Category Archives: Genesis

Drawing Our Souls


My expedition, “Be More Awesome,” is an exploration of the Mussar (moral and spiritual self-improvement) movement in Judaism. In previous sessions we had learned about different approaches to mussar, such as “uncluttering the mind” and “storming the soul.” I had learned that my participants (11 total, from America, Israel, Russia, and Brazil) tended towards the secular, which had made the intensely spiritual language of our texts problematic at best. Interestingly enough for all of us, our lesson yesterday was about the “soul.”

They studied some texts in pairs concerning various elements of what’s called the “psycho-spiritual anatomy”—the various objects of our inner life, such as thoughts, emotions, and desires, but also terms like yetzer hatov and yetzer hara (the good and evil impulses), as well as the “higher self” and five different words for soul. They were enjoying the texts just fine, until I challenged them to draw personal pictures/diagrams of their psycho-spiritual anatomy. After some stares and some questions, they set to work.

In the picture below, you’ll see the variety of responses. Some mapped their internal life onto their physical bodies; others attempted organic metaphors; others went for pie charts and flow charts. Some included the word “soul” and others didn’t. As the leader of the expedition, I was really pleased with how seriously they took the assignment.

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– Community Educator Matthew L.

Genesis Expedition – Pop Up Food Truck


The groundwork was done. The PopUp Food Truck team conducted interviews, brainstormed, and their audience chose a prototype. The objective: use Design Thinking to create a pop-up food truck for the Prospect Hill Community Center. The goal was to provide healthy food options while raising awareness of the importance of locally grown food and seasonal eating with the help of the Brandeis University Rooftop Garden!

Like all Design Thinking projects, this one started with empathy– rather than approaching the challenge from our own perspective, to serve our needs, what did the children, parents, and staff of Prospect Hill want? From the initial planning stages to the final product, the team remained focused on meeting the needs of its audience.

First there was the menu– summery foods like wraps, fruit kebabs, salad on a stick, and yogurt ice cream. With a little help from Genesis Culinary instructor Liz Alpern and Sodexo, Brandeis’s dining service, the teens learned how to prep food for a large group. In the end they managed a speedy 45 seconds per wrap!

The teens also created a huge mural for the side of the food truck which became an interactive art project– kids could decorate their own fish or shells and stick them onto the mural to create something that belonged to the whole community.

The food truck was a huge success, and not just in terms of its execution. The teens were really engaged with what they were doing, and they also forged connections with the people at Prospect Hill. When the PopUp truck arrived last night, it was greeted by a swarm of kids who were incredibly excited to see what the team had created for them.

Pop Up for Change is planning more projects like this, using Design Thinking to find out what communities need and then to create it for them. You can Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter, and you can also visit their site at

Genesis Expedition – Write These Words Upon Your Heart

Over the past weeks, my expedition, “Write These Words Upon Your Heart,” has been exploring Hebrew calligraphy and the spiritual significance of the Hebrew alphabet. In addition to studying texts from the Torah, Bereishit Rabbah, the commentaries of the Ba’al Shem Tov and Maggid of Mezritch, and the Zohar, students have been learning to inscribe each Hebrew letter in a traditional Ashkenazi script.

On Tuesday, July 14, we took a field trip to the Kniznick Gallery and the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, where we visited the feminist contemporary art installation “Father Tongue” by Milcah Bassel.

In “Father Tongue,” Bassel, whose father was a sofer (Hebrew scribe) explores the story of the first six days of creation through the manipulation of five Hebrew letters, light, and darkness. The director of the Women’s Studies Resource Center, Shulamit Reinharz, met us there and walked us through the installation, explaining some of the panels and listening to the teens’ thoughts and interpretations. It was a unique and enjoyable afternoon!

– Community Educator Jessica J.