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About the Artists

Drisha’s Arts Fellowship ran from 2006 to 2014. Click here for information on the Fellowship.

Drisha launched the Arts Fellowships Initiative in the fall of 2006 attracting eight women artists – writers and poets, a musician, an actress, a dancer, and an arts educator and calligrapher – to develop skills to interpret classical Jewish texts.

“We’re committed to providing equal access to the study of classical Jewish texts,” said Rabbi David Silber, founder and dean of Drisha Institute. “The arts fellowships further extend the learning opportunities to the arts community, and deepen the knowledge base in Jewish education and leadership.”

With the help of a tuition waiver and funding, artists such as calligrapher and arts educator, Barbara Ashkenas, are taking time off from busy schedules to strengthen their knowledge of Judaism, to nourish their spiritual lives, and to develop their craft. Barbara Ashkenas has written:

“Being a member of the Drisha Arts Fellowships Initiative has been an amazing educational experience. I have been privileged to attend classes in Biblical Hebrew, Parshat HaShavua, two Talmud courses week, a weekly Halacha class on organ donation , two Tanach courses—Shmuel I and Exodus—Mishpatim and a Parshanut class on the Joseph narrative.The quality of the learning has been exceptional. Biblical Hebrew, taught by Rabbi Yitzhak Berger, has come alive through Berger’s wit and creative memory devices that help us remember grammatical rules. He also incorporates readings from the Parsha and The Book of Esther enriching our textual learning experience.What has really been an important part of the experience is the interactions with my fellow students. I find it interesting and exciting to be in an environment that allows me to study with people from different backgrounds, ages and stages of life.”

Basya Schechter, musician and composer and the band leader of Pharaoh’s Daughter, recently wrote:

“Learning at Drisha has given me access to texts and ways of approaching meaning and commentary that translates into working with my musical projects. One of my projects includes songs about marginal Biblical women, such as Hagar and Tamar, and integrating commentaries into the compositions. A second project involves composing hip-hop music around Biblical texts and collaborating with rappers, who will give new and time-relevant commentary and scenarios to these words. The last project is ethno-musicological, bringing the messages of Pirkei Avot—in the form of a collage of Talmudic style conversations from various cultures—to different ethnic communities as a way of finding moral commonalities.“

Drisha artists such as Mara Friedman are role models for those in the Jewish community who may struggle to blend a love of Judaism with a passion for the arts. Mara, a dancer and educator, has said:

“The most important thing that I have found at Drisha is the supportive community. Everyone seems very interested in the work of the artists and in finding ways to make connections between the texts that we learn at Drisha and art, more specifically (in my case) dance.  With the help and enthusiasm from my peers, I decided to make a dance curriculum connecting movement and prayer. I will begin by teaching a lesson with a Drisha student from the Scholars Circle program to high school students this winter.”

Mara teaches regular dance classes to children at a number of Upper West Side synagogues and has developed an educational Jewish movement program, Wiggling Book Worms, that has achieved great success and is widely praised (www.wigglingbookworms.com).

Many of the artists who study at Drisha are already serious practitioners of their particular craft, motivated, and accomplished. They are beginning to make an impact on the arts world. Drisha Arts Fellow, poet and essayist, Eve Grubin, author of the book of poems,Morning Prayer (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2005), wrote:

“Following the publication of Morning Prayer, I gave readings at several venues including the Folger Shakespeare Library, Auburn Theological Seminary, Barnard College, and NYU. I was able to discuss the Jewish textual issues that inform my writing with genuine fluency. I would not have been able to speak with such confidence about Jewish subjects if it were not for my learning at Drisha. I am looking forward to growing even more from the intellectual and spiritual nourishment that Drisha provides and, in turn, I hope to nourish the Jewish community and the larger world with what I am learning at Drisha.”

