Jewish Storytelling Coalition

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

“A Melody in Israel”

                          “A Melody in Israel” – a Chanukah Love Story


                                              By Peninnah Schram


“A Melody in Israel”, an original story by Peninnah Schram, contains  historical events intertwined with folklore motifs.

This story, “A Melody in Israell”, was originally published in Peninnah Schram’s book Eight Tales for Eight Nights (that is out-of-print but still available on Amazon.) It is now published in Peninnah’s most recent book Jewish Stories of Love and Marriage: Folktales, Legends and Letters (co-authored with Sandy Eisenberg Sasso) and published by Rowman & Littlefield. (This book is available on Amazon.)


Peninnah Schram audio-recorded one of her Chanukah stories “A Melody in Israel” several years ago when she was invited by Bob Sherman to tell this story on his radio program “Woody’s Children”, that is now heard weekly on – or IF you are in the NYC area you can hear it on WFUV 90.7 FM. THIS year, on Sunday December 13, 2020 this Chanukah program will be heard again (for the 3rd time) between 4-5 p.m. (EST). Bob Sherman has interwoven music for this story to create a ‘cantata’ which takes almost the full hour.


    IF you miss the program on December 13th, beginning the day after that date, and for the following two weeks, you will be able to listen to this Chanukah program on “Woody’s Children” in the Archives of in this link: :Weekend Archives | WFUV


Monday, November 9, 2020


Jewish storyteller Mark Binder has just released his debut Young Adult Novel, THE GROSTON RULES

It’s the story of seven friends trying to graduate high school, who get caught up with bullying, climate change, and other dysfunctions…

THE GROSTON RULES is an edgy book with suspenseful twists and turns. t is a captivating and lighthearted tale about teens in trouble, surviving through their strong friendships. 

Adults, young adults and mature teens won’t be able to put it down, because the story is as much about teen survival and unschooling as it is a young adult coming of age tale, rife with dark humor, teen comedy, fuck ups, and the occasional raunchy teen story. It’s a fast paced laugh out loud book that teenagers will actually read – a naughty high school teen comedy that you can’t put down. 

Please buy your copies today!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Peninnah informs us today that Professor Haya Bar-Itzhak has died. She had been a protege of Dov Noy - and following his tenure at the IFA, she became its Director for about 25 years. She is also the co-author of "The Power of a Tale". May her name be a blessing! Read below for details. 

Passing of Prof. Haya Bar-Itzhak


Discussion published by Shalom Berger on Wednesday, October 28, 2020

H-Judaic is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Prof. Haya Bar-Itzhak (1946-2020), an eminent folklorist and  emeritus chair of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of Haifa.  
Shulamith Z. Berger kindly passed along this news along with the following necrology prepared by Simon Bronner:

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that eminent folklorist Haya Bar-Itzhak died October 25 at her home in Haifa, Israel. She was born in Berlin, Germany, on August 17, 1946 to Polish Holocaust survivors. After emigration to Israel, she received her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Haifa and finished her Ph.D. in 1987 at Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a dissertation on "The 'Saints' Legend' as a Genre in Jewish Folk Literature" under the supervision of Professor Dov Noy. She returned to the University of Haifa as a professor and in 1992, became chair of the Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature and in 1994, head of folklore studies and  the Israel Folktale Archives. She also held visiting professorships at Indiana University, University of Michigan, Penn State University, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, she was a fellow of the Simon Dubnow Institute in Leipzig.


Her research and publications in English and Hebrew earned her renown globally for work in Jewish folk narrative, history of ethnography in Israel and Europe, ethnopoetics, and women's folklore. Her authored books in English include Jewish Poland--Legends of Origin (Wayne State University Press, 2001), Israeli Folk Narratives: Settlement, Immigration, Ethnicity (Wayne State University, 2005), and with Aliza Shenhar, Jewish Moroccan Folk Narratives from Israel (Wayne State University Press, 1993). Her edited books include Encyclopedia of Jewish Folklore and Traditions, 2 vols. (M.E. Sharpe, 2013), Pioneers of Jewish Ethnography and Folkloristics in Eastern Europe (Scientific Research Center of the Academy of Science and Arts, 2010), and with Idit Pintel-Ginsberg, The Power of A Tale (Wayne State University Press, 2019). In Hebrew, she edited Folklore and Ideology: Studies Dedicated to Prof. Aliza Shenhar (University of Haifa, 2014), Legends of Poland: Ethnopoetics and Legendary Chronicles (Sifriyat Poalim, 1996), and with Aliza Shenhar, Folktales from Beth-She'an (University of Haifa, 1981). She also was the editor of the journals Chuliyot: Journal of Yiddish Culture and Dappim: Journal of Literary Research. She served on the editorial boards of the Jewish Cultural Studies book series (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization), Raphael Patai Series on Folklore and Anthropology (Wayne State University Press), Cultural Analysis, Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore, and the Jewish Folklore and Ethnology Review.


