National Spotlight: Bec Richman

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Fifty-five (soon to be 70) individuals from all over the country (and Israel and Canada) have participated in JSP’s Studio Immersive, diving deep into Jewish inquiry and creative process at our home studio in Berkeley, CA. We are blown away by how folks are bringing this work home with them.

Since attending the Fall 2018 Studio Immersive, Bec Richman has integrated the Jewish Studio Process into her life on many different levels, including her spiritual leadership work, her close relationships and as a practice to navigate our uncertain world.

Take yourself back to the Immersive. How did you feel while you were in the Studio?

I felt alive, activated, engaged, creative, smart, capable, Jewish, in touch, sensitive, so excited and really, really energized.

You attended the Immersive in October 2018. What have you noticed about the way the experience has impacted you over time?

Right away, the Immersive opened me up to spiritual practice in a new way. I experienced singing, and the combination of singing with Torah learning and creative process, as as a form a prayer. The Immersive strengthened my love of Torah and thirst for learning more Torah, and it gave me confidence and comfort in playing with materials. I really took to heart the message of play.

How has the Immersive affected you on a personal level?

Attending the Immersive with my mom was transformative for me. We continue to talk about our experience at the Immersive, how it impacted each of us and how our learning is coming up in our respective lives. Coming together opened up a new way for us to connect with each other. Our relationship feels different - I feel closer to her in our Jewishness and we have new, shared language about engaging with Torah and life through creative practice. I was also at the Immersive while I was about to have a baby, and all of that came through powerfully in my creative process.

How are you bringing this practice into your work as a future Rabbi?

Right now, I am working on building a beit midrash in Philadelphia, called Koleinu Beit Midrash. It’s mostly housed at Germantown Jewish Centre in Mt. Airy, but we’re also creating gathering spaces off-site, experimenting with a beit midrash without walls kind of model. I am spending this year exploring different methods of Torah learning and creative-based learning.  Attending the Immersive made it feel so much more possible to incorporate creative process into Koleinu Beit Midrash. It feels exciting to be developing visions of what creative process-based learning looks like in Philly. The Studio in Berkeley doesn’t feel like something I just visited - it feels like a process and network that I’ve tapped into, which has allowed me to build the legs for the learning community I am hoping to create.

What else did you find unique and powerful about this work?

It was new for me to not be so focused on making a “thing” when working with art materials. It felt like a practice of being “unfinished.” I experienced how creating is an ongoing process. This knocked down the utilitarian drive to create something “useful” and got me into a process- and presence-oriented space. I also think it is unique that we were in a beit midrash learning text not just to learn that text, but to really learn about our lives and let ourselves and our own questions come into the learning.

Why, in this moment in time, are these practices so important in the world?

I have observed my peers yearning for spiritual, creative, and intellectual homes, and this work offers a way to combine all of those in one place. Additionally, In a time when our world feels so broken, it can be healing, empowering, and resilience-building to create. To do something tactile with our hands, and really embody that value of “what else could this be”? To say, “Wow, there is a mess here - what else could this mess be?”. To practice this with materials makes it feel more possible to make actual change. It is a powerful reminder that mess can be transformed."

Creative process can be immensely powerful in shaping the way we understand the world around us. What is beautiful about this work is it matches the call to explore and ask and swim in the waters of questions without always needing to find the answer.

Bec is a Wexner Graduate Fellow in her final year at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in July 2019, Bec will become the Assistant Rabbi and Beit Midrash Director at Germantown Jewish Centre.

Jeff Kasowitz