Tuesday, November 30, 2010

30 Days, 30 Texts:
Shema is For Real:
A Book on Prayer and Other Tangents


"In case of fire, throw this book in…"

So begins a religious school text book that was as revolutionary as the internet and social media are today. Joel Grishaver developed this book as graduate student at the University of Chicago, as a counselor at Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI and as a the youth group advisor at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Il. 

I was a camper in Wisconsin and a junior youth grouper and religious school student at a neighboring congregation.
Shema is For Real: A Book on Prayer and Other Tangents was transformative. It said that we could have experiential learning and out of the box thinking at Sunday school. It said that Jewish learning could be fun and engaging, even if you got the next best teacher. It told us there were more interesting people than the Stickmans.

This is the book that launched (several years later) Torah Aura Productions and challenged all Jewish book publishers to raise their game. And it challenged teachers and synagogue educators to make us think about prayer, not just learn the words. It taught us that the prayers could mean something to us, and that the way they were organized in the service had a larger meaning. 

And when we got to play the Prayer Book Board Game (at camp, at temple, and at NSCI with Joel)—wow! Our opinions and ideas were connected to the prayers and became one. I still think about James Brown shouting “Let me hear you say Yeh!” when I rise for the Barchu. Thank you, Joel, for thinking this way. And thank you Jerry Kaye, director of Olin Sang Ruby for publishing it and Debbie Friedman’s Sing Unto God.


Cross posted at JESNA's site


This essay series is co-sponsored by:
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