Among her honors is selection as an International Fellow of the American Folklore Society, Lerner Foundation for Yiddish Culture Award, and National Jewish Book Award (for Jewish Poland--Legends of Origin). In 2020, her students, colleagues, and admirers presented her with a bilingual festschrift in her honor Masoret Haya, edited by Tsafi Sebba-Elran, Haya Milo, and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg (Pardes Publishing, 2020).

We extend deepest condolences to Prof. Bar-Itzhak's family, colleagues, and students.

Jonathan D. Sarna
Chair, H-Judaic

Wednesday, November 4, 2020



 Review by Sharon Elswit  •.  November 2, 2020

In 1955, Pro­fes­sor Dov Noy resist­ed the push for a homo­ge­neous new Israeli soci­ety that would down­play the tra­di­tions of immi­grants from the Dias­po­ra. With a team of his folk­lore stu­dents, he began col­lect­ing and pre­serv­ing sto­ries from new­com­ers and long­time res­i­dent Israelis under the aegis of the Muse­um of Eth­nol­o­gy and Folk­lore. Today, the Israel Folk­lore Archives, hold­ing 24,000 tales in Hebrew, con­tin­ues its work as part of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Haifa. Haya Bar-Itzhak, the long­time direc­tor, along with coor­di­na­tor and researcher Idit Pin­tel-Gins­berg, cel­e­brat­ed the fifti­eth anniver­sary of the many nar­ra­tive voic­es in the archive with the pub­li­ca­tion of The Pow­er of a Tale in Hebrew in 2008. Now in 2020, shep­herd­ed by Pro­fes­sor Dan Ben-Amos, comes the Eng­lish trans­la­tion of that jubilee collection.

With voic­es of fifty-one nar­ra­tors from twen­ty-five eth­nic groups, forty-one tran­scribers, and thir­ty-eight schol­ars from Israel and the Unit­ed States, The Pow­er of a Tale toasts the founder of the IFA and hon­ors his mem­o­ry. The book does not have one par­tic­u­lar audi­ence in mind, and not every entry or con­ver­sa­tion may offer indi­vid­ual insight or allure, but there is some­thing here for every­onefolk­lorists, anthro­pol­o­gists, sto­ry­tellers, aca­d­e­mics, psy­chol­o­gists, his­to­ri­ans, rab­bis, lit­er­ary and cul­tur­al appreciators.

The fifty-three very dif­fer­ent sto­ries here rep­re­sent tra­di­tions of Ashke­nazi, Sephardic, and Israeli Jews, along with Druze, Bedouins, Chris­t­ian Arabs, and Mus­lims. The great­est num­ber of eth­nic nar­ra­tives come from Poland and Moroc­co. Sto­ry gen­res and themes include leg­ends about place, his­to­ry, sacred peo­ple, and mirac­u­lous sal­va­tion of Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, plus myths, won­der tales, demon tales, real­is­tic nar­ra­tives, and moral and cau­tion­ary tales.

Reflect­ing the breadth of the col­lec­tion, the open­ing tale from Lithua­nia about a young woman who escapes mar­riage to a demon is fol­lowed by a set of three short leg­ends from Iraqi, Pol­ish, and Israeli Sephar­di cul­tures about sacred stones in and from the West­ern Wall. In a sur­pris­ing Druze tale, the gift fish deliv­ered by a fisherman’s daugh­ter spits tar at the queen; the sheikh advis­es her to tell the king that if the fish is forced to say why, the queen will be sor­ry. In oth­er con­tri­bu­tions, read­ers will dis­cov­er con­trast­ing views on how the vil­lage of Tarshi­ha was named, how the fly­ing camel became a sym­bol for the inter­na­tion­al Lev­ant trade fair of the 1920s and ’30s, and a sym­pa­thet­ic sto­ry of the baby who became the leg­endary Carpathi­an Moun­tain rob­ber Dobush.