 

2006-7

Barbara Ashkenas has a BS in Elementary Education from Ohio State University and an MAT in Art Education from Manhattanville College. She was an adjunct professor at Housatonic Community College and was educational outreach coordinator at the Stamford Center for the Arts. An art educator and calligrapher, she has taught at SAR High School in Riverdale, at Jewish summer camps and at adult workshops. She created the “Learning for Peace” program at Congregation Agudath Sholom with Rabbi Daniel Cohen to promote peace through Jewish study.

Mara Friedman has a BA from the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University in Modern Jewish Studies and Creative Writing and Literature. She also has an MS from Pace University in Teaching. She taught dance in public schools for three years, and she has worked as a Hebrew school teacher at the Sutton Place Synagogue, and founded the Wiggling Bookworms, a dance and creative movement program for children.

Eve Grubin has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College in poetry. She teaches poetry at The New School and at the City College of New York, and she will be The Marvin and Edward Kaplan Lecturer in Jewish Studies at City College in the spring of 2007. Her book of poems, Morning Prayer, was published by The Sheep Meadow Press in 2005.

Deborah Jaffe has a BA in English Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University and an MFA in Acting from The Actor’s Studio Drama School at The New School. She has acted off-Broadway with the Pearl Theatre Company and the Abingdon Theatre Company (where she is a member), and in several other theatres in New York City. She works at the Teva Learning Center, has taught Hebrew School, and tutors Bar/Bat Mitzvah students. She is currently working on a one-woman show about the Bar/Bat mitzvah tutoring experience.

Janet R. Kirchheimer has a BS from Central Connecticut State College. A poet and essayist, her work has appeared in Potomac Review, Lilith, Main Street, and Natural Bridge, among other publications. She is completing a poetry manuscript about her family and the Holocaust, and she was a finalist in the Portlandia and the Concrete Wolf Chapbook contests. She is Director of Community Development and Assistant to the President of CLAL. Janet leads the Poetry Shmooze at The Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, and teaches adults and teens at various synagogues using Jewish texts and creative writing exercises.

Adrienne Query has a BA in English and an MFA in poetry from Chatham College. She is the recipient of the Beatrice Lewis Award for Creative Writing and the Academy of American Poets’ Walt Whitman Award. Her chapbook, After Eden, was released by Zabadou Books in May of 2006. Her undergraduate critical thesis focused on the “new midrash” of contemporary poetry.

Basya Schechter has a BA in English Literature from Barnard College. She is the band leader of Pharaoh’s Daughter. She is a musician at B’nai Jeshurun, and the music teacher at The Brotherhood Synagogue where she also leads the Alef Bet Club. She is collaborating with educator and Sephardic composer, Galeet Dardashti, and visual artist, Siona Bengamin, on a song cycle recording project of compositions about biblical women.

Samantha Shapiro has a BA in Literature and History from Washington University, St. Louis. She was a volunteer for the American Jewish Society for Service, and helped build community centers in Louisiana. She has written for The Forward, Ha’aretz, Slate, The Jerusalem Report, and other publications. She is currently a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, and is working on a book of essays about Sukkot.

 

2007-8

The 2007-8 Drisha Arts Fellows performed and presented their work at the JCC in Manhattan on June 16th, 2008 to a packed audience of 250 people (the event was sold out), and the visual artists displayed their work at the gallery during a reception before and after the event. The performances included poetry, a clip from a film, two solo performances, dance, and music.

The evening began with the thrilling collaboration between musician Basya Schechter, dancer and choreographer Dages Keates, and poet Carly Sachs, who was quoted in The Jewish Week:

“[Poetry] is my form. I’m so concerned with the page, a tiny world not much bigger than a napkin,” she says in light of her recent collaboration with performing artists. “Moses breaks the tablets and the letters fly off; that’s what it’s like to collaborate.” The result is that, from an initial idea, a completely new and different experience is born. The Jewish Week, which published a front page article about the event and the Drisha Arts Fellowships Program, also wrote about Etta Abramson – writer, actor, singer, and arts educator – who is in the advanced learning program at Drisha (the Beit Midrash program) and has deepened her work since she came to Drisha: Etta “is grappling with Jewish texts, finding new meanings in ancient words and stories.”  The article also mentions Etta’s one woman show, which came out of her studies at Drisha: “After months spent learning Gemara and halacha at Drisha Abramson chose as the subject of a new solo performance piece the biblical figure Serach bat Asher.” Etta is now teaching cantillation at Drisha, Chumash at Beit Raban, interpretation of Jewish texts through Drama at BIMA, and is continuing to develop and perform her one-woman show on Serach.

