By Rabbi Adina Allen
On Passover we are commanded to see ourselves as the lead character in a drama that is unfolding in real time. As Mishnah Pesachim teaches: in every generation you are to see yourself as if you personally are going out of Egypt (10:5). Driving this point home, we are warned in the Haggadah via the example of the “wicked” child. The “wicked” child, we are told, is the one who asks, “What does this ritual mean to you?” To you and not to me, the Haggadah explains. This child takes himself out of the communal responsibility of the holiday, acting as if this story does not relate to him.
On Passover we admonish the “wicked” child for placing himself outside the experience. What he needs - what we all need - is a personal pathway in. We all require a way to read ourselves into our sacred stories.
The Jewish Studio Project was founded on the belief that when the fullness of each of our lives is brought as an unique lens on text, we add vital insights, images and questions that never before existed. Within these new interpretations lie the seeds of liberation.
The method we teach and facilitate at the Studio and around the country was created to boldly draw forth and make central the unique life experience of each of us. Weaving together traditional beit midrash learning with practices from the world of expressive art therapy, our approach allows those who engage in it to access and activate our diverse ways of knowing. By bringing our intuition, emotion and imagination together with our intellect we invite the entirety of who we are into the interpretive process. This method, the Jewish Studio Process, offers a pathway to a deeply personal encounter with text, with self, and with the Divine. When we bring our creativity to our tradition, we liberate the text from how it has always been understood, and ourselves from the stories we have always told.
In our Exodus from Egypt, we are not redeemed alone. In the words of modern day activist and artist Lilla Watson, “your liberation is bound up with mine”. Freedom blossoms when we imagine a reality beyond violence, trauma and oppression. In our experience practicing and facilitating the Jewish Studio Process over the last three years, we are continually amazed by how it allows those who use it to inhabit and transform the narrowness of our own personal stories. In so doing, we widen the possibilities for everyone and shift the communal story that holds us all.
Each time we allow our ancient stories to percolate through all of who we are, we liberate ourselves, each other and Judaism itself. In this way, we continually make our way out of Egypt. Each of us, together.