Jewish Storytelling Coalition

Saturday, February 10, 2018

News from our Judith Black !

Judith's taken on an additional role in her storied storytelling career. Congratulations, Judith!! Here's her message to all:

Would you like to learn and tell stories while deepening your spiritual practice?  MAGGID-EDUCATOR TRAINING is a unique, powerful, and eminently useful training for educators, rabbis, cantors, gabbais, and anyone in the community who wants to deepen their spiritual connection to mitzvot, text, curriculum, and tikun olam through story and storytelling. 

The Maggid-Educator Training Program of the Institute for Jewish Spiritual Education, reclaims the traditional role of maggid as a master educator who inspires and guides the Jewish journeys of students of all ages.  Trainees in a two or three year program become professional sacred storytellers who educate and guide.  Peninnah Schram, an original faculty member, has stepped into new roles and Judith Black, along with Cherie Karo Schwartz are now the storytelling faculty among a brilliant community of creative artists, religious educators, and spiritual practitioners.

For more information about this program:  914-500-5696

and that's not all....check out Judith's exceptional TED talk. She's invited us to view:

When you have 17 minutes to contemplate how storytelling and the fate of our planet as a host for our species are intertwined, go and view Judith Black’s TED Talk:  

Storytelling and Climate Disruption: An Antidote To Despair

Friday, January 5, 2018

JSC Member Susan Stone shares her recent experience in Lublin, Poland. Thanks, Susan!

Justice Speaks:  Bringing Jewish Stories Back to Poland
By Susan Stone
 I felt no peace really.   How could there be a feeling of peace?  On that soil?
 The joy I felt being asked to participate in the storytelling festival in Poland was constantly interrupted by murmurings in the cobblestones; by vibrations in the old facades:  "We were here…we lived",  the old stones said.  “Say Kaddish for us.  There is no one else left to say it.”
  was invited to perform at a storytelling festival in Lublin, Poland, June, 2017,  at an amazing theatre/museum called TeatreNN  Grodzka Gate  .My program, "Bringing the Stories Home:  Jewish Tales From Poland" was translated from English into Polish  on a screen.  This is  a whole museum/theatre dedicated to stories. The entrance to the TeatreNN is at the Grodzka Gate, the Jewish gate.  On the other side,  the Jewish quarter (now parking lots ) of Lublin, over 30,000 Jews before WWII; a famous Yeshiva.
 There were storytellers from Italy, France, Poland and Spain...and me.  We shared stories in the theatre for four nights.   My stories, literary and from the Chasidic, and folkloric tradition, also included  stories about my experiences traveling around three years prior with a driver, visiting  the towns mentioned in  the stories.  It was important to me to make these Jewish-empty places vital—living, if only for a moment. I would say,  “Here is a story of the Seer of Lublin, buried just a mile from here”.  Or, “In Chelm, about 90 minutes from here, there lived…..”.
 What stories would resonate with a Polish audience. Would my choices (for over an hour’s worth of tales) be too esoteric? Too spiritual?  Too political?  Would  the audience respond to a Holocaust story with feelings of guilt, and stop listening with open hearts? 
 Almost every story I told was from a town close to Lublin.  When I said the Yiddish name of a town I always told  the  modern Polish equivalent  so my audience would feel the proximity of the perished world. It was important to me to say, through my tales, “Jews lived here.  Here are stories of wise rabbis; of compassion, generosity, and mysticism. This is what Yiddish sounds like.   Look what Poland lost; look what the world lost.  Remember…but open your hearts to the messages, sent through time and space from a forgotten world..

.I wanted my stories to be filled with ways in which we have to make the world a better place through tales of  lovingkindness, and self reflection; This plan, I hoped, would not only entertain (for of course without this  who will even listen?) but inspire listeners to go out and practice tikkun olam (repair of the world).
 All of you reading this are activists in some way…through  community work or just by bringing joy, laughter,  and understanding into the world through performance. But in the end each of us can bring about repair in the world while still  looking towards repair of our own brokenness too.  

The people who started this museum and  those who work there,  are not Jewish.I know this work brings them peace.  Because they collect stories, because of their quest for justice, to me they are holy people.  At the front of the museum they have this sign:  
 Decades have passed since the time of the Holocaust.  As after every apocalypse, a few things left: souvenirs, photos, documents.  The only thing we can do, is to look into the vastness of cold history for individual fates and events, and tell their story.

Monday, December 4, 2017


The Israel Folktale Archives (IFA) has just received a magnificent recognition to be included in the "Memory of the World" Register from UNESCO.

Folklorist/Author Yoel Perez writes:
The IFA was recognized by UNESCO as an international tradition site. It is a great honor and a good sign for the future. Here is the link so everyone can read about this well-deserved honor:

The IFA was founded by the distinguished folklorist Dov Noy in 1955 and now has collected over 21,000 folktales from the various ethnic communities in Israel. The IFA is housed at the Haifa University where the folktales are classified according to tale types and motifs. It was the work and passion of Dov Noy, through his creation of these Israel Folktale Archives, that successfully put Jewish folktales on the world folklore map!