The Jewish Week also wrote about arts fellow Laura Wiessen:

For documentary filmmaker Laura Wiessen, whose new film focuses on converts to Judaism, her study at Drisha helped provide a deeper understanding of the conversion process. The lesson she learned from those making the long journey to a Jewish life, she says, is that “each person has the right to read the text and argue with it, struggle with it.” Wiessen is now working on how to weave Jewish text into the film; it will certainly be found in accompanying educational materials, she said. The Drisha Arts Fellowships Program helped nurture the dancer Anna Schon both Jewishly and professionally; Anna was the focus of a piece in The Forward in July, 2008:

One of this year’s arts fellows at Drisha, a Torah study center for women that is located on New York’s City’s Upper West Side, is a 23-year-old Barnard College graduate named Anna Schon. As a product of the Modern Orthodox day schools, she blends into the student body easily….But when she is not studying the Prophets or the talmudic laws about transactions in the tractate Bava Kama, Schon leads a very different kind of life. She is an active member of four New York dance companies – an unusual profession for an observant Jew, since many performances take place on the Sabbath, and since, according to the laws of tsniut (modesty), dancing with or performing before unrelated members of the opposite sex is not permitted. Although Schon struggles with these competing impulses – her passion for dance and her commitment to traditional Judaism – this has not deterred her from embracing both worlds wholeheartedly. The professional lives of visual artists, such as Lia Lynn Rosen and Sonia Gordon-Walinsky, expanded as a result of learning at Drisha. Lia moved to New York City for the year from New Mexico to learn for a year at Drisha. While in New York she presented her work at various venues including at an event hosted by Lilith, the Skirball Center, and JTS. She also brought her learning back to the Jewish community of New Mexico and continues to educate people there. The Jewish Week wrote:

As one of only three visual artists in the Drisha program, Lia Lynn Rosen combines Jewish elements with European and Native American artistic traditions of ceramic art. She also brings a unique perspective as a Jewish woman living in Albuquerque, NM. Her work consists mainly of ritual objects, chanukiot, ceremonial goblets and prayer bowls for anything from a wedding to breast cancer survival, as well as mezuzot and an indigo women’s tallit-poncho. Her Web site, ClayKodesh.com, is “making a holy place for the visual, ceremonial arts,” Rosen said. “My work is more about the ceremonial, the practice and prayer, tradition than halacha.” Rosen’s work is also creating “grounded-ness” for Judaism. “This is a way to say we have a corporeal culture that’s going to last,” she said. “Living in the Southwest, the people who made pottery stayed in one place, creating. Now it’s as if we have a landed past.” Rosen sees herself as continuing the long Jewish tradition of “taking from where I live,” adding Jewish calligraphy to the art methods she observes in her surroundings. As an artist-educator, Rosen will use the knowledge she gained at the Drisha program in her work with students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and even beyond if she is hired as director of education at her local synagogue. “I want to teach what I’ve learned. You can teach Hebrew, Talmud, through the arts,” she said. She sees her work as “keruv [Jewish outreach] through art.” This month, she returns to the East Coast to teach a course about Pueblo pottery at New Jersey’s Montclair Art Museum. One of the most exciting things that have come out of the Drisha Arts Program is the explosive collaborations between students. The Jewish Week wrote that poet Carly Sachs (who moved to New York from DC to attend the Drisha Arts Fellowships Program) worked with two other fellows – dancer and choreographer Dages Keates and composer Basya Schechter – in a work that incorporated passages from the steam sequence [her award winning book of poems] along with music and dance. Last year’s program was so nurturing and successful that eight fellows have returned. (See bios of 2008-9 fellows below).  The Jewish Week wrote: Sachs reports that her experience at Drisha was so moving and helpful to her work that she’s applied to extend the fellowship another year. “It’s not often that you look around the room and see so much talent and energy. “That’s why I want to stay.”

