At around two thirty on an afternoon at Brandeis University, Massell Quad hums with the quiet sounds of people enjoying the pleasant respite from the scorching heat that has taken up the past few days. The soft green of the trees above us creates a canopy of sparse shade, and the pond shimmers with the gentle breeze in the sunlight. People sit with guitars and clarinets and other instruments that I couldn’t name if I tried, and the layered melodies combined with the wind and sun creates a blissfully peaceful atmosphere.
A tour group slowly makes their way around the pond, the tour guide reciting facts about the campus I realize, with a jolt, I already know. Its funny how a place can change so much in your eyes in the course of two weeks. When I first got here, the Brandeis campus posed a challenge, a map full of places to get lost or mistakenly open doors not meant to be opened, but already, I see this place as somewhere familiar and comforting. Already, I pride myself on knowing what the tour guide describes.
We have been at BIMA/Genesis for two weeks now, and in what seems like such a short period of time, the friendships that have been formed are astoundingly close-knit and true. And the best part is– we aren’t finished yet! No doubt, in the following weeks, the relationships we have started will continue to thrive, and new connections will be made every day. The Brandeis campus, for me at least, has transformed from a daunting map to a home.
BIMA Creative Writing
This year, the curriculums of BIMA’s majors and ABMs (Artist Beit Midrash) are connected by one meta theme. Specifically in ABMs, participants are provided the opportunity to explore the many ways in which art and Judaism can come together to shape who they are and who they want to be. Each BIMA participant joins an ABM track with a specific artistic focus – dance, theater, visual art, animation or creative writing – and uses it to explore the annual theme.
This year, the theme is the Tower of Babel. The story of the Tower of Babel, from the Book of Genesis,exploresthe origin of all earth’s different languages. In these explorations, the participants draw inspiration from our rich Jewish tradition to create original artistic work that reflects their lives as a young Jewish people committed to the arts. The final project in the ABM is an interpretation – either literal or abstract – of the Tower of Babel. Together, the final projects create a ‘living Midrash’ of the story, creating a rich tapestry of interpretations and insights into the relevance of the story to their lives as teens and as Jewish people. The final projects will be shared with the community during our ABM showcase at the end of the summer.
Educators ask many questions to challenge students in their perspectives and interpretations of the story, in an effort to expand their thinking and ability to view the story from new angles. Some of the core questions are as follows:
- How do we communicate with people that do not speak the same language? Where does communication break down?
- What happens when we are confronted with limitations?
- How can we channel collective frustration and anger?
- How do we create something that is worth while? How do we create something that leaves a positive impact on the world?
Educators also use prompts like the following to inspire open interpretation in the participants
- What is the significance of the concept of vertical and horizontal in the story?
- What is the purpose of multiple languages? What barriers do they create?
- Explore the concept of unity or dissipation as a result of language barriers.
For the remainder of the BIMA program, we’ll be posting photos about these explorations and the participants’ processes and projects on Instagram and Facebook, with the hashtag #migdalbavel. Be sure to follow us to see the superb projects the participants are creating!
Beginning a new project: Start with Choreography
Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” These past two weeks at BIMA Dance have taught me just that.
Having the opportunity to, everyday, express myself through movement, along with four of the most incredible dancers that I have ever met, has been an amazing experience.
Each girl in the dance program comes from such different backgrounds that everyday brings new surprises and realizations about each other and the places we come from.
I couldn’t imagine a better blend of Judaism and art. I cannot wait to see what the next few weeks brings.