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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Water is constantly in motion, changing as we change. Just as rainwater combines with other sources in the mikveh, the pieces in this show flow into each other, from puddles to waterfalls to rivers to oceans. Within these bodies of water live our memories of times both scary and playful. As the smallest drops pool to be a part of something larger, our experiences gather and help us grow into more powerful forces. The mikveh is a place to commemorate cycles and continuity, a place for the Jewish community to gather. Similarly, the art major at BIMA creates a unified community of diverse Jewish artists from around the world. In “Currents,”these artists present their different perspectives, memories, and experiences of water and change.
ABOUT THE MIKVEH
Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today. A busy center of community life, Mayyim Hayyim provides 1400 immersions and over 110 education programs every year, art exhibits in its gallery, national consultation services, and meaningful volunteer opportunities and training.