About the Artists

Nancy Abraham is a singer and composer. She teaches Hebrew, Jewish Studies, and cantilation at the Westchester-Fairfield Hebrew Academy and at the Westchester Reform Temple. She is in training to be a cantor with the Renewal Movement. She received a BA from Tufts University in French Studies and an MA in Education from Sarah Lawrence College. She has studied at Cambridge University and at the WUJS Institute in Arad, Israel.

Elana Bell is the recipient of a 2008-2009 Jerome Foundation grant in Literature and was selected as the winner of the 2004 Stephen Dunn Poetry Award. She holds a MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and has been a featured poet at Bar 13, the NuYorican Poets Cafe, Hunter College, Teachers and Writers Collaborative, The Bowery Poetry Club, Cornelia Street Café, the Bronx Council on the Arts’ First Wednesday Series, and at the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies in Simla, India. Her poems have appeared in Words and Images Magazine, Houston Poetry Festival Journal, Parse, Clamor, and Poetz.com. Elana serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters, and sings with the a cappella trio, Saheli. 

Etta Abramson graduated with honors from Toronto’s York University with a BA in Theatre Studies, finishing an undergraduate degree that included one year at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Etta is writing a one-woman show about Serach bat-Asher entitled The Consistency of Flour, which she recently presented as a work in progress at the JCC in Manhattan. Etta is a vocalist and a first-class honors student with the Royal Conservatory of Music. She founded and directed York University’s first Hebrew a cappella choir, Kol Neshama. Etta has worked as an arts educator for the past three summers at BIMA, a Jewish arts program for high school students, where she taught interpretation of Jewish texts through drama.

Lise Brown attended the Berklee School of Music where she was an arranging major and performer on flute and saxophone. She has performed with Celia Cruz, Mongo Santa Maria, and many other luminaries on the Latin music Big Bandemonium, which is a nine piece band featuring her own original tunes and arrangements. She has performed at many music festivals and camps throughout the U.S. including Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Old Songs Folk Festival, Swannanoa Gathering, Pinewoods, and Dance Flurry Festival. Most recently, she has been performing, arranging and writing klezmer and Jewish music. She plays in a traditional format and incorporates Jewish music into contra dance, swing, and Latin music. Her work can be heard on recent recordings including “The Big Bang,” “Between Two Worlds,” and “A Little Shop of Horas.” This is Lise’s second year learning at Drisha as an arts fellow.

Miriam Leah Droz – producer, actor, and singer – has a BA in English and Theater from Barnard College and an MA in Jewish Studies from Touro College. She performed and trained in Pennsylvania in musical theatre, and now creates opportunities for religious Jewish women to perform in the New York area. She is founder and director of ATARA (Torah and the Arts), a professional organization for Torah observant artists.

Amy Gottlieb is a fiction writer and poet. She has a BA from Clark University and an MA in comparative literature from The University of Chicago. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have been published in Lilith, Forward, Puerto del Sol, Other Voices, PresenTense, Nashim, Zeek (forthcoming), and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a 2008 Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO Award for poetry. She was nominated for a GE Foundation Younger Writers Award in fiction and held a residency at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony. She works as director of publications for the Rabbinical Assembly and editorial director of Aviv Press. This is her second year as a Drisha Arts Fellow.

