What is Jewish Creativity?

The Tasman Center for Jewish Creativity has been a long time in the making. It is center without walls and offers in-person and online resources for those seeking meaningful, accessible, and personalized Jewish learning, spiritual coaching and rabbinic support. The Tasman Center incorporates various modalities of expression and engagement with Jewish practice and creative expression, including writing, visual art, mixed-media art, meditation, yoga, poetry, rabbinic and modern texts and participant offerings.

Programs include: classes, workshops, retreats shabbat and holiday gatherings, and women's wellness groups.

Private services are offered for rabbinic counseling, spiritual direction, couples coaching, visioning for partnership/family life, building an inclusive Jewish home, marking life transitions and officiating life cycle events.

What is Jewish Creativity?

I first learned the phrase Jewish Creativity as a rabbinical student at Hebrew College nearly a decade ago, when the school was redesigning it's mission statement. One of the values in the Hebrew College mission statement is called Yetzira: Fostering Jewish Creativity and it is defined as follows:

Judaism, at its best, is a creative, intellectual and spiritual encounter among the individual, the community and the received tradition. Hebrew College encourages and empowers learners to see themselves as both inheritors and innovators — active participants in the unfolding story of the Jewish people. We embrace music, literature and the visual and performing arts as sources of inspiration and as vital modes of Jewish discovery and expression.

Jewish creativity was also explained to us as a counter part or alternative to the phrase "Jewish continuity" which is at the core of so many Jewish organizations, institutions and congregations. That phrase, however, is often used from a place of concern or fear that the Jewish people is shrinking in numbers, that less and less couples and families are joining synagogues or donating to Jewish communal organizations and that more and more Jews are marrying individuals from other faiths and backgrounds. In contrast, the phrase "Jewish creativity" is one born out of place of abundance rather than crisis. It is a phrase that sees that the Jewish people has always having been a diverse group and that the diversity of Jewish practice, liturgy, observance, areas of interest and expression is not only positive but that is Judaism at it's best. Jewish creativity is what has allowed Judaism to continue throughout history, time and space. It is this legacy of richness that sees Jewish practice and the Jewish community as vibrant and what will allow it to Judaism to flourish.

It is from this place of Jewish creativity from which I was ordained and the lens through which I view the world of Jewish learning and practice. It is design thinking and a growth mind-set. It's how I approach teaching, officiating, ritual creation, providing rabbinic guidance, and building inclusive Jewish community.

While Jewish tradition often looks to Moses as the model of rabbinic leadership, my vision of spiritual and communal leadership is inspired by Bezalel, the great artist and architect in the Torah (Hebrew Bible). I first dreamed of forming my own Jewish spiritual educational gathering space many years ago when reading the Torah about the building of the mishkan, the tabernacle in the desert, that served as the holy ritual space for the Israelites. The text teaches that the Bezalel, who was endowed with chochmat lev (literally wisdom of the heart but translated here as skill in all manner of craft), oversaw the project which was unique in that every person helped build it from a place of voluntarily contributing gifts from their own chochmat lev (meaning their own special skills and talents). I love that the Torah, and Judaism by extension, uses the phrase wisdom of the heart to mean unique skill and craft.

Each persons individual way of expressing themselves through what they make is inextricably linked to the heart, the ancient seat of wisdom and intuition. We have many models for leadership, institutions and communities. But this is the one that inspires me the most.

My vision is to guide and support others to discover their own chochmat lev, creativity and connection, their own unique way of expressing themselves, and their own special way of finding meaning in Jewish practice. Through our offerings and services, The Tasman Center for Jewish Creativity aims to nourish the chochmat lev in each person. And in doing so, help our participants and community members live more integrated, inspired, and meaningful lives.

~Rabbi Sarah Tasman, August 2018 / Elul 5778