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
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
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.
PENINNAH SCHRAM’S ACCEPTANCE OF TALKING LEAVES AWARD
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
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!