on paper the movements of their classmates
Combined BIMA Art and Dance students followed on paper the movements of their classmates

After each group performed its sequence, the groups converged around tables covered with white paper. Each participant drew their movements using one continuous line.

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The group members rotated their positions and kept drawing, connecting their movements to the previous person’s.

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The result was a tangled web of interconnected interpretations, beginning and ending in one corner.

BIMA Dance instructor Mica Bernas with participants
BIMA Dance instructor Mica Bernas with participants

BAFF – Parkour

One of the activities our Baltic teens have participated in recently is parkour.

Parkour is a type of “free running” with the goal being to move from one point to another as fast and as efficiently as possible.  The students did a great job, jumping up stairs, climbing trees, and balancing on rails.  By the end of the 2-hour session, we all had a few cuts and scrapes, but to the delight of the staff, no one was injured.  It was a fun and unusual type of challenge for the students, and they all did a great job!

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The students groups are gaining practice in leading their peers, and they are coming up with very creative activity ideas, including a “world cafe” discussion.

- Laura Kompara, BAFF staff

3D Game Design – What Are Games For?

This program has been about more than just learning how to build 3-D video games– it’s also about expanding how we think about games and challenging the concept of what gaming will look like in the future. One of our early activities was discussing stereotypes and negative perceptions of games and gaming.


We have been talking about how games can help us in our everyday lives and what games are out there currently making a difference in the world. Some students are designing games to address concepts such as animal abuse and pollution.

Within three days, the participants completed their “crash course” in Blender and last Wednesday they already began working on their games. From brainstorming to modeling, planning levels and making obstacles in each game, the six teams filled the Farber Library with excitement.

Beyond thinking about the future of gaming, we are also exploring how gaming can be fun, social, collaborative and interactive off the screen. The students explored Brandeis in a campus-wide live action role playing game where they had to work together, find clues and save our beloved staff member from the Castle of Usen. They also are competing in a two-week program-wide game called Assassin, where students must interact with and eliminate one another until one person is left standing in the game.

Through exploring gaming in these various ways, we are broadening the spectrum of what gaming can and will look like. We are stretching beyond their consoles and computer screen to search for a greater purpose and application in the incredible and diverse world of gaming.


In addition to class time, workshops on gaming, and parkour, a visit to Emerson college’s EnGAgeMEnt Lab and a trip to York Beach, Maine have kept our 3D Gamers busy! We are all very excited and looking forward to what this week will bring as our participants work on finishing their games in preparation for their presentations! 

- Vanessa and Trish, 3D Game Design staff

Life-changing experiences for exceptional teens