Nar­ra­tives arrive from many voic­es and range from four-sen­tence, out­line-like prose to pro­fes­sion­al­ly shaped, ready-to-share tales. Some of them may be known to read­ers: the Ethiopi­an woman who seeks the hair from a lion’s mus­tache in order to improve her rela­tion­ship with her hus­band; a bro­ken oath made by a woman res­cued from a well and wit­nessed by a weasel; and the tri­umph of a rid­dle-solv­ing daugh­ter over the stub­born arro­gance of her hus­band, the king. But most will be new to Eng­lish read­ers. Oth­ers, like the Moroc­can ver­sion of Rapun­zel, demon­strate how sto­ries jump across cultures.

Myr­i­ad approach­es to com­men­tary abound in the essays. These include Esther Scheely-Newman’s fem­i­nist analy­sis of the pos­i­tive female pro­tag­o­nist in “Mother’s Gift Is Bet­ter Than Father’s Gift” and Penin­nah Schram’s dis­cus­sion of the place of rid­dles in Jew­ish oral tra­di­tion in “The King and the Old Wood­cut­ter.” Oth­er schol­ars have ana­lyzed the tales they chose by their deep struc­ture and psy­chic impli­ca­tions. Many explain cus­toms, geo­graph­i­cal locales, and sto­ry sources. Some read more smooth­ly in Eng­lish than oth­ers. Exten­sive bib­li­ogra­phies and notes sup­port their interpretations.

In the sim­ple sto­ry of a Pol­ish immigrant’s encounter with a snake across the thresh­old of his rur­al set­tle­ment house, the recent direc­tor finds a uni­ver­sal truth about how resource­ful new­com­ers make use of what­ev­er is at hand to come to terms with their new worlds by turn­ing “chaos into cos­mos.” In the sim­ple sto­ry of a Pol­ish immigrant’s encounter with a snake across the thresh­old of his rur­al set­tle­ment house, the recent direc­tor finds uni­ver­sal truth about how resource­ful new­com­ers make use of what­ev­er is at hand to come to terms with their new worlds by turn­ing “chaos into cos­mos.” So it is with The Pow­er of a Tale itself. The mul­ti­tude of voic­es here tell, present, and ana­lyze fifty years of sto­ries from var­i­ous per­spec­tives. From “chaos into cos­mos”— the col­lec­tion chal­lenges and excites, bring­ing the read­er to a new home.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she has been help­ing stu­dents vis­it­ing 826 Valen­cia loca­tions around the city to write sto­ries and poems and get­ting adults up and retelling Jew­ish folk­tales to share with their own spin. 

The Power of a Tale
Stories from the Israel Folktale Archives
Edited by Haya Bar-Itzhak and Idit Pintel-Ginsberg
Here is the link to ORDERING this NEW IFA Book:

Also available on Amazon 


Friday, June 26, 2020

Jewish Storytelling at newCAJE 2020 !

Jewish Storytelling at newCAJE 2020 ! 
Schedule now available!

NewCAJE, the annual Jewish Educators’ conference, invites you to the annual conference, including the first ever ReJEWvenating Storytelling Initiative, on ZOOM. Created and funded by Storyteller, Author and Educator Cherie Karo Schwartz, this is a series of events within the NewCAJE conference. There is a Storytelling Initiative Two-Year Certification Training program for teachers working with grades 2-5, beginning with a full week Intensive, Storytelling classes offered throughout the full month of the ZOOM conference, and three Story Sunday performance days: JULY 12, 19 and 26. Performers are some of the finest Jewish Storytellers in the country. 

This Storytelling Initiative is in honor of world-renowned Storyteller and author Peninnah Schram, and in memory of Storytellers Rabbi Janie Grackin and Maggidah Phylis Binik-Thomas. 

Storytelling Initiative Faculty are: Cherie Karo Schwartz, Peninnah Schram, Batya Podos, Cindy Rivka Marshall, Dan Gordon, Renee Brachfeld and Jennifer Zunikoff. They are joined by many other Storytellers for the Storytelling Sundays.

The full conference (including 400 classes on every aspect of Jewish education and entertainment and many sessions on Storytelling), which runs from JULY 6-August 2, is $250.

