problematic way — and then analyze and examine their own personal and professional
strategies about how it might be addressed.
I suggest to the student that examples of
such artifacts3 could include: photos of
Halloween books featured in a religious school
or Jewish day school, a “Miriam’s breast
pump” as a Jewish ritual object, the canine ritual of “bark mitzvah,” an article in New Voices
magazine that extols the virtues of intermarried clergy, the text of a blessing offered to all
the non-Jewish spouses in a congregation during High Holiday services by the senior rabbi,
or a You Tube excerpt of Rabbi Funnye Capers
leading his African-American congregation in
Shabbat services in Chicago. Along with a tangible version of the chosen artifact, the students should bring to class responses to these
● What are the advertent and/or inadvertent
purposes (religious, physical, sociological)
of the artifact?
● What boundaries does it push? How, for
whom, and why?
● What questions, feelings, and dilemmas
does this artifact raise personally for the
● How do the concepts of scholars Stuart
Charmé4 and Shaul Kelner5 influence your
understanding of the artifact? Where do
you draw the boundaries, and how might
you communicate this stance to a group
of congregants, learners, campers, or
After examining the artifacts, we invite a Jewish
historian and a feminist theologian to offer crit-
ical responses to the students’ treatments of the
artifacts. The discussion — among students,
respondents, and other faculty guests — is
charged and stimulating. One of our respon-
dents probed the difference between “inau-
thentic” and “kitsch,” and all present became
the main characters in an ongoing dramatic
story. Indeed, reflecting on the session the next
day, one student reported feeling “both frus-
trated and appreciative of the lack of definitive
answers.” Rather than resolve, each genera-
tion’s leaders must accept their authorial power
and write new culture responsibly — that is
connected to our rich and varied past.
Bringing together a myriad of voices and experiences provides Sh’ma readers with an
opportunity in a few very full pages to explore a topic of Jewish interest from a variety
of perspectives. To facilitate a fuller discussion of these ideas, we offer the following
1. For you, what is the greatest Jewish story?
2. What role has the Exodus story played in our development as a people?
3. Why does telling a story help the process of healing?
4. How might you tell the Pesach story differently this year?
3 One can find the list of the
artifacts that students selected and
analyzed at www.shma.com.
4 Charmé, Stuart. “Varieties of
Authenticity in Contemporary
Jewish Identity.” Jewish Social
Studies. Pp. 133-155.
5 Kelner, Shaul. “Birthright and
Creating of Ritual.” pp. 1-3. And,
Kelner, Shaul. (2001) “Authentic
Sights and Authentic Narratives on
Taglit.” Paper presented at the 33rd
annual meeting of the Association
for Jewish Studies in Washington,
D.C. on December 16, 2001.