 Dov Noy's name and legacy have been blessings for us all. We all wish that Dov could be with us to enjoy this world recognition.

Israel Folktale Archives

Documentary heritage submitted by Israel and recommended for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2017.
The Israel Folktale Archives (IFA), named in honor of its founder Prof. Dov Noy, is a unique, rich collection of more than 21,000 folk tales, based on Jewish oral tradition and Israeli folk narratives, and collected from more than 5,000 narrators from 70 ethnic groups in several languages, with documents dating from 1956 to 1999. The IFA folktale collection capture the essential features of various cultures: including the customs, beliefs, norms and values of Jewish immigrants from around the world, as they were shaped over the hundreds of years spent in the Diaspora, as well as the folk narratives of other ethnic groups currently living in Israel, including Bedouin, Christian, Muslim and Druze, in an attempt to encourage an open dialogue between the diverse cultures and ethnicities in Israel. The collection was completed after the large waves of immigration from Ethiopia and the USSR. Following this period, the digitization process of the collection began, Which includes typing, scanning, indexing the stories and rendering them accessible. In order to transform the collection into an international asset, an archive website was also created, to provide researchers and critics from all over the world with access to the collection. 

Folklorist and Author/Storyteller Barbara Rush writes:

Dov Noy loved people-and he truly believed that every person is his or her own story.  So he set out to collect and preserve them.Today the IFA is a unique and invaluable resource for people worldwide, layman and academic alike, to gain insight into the hearts and minds of the Jewish people,  Because of Prof. Noy's work, the value of story, as a reflection of the human condition, has been established---and will live on.

 Storyteller and Author Cherie Karo Schwartz writes:

The Israel Folktale Archives is the single most important index of stories in the world. The Jewish tales cross boundaries of religion, ethnicity, time and place to form an ageless, timeless treasure trove of tales. The stories are an invaluable resource for storytellers, educators, rabbis, and anyone working with the diverse Jewish worldwide cultures. By the careful cross-referencing of tale types and motifs, they form a unique and enriching bridge to all of the cultures and places in which the People of the Book (The People of the Story!) have lived and shared stories. I am blessed by and rely upon these stories for inspiration, source material, and tales to tell with audiences of all ages and backgrounds, as do storytellers worldwide.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Doug Lipman receives the 
NSN Lifetime Achievement Award!

Congratulations!! We share your nachus.  
May you go from strength to strength!

In case you missed the NSN Conference this summer, here's an opportunity to view the video and read the acceptance speech. We are so proud of our JSC members!!
Peninnah's letter of gratitude

October 24, 2017

My dear wonderful storytellers-friends with whom I am heart-dancing,

Let me tell you a story: Once three devoted students were observing their great scholar-rabbi deep in study. Each student tried to outdo his friends by offering flattering boasts and praises about the rabbi's virtues as a scholar like Akiva, as a patient man like Hillel, and as a generous man always with an open hand.
        Slowly, the rabbi lifted his head and asked his students, "And from my modesty you say nothing?"

That's how I felt after reading all your magnificent and creative letters in support of my receiving the NSN 2017 "Oracle Talking Leaves Award". As you know, Anne was not only the head of this Award Committee, but also initiated the idea of compiling a treasured gift for me by soliciting Letters of Congratulations from so many of my dear friends in our Storytelling world! Anne, thank you for the idea and taking the time and attention to send me this loose-leaf binder with all of these letters, including the splendiferous Nomination Letter by Caren Neile and the splendid Letters of Support! I am not exaggerating!

To tell you the truth, when this book first arrived in the mail, I was totally shocked/surprised since not one of you let me 'in' on this secret gift. Really!!!! Did you not even whisper it to a blade of grass that might have reached me - even from the sidewalks of NYC?

Then when I started reading the letters, I couldn't do it except for skimming them. It was all too exciting - as my heart started doing the jive beat - and I felt the praise was so magnified that I couldn't find what you wrote to be credible to myself. My head grew bigger and soon I had to spend a lot of money on a 'new enlarged hat'. Really! And I had to put the book away on a side table.

A few weeks passed - and then I "screwed my courage to the wall" (is that a correct quote?) and - if I were a drinking person I would have had a few shots of scotch first - and opened the book while I sat comfortably at the table and took a big slow breath. Of course, I wanted to read these letters that all of you had written so lovingly, so thoughtfully and so beautifully! I found that each letter is a gem - perhaps I can say a "pearl" (since Peninnah means "pearl" in Hebrew). As I read through the book slowly and mindfully, I wept with gratitude and laughed with joy! I spoke aloud to each one of you as I read your letter.