SPECIAL: There is a special option for signing up just for the 
Three Story Sundays, for only $54 total. see schedule below with links!
TO VIEW entire conference schedule and learn more: 

We really hope that many of you can come experience Jewish Storytelling in
 Story Sundays, or for the entire conference. With shalom and stories,
~Cherie Karo Schwartz

Any questions? Please contact me at or 303.367.8099

Saturday, June 6, 2020

NSN National Storytelling Conference

Cindy reports that the conference has been going on all week and there's a very special program 
Sunday June 7, at 6pm EDT (5pm CDT):

The Israel Storytelling Association will be featured

National Storytelling Network virtual conference has been going on all week. Not too late to register - you get access to recordings for the next  couple of weeks for whatever you register for. Scroll way down at this link to see the programming - it has been amazing. On Sunday 6/7 is an opportunity to hear Israeli storytellers: 
Sunday, June 7:
5:00 pm CST: International Spotlight: Multi-Cultural Stories from Israel
A potpourri of folk tales and personal stories, reflecting the multiple cultural backgrounds that characterize our society. Some stories will sound familiar to listeners in other countries- so it is when stories wander from land to land. Presented by Israel Storytellers Association.
ISA was founded in 2008 with the purpose of gaining recognition and government support for storytelling as a unique art form- complementing but separate from other performing arts. ISA offers its members enrichment workshops and courses, led by local and visiting storytellers. We also sponsor public performances and festivals all around the country.
Tales of the Baal Shem Tov: A Forest, a Fire and a Prayer told by Rinah Sheleff- Host
Sometimes all that’s left is the story.
Born in U.S.A., rinah has lived all her life in Israel. From an Eastern European background, she loves to tell stories like Hassidim, and like the Hasidim, she loves to dance.
A Bridge in Chem told by Sephie Shochat-Beeri
Everyone stumbled on that bridge, but when the rabbi’s hat fell into the water, the elders knew they had to take action!
Teacher of English as a Second Language & instructor of creative movement, Sephie finds ways to include stories in everything she does. Here greatest fan was her mother, Marlene, whose memory she honors with today’s story.
Abu-Katrina the Lazy told by Yoel Shalom Perez
Abu-Katrina was too lazy to work for a living – “I’d rather die than work!” -but he was no match for his clever and desperate wife.
Dr. Yoel Perez, storyteller, folklorist and author, is chairperson of the Israel Storytellers Association. His website is the largest site of folklore & folktales in Hebrew. It includes an international folktale collection of more than 4,000 tales (many have been translated into English.) Yoel is the go-to person for Israeli storytellers looking for a special story on any subject.
Why Worry? told by Sharon Aviv
Some very sound and well-known advice from Ireland takes on a very personal twist with Sharon.
Founder and director of the Gollem Storytelling School (“gollem” in Hebrew means cocoon), Sharon performs and lectures all around the world. She is a great believer in the power of stories to heal and to bring people together.
Is There Anything Stronger than Love? told by Doron Kaynar Kissinger
… The mysterious saga of my family.
Doron is an actor in the theatre of life. He creates personalized ceremonies for couples as they enter marriage, and for mourners as they accompany their loved ones to their final resting place. Doron’s stories range from reminiscences of his parents, who fled Nazi Germany, to personal adventures as a “sabra”– a native-born Israeli.
The Man Who Set Out to Find His Luck told by Hanan Abo Zlaf
A man travels a long distance to ask a wise man about his luck. He is given good advice, but does he take it?
Hanan hails from a Druze village in northern Israel. She discovered her storytelling skills when she spoke about her experience as a survivor of domestic violence. Today Hanan tells folktales to school children, and shares her personal story with women who need to hear it.
How I Became a Storyteller told by Oshik Achinoam
What does a sick nature guide do just before he leads a group of children in survival skills? The solution surprised Oshik; the outcome, even more.
Oshik is a natural-born storyteller, the kind you love to listen to around the campfire. He also teaches survival skills to children and introduces them to the magical world of nature.
“God and the Desert” told by Na’ama Tel-Tsur
The origin of their special relationship.
Storyteller and actor with the Pashut Forest Theatre, which performs in the forest, with the earth as stage and the trees as scenery.
Guy “Zandy” Zandman, Singer-songwriter
We will take a break from the spoken word to hear a song in Hebrew about a wanderer who travels far and wide to seek more and more stories.

Hot off the press! More good news!

Congratulations to 


who was inducted into the

The National Storytelling Network awards the 
Circle of Excellence 

"to artists who are recognized nationally by their peers to be master storytellers who set the standards for excellence and have demonstrated, over a significant period of time, a commitment and dedication to the art of storytelling." 
Mazel Tov, JACKSON!