2013 marks the ISJL’s thirteenth year of existence.
Our B’nai Mitzvah Year.*
We will go through many of the same things any b’nai mitzvah student goes through: we will study, we will learn, we will hope for meaningful gifts, we will try to be better than we were. We will stand proudly in front of our supporters and say “Today, we are an organization!”
Throughout this year, we will be marking this milestone. This month, as we celebrate the “secular” new year, our mind is on resolutions. As a thirteen-year-old organization, what should our focus be? What do we want to continue to do, and what do we want to change?
With that in mind, we start our reflective process of The ISJL at 13 with some institutional New Year resolutions:
1) Stay in shape. No spandex required – this resolution has less to do with lifting weights, and more to do with constantly lifting expectations. We want to be responsive, reflective, and ready to go, when we’re on the road, and when we’re in the office. We know we’ve had some good workouts in the past, but we have to stay active if we want to stay in shape to keep seeing results!
2) Share with others. We love having our blog, our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, our CIRCA magazine. We want to continue to share stories and strategies, not only to inform but also to inspire. We are proud to be a transformational, trans-denominational organization with a collaborative, regional approach to programming. We want to share how we do what we do, so other areas that could benefit from our approach can see what’s working here. We also love the communities and organizations we’re privileged to partner with, and want to be good partners by sharing their stories and successes, too!
3) Celebrate Southern Jewish life. We believe in the universality of the Jewish experience, and we also value the uniqueness of the Southern Jewish experience. Through histories and contemporary reflections, we want to renew our commitment to celebrate, preserve and promote the people and practices of Southern Jewish life.
4) Travel. Okay, so we already travel a lot. But with our new education partners in Missouri, and trying to share stories of the Southern Jewish experience with a wider audience … we’re expecting to rack up a lot of miles this year!
5) Eat better. Well … this is the resolution we’re most likely to break … there’s still a lot of sweets around this office, y’all. So one way we’ll honor this resolution is by sharing some of our favorite Southern-and-Jewish recipes throughout the year, which will also be included in our upcoming Taste of Torah book. Hey, those recipes will also count toward fulfilling resolution #3 – and look, resolution #2, too! This might be the best resolution of all!! (Food always wins.)
Those are our resolutions as we begin our thirteenth year. From all of us to all of y’all, Happy New Year, Shabbat Shalom – and we hope you’re resolved and looking forward to celebrating with us all year long!
* We couldn’t decide on Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and we have a lot of staff, so we went with B’Nai Mitzvah. It seemed like the mensch move!
December is upon us – already! That means, of course, ’tis the season. So does Christmas dominate in the South? Yes, but – there’s also p-l-e-n-t-y of Southern Chanukah fun to be found. Here are just a few of the holiday happenings ’round here:
Jewish Books Cooking. Starting this weekend, JBC tours the South – and one of the stories included is Lemony Snicket’s “The Latke That Wouldn’t Stop Screaming.” Fun, family show made possible by The Covenant Foundation and the ISJL.
Congregations and Organizations’ Parties & Performances! Across the South, local congregations, Jewish agencies, and organizations are hosting a wide array of performances, latke cook-offs, dreidel parties, music, meals, and much, much more. Southern Jewish Life Magazine has compiled a fantastic list of all such events, available right here.
(Big) Easy Chanukah Festival. The OCH Market in New Orleans is having a special Holiday Market event next weekend, which features a lot of Chanukah/Southern-and-Jewish fare. Shop, mingle, hear Klezmer music, and eat (the Fat Falafel Truck will be there!). And hey – everyone loves another excuse for a trip to New Orleans, right?
These are just a few out of many! What are some of your favorite Southern & Jewish holiday happenings for Chanukah?
What do Yiddish-speaking chickens, screaming latkes, and a pig who really, really wants to be kosher have in common?
They’re all characters featured in Jewish Books Cooking, a children’s theater show that brings eight popular, contemporary children’s books to life with bright characters and catchy songs.
Jewish Books Cooking (JBC) is a project made possible by The Covenant Foundation. The show debuted earlier this year in New York City. Created and directed by Liz Swados, the New York production of Jewish Books Cooking was mounted at several venues around the city. This December, along with a new director, new music director, and new cast, the show is also going to have a whole new destination – the Deep South.
How does a show like JBC wind up traveling through the South? It happened how it always happens in show biz, baby: “ya know a guy.”
While preparing for the inaugural New York production, the staff at Covenant thought about how great it might be to bring a peppy show like this to smaller communities. They would need a director for the touring show, and an organizational partner with connections to smaller communities…
But they knew a guy – or, in this case, a gal – and they knew of just such an organization. So they made a few phone calls. They called me (because I’m a theater nerd who lives in Mississippi, and was lucky enough to intern with Covenant awhile back). They called the ISJL (since they’re an organization located in Mississippi, accustomed to partnering and delivering programming to smaller communities). They posed the question: what do you think about teaming up to bring JBC to Southern cities – smaller communities that aren’t always reached by this sort of performance?
Everyone was excited about the idea. I mean, who wouldn’t want to bring something totally different to Southern audiences … namely, a children’s show filled with moxie-rich Jewish stories, not to mention all the kooky, rapping, dancing, hilarious characters?
In short order we had actors, venues, and everything else the recipe called for to stir up a Southern helping of Jewish Books Cooking. Though a lot to wrangle, this has been a fun and rewarding process. The stories included in the show are all upbeat, sometimes poignant, sometimes zany, but never dull. The music gets stuck in your head for days — in a good way, as the entire cast can assure you. And even the craziest of the characters is charming and relate-able, especially as conveyed by our talented actors. (These guys are pros: they go from being rats to parrots to witches to fried foods, without batting an eye!)
Directing JBC has been a treat. But best of all, knowing that this show will travel around and delight audiences who might not see anything like it all year … well. It’s practically a theatrical Chanukah miracle.
Next week, this show hits the road, traveling to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Memphis, and closes out right here in Jackson, Mississippi. The show is free, and the Southern touring production will be followed by a family program focused on exploring Jewish stories and sharing family bedtime rituals. The program was written and will be implemented by the ISJL Education Department staff – so it’ll be just as fun as the show itself.
Welllllllllll, maybe it’ll be more fun. I mean, the show is pretty hard to beat. Did I mention there’s a Yiddish-speaking chicken?
If JBC is coming to a city near you, find more info here and go check it out! In the meantime, tell us: what’s your favorite Jewish children’s story?