Thank You, dear Caren, for thinking to nominate me for this distinguished "Talking Leaves Award"! Thanks to the three Supporters, Dan, Carol and Melissa! Thank you, my heart-friend Cherie for Introducing me at the conference - then shifting to the Acceptance Speech microphone - and reading my Acceptance Speech so expressively - and with good humor! Thank you EVERYONE!

I am blessed to have all of your friendships in my life!

Peninnah receives the 2017 Talking Leaves Award at the NSN Conference in July!

In case you were not able to attend, here are some gems from the conference. 
Below you will find: 
1.Doug Lipman's beautiful tribute to Peninnah that reflects the love of the JSC and so many others.
2.Peninnah's acceptance speech (which was read by Cherie because Peninnah was unable to attend this year's conference...see video.)
3. The link to the video that was taken of the event itself. 
(Wonderful!! Thank you Doug and Pam)

To Peninnah: A tribute story about a Wise Woman by Doug Lipman

Long ago and far away, in a humble village, there lived a wise woman.

She was an artist, but was also wise enough to know that, as important as art is, artists are even more important - for without artists, art dwells only among the dead. So she nurtured other artists the way a river nurtures a valley.

She was a teacher, but was also artist enough to know that the teacher cannot shape another's art - only welcome it. So she encouraged her students to honor each others’ work.

She was a writer, but was also teacher enough to know that she did not own her writings, only borrowed them from the future. So she encouraged others to tell her stories in their own ways.

She was a storyteller, but was also writer enough to preserve living words as flat leaves, that they might live beyond the valley in which they were first spoken. So she encouraged her stories to jump back and forth from mouth to page and back again.

She was a leader, but was also storyteller enough to know that the leader's job wasn't to tell all the stories, but to inspire those around her to tell their own.

She was humble, but was also leader enough to know that heartfelt praise gains its force from the hearts of those giving it.

She was wise, but was also humble enough to allow others the blessing of praising her. So when others praised her, she turned the praise back at them.

She was our mother, but she was also artist enough to praise even us, her children, with words of gold.

Accepting on Peninnah’s behalf is Cherie Karo Schwartz

Folklorist Richard Chase has written about oral storytelling that, “you need to lift the words off the page in order to make them go right.” On the obverse side, the challenge is to write the folktales found in the oral tradition onto the page in a way that makes it possible to be “lifted off the page” so they can be spoken “trippingly on the tongue”.

When I first began retelling-in-writing Jewish folktales, several publishers rejected them because they were written in an “oral style.” In 1995, the Editor-in-Chief at Jason Aronson Publishing, Arthur Kurzweil, proposed that I compile an anthology of Jewish folktales in my voice. My response was, “I’ve already started.” Two years later, my first anthology, Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another, was published. I am grateful to Arthur Kurzweil for offering me that opportunity to become a storyteller-in-print.

During the process of creating this book, I wanted to add a “Story-behind-the-Story” before each of the 65 stories. This page or two would include the sources, tale type and motifs, background about the story, and what, if anything, I changed or added to the story. However, my editor suggested I place this commentary as EndNotes. I insisted that, as a storyteller, I needed to put each story into a context and he agreed. In fact, many reviewers and readers highlighted the value of having such commentaries as introductions to the stories.

Writing a book of folktales is not solo work. Rather, as I was writing the stories, I would be telling them to myself in a voice that I could hear so that the orality of the tales was retained (with some compromises to the printed page).

I must acknowledge two other people who have been great friends and mentors encouraging me and sharing their wealth of knowledge and wisdom about Jewish folklore. The first is the Dean of Jewish Folklore, Professor Dov Noy. Dov Noy’s Doctoral Dissertation under Professor Stith Thompson put Jewish Folktales on the World Folklore Map! Dov Noy founded the Israel Folktale Archives in 1955 and this major treasure, now at the University of Haifa, has collected over 35,000 Jewish folktales from the various ethnic communities in Israel. I include many tales found in the Israel Folktale Archives in my 14 books, always with citations.

I want to also recognize Folklorist-Author Howard Schwartz for his generosity of heart in encouraging me in my storytelling – both oral and written - and sharing his vast knowledge and wisdom with me.

Reading this Acceptance Speech on my behalf has been my dear friend for about 30 years: Storyteller and Author Cherie Karo Schwartz with whom I have shared many programs, both in teaching storytelling workshops and as part of performance events. We often ‘talk story’ and brainstorm ideas for teaching and telling stories. I am grateful to have Cherie – along with Arthur Kurzweil, Dov Noy and Howard Schwartz – as we journey through a storytelling life.

I am sorry I cannot be here in person to give my personal thanks to the Committee of the Talking Leaves Award and to all of you in the NSN!

I bless you that you continue to tell and write the stories you share as you journey through a storytelling life! In our lives today, we need a tsunami of stories that will ripple out into the world to create a healthier world of love, hope, kindness, laughter and peace!

Links to the videos :