Sarah Heller received her BA from Bard College and her MFA in poetry from NYU. She currently works as the Executive Director of the Authors League Fund. She has work published or forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Pembroke Magazine, RealPoetik, The Temple/El Templo, Thin Air, and Hayloft, and she is on the board of directors of Nightboat Books. She has received fellowships or awards from the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Council for the Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and the Soul Mountain Retreat. She was the recipient of the Nadya Aisenberg Fellowship at the MacDowell Colony for 2005-2006.

Susan Kaplow received a doctorate from Columbia University in history and has taught at Empire State College and The University at Albany. In her thirties, she made a career shift, returning for an MSW at SUNY/Albany. She has been in full-time private practice since 1983. Kaplow is a jewelry maker who has studied with various teachers at the JCC in Manhattan. She works with both metal smithing and glass fusing, creating pieces that include images from Jewish tradition.

Dages Keates is a professional dancer and choreographer. She received her BA in dance from Bard College after attending Interlochen Arts Academy. She has most recently been seen in venues such as Saint Mark’s Church, Construction Company, Dance Across Borders, and Bulldog Studios in works by choreographers Susan Osberg, Noemie Lafrance, and The High Cliff Project, of which she is a founding member. Dages is also a board-certified Holistic Health Counselor (American Association of Drugless Practitioners) and is the founder and director of Delicious Dialogues.

Nicole Raphael received her BA in Theatre from Smith College and her MA from The Actor’s Studio. She is the Artistic Director of The Mesaper Theatre, dedicated to producing Jewish themed plays. As an actor, she has appeared in the independent feature film, House of Women, and has appeared in numerous theatre productions including Glyn Maxwell’s Wolfpit with The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, The New World Theatre Project’s production of Carcass, and Bonnie Culver’s award winning play, Sniper. She played the role of Anne Frank three times (Meadow Brook Theatre, New American Theater, and Penobscot Theatre); Juliet twice (New American Theater and Riverside Shakespeare Festival.); and Alice in You Can’t Take It With You at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre. She spent two summers at The Shadowland Theatre playing in the British farces, Perfect Wedding and What the Butler Saw. She tours in Ellen W. Kaplan’s With Dream Awakened Eyes, a one-woman play about the German Jewish painter, Charlotte Salomon. She was invited as a guest artist at Manhattan Day School where she held the workshop “Anne Frank in Performance” and also ran a theatre club for students at Ramaz Lower School which culminated in “A Shabbos Play”. She is currently in The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre’s production of Gimpl Tam adapted from the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Lia Lynn Rosen is a potter and art educator specializing in custom-made ceremonial clay objects. Her work fuses traditional Jewish aesthetics, ancient pueblo pottery, and evolving women’s rituals. She earned an MA in Art and Art Education at Columbia Teachers College, and she is a licensed K-12 Art teacher and works as a consultant with schools, museums, arts organizations and congregations. She teaches at the Manhattan Jewish Community Center.

Carly Sachs has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University. She has taught creative writing at George Washington University among other places. Her book of poems, the steam sequence won the 2006 Washington Writers’ Publishing House first book prize, and she is the editor of the anthology of poems, the why and later (deep cleveland press, 2007). She is currently at work promoting creative healing and community for those affected by rape and sexual assault. Her poems have recently appeared in nextbook.org andPresentTense. Read Carly’s blog.

Anna Schön has a BA in dance and European History from Barnard College. She also studied African dance in South Africa. Anna is currently dancing with Michel Koukaou and Reggie Wilson, and has danced with Gabri Christa, Danielle Gwirtzman, and Ori Flomin in the past.

Basya Schechter is a Drisha Arts Fellow for the second year in a row. She grew up in Boro Park and received her BA in English Literature from Barnard College. Schechter is the band leader of Pharaoh’s Daughter, which blends a psychedelic sensibility and a pan-Mediterranean sensuality. She leads her band through swirling Hasidic chants, Mizrachi, and Sephardi folk-rock, and spiritual stylings filtered through percussion, flute, strings and electronica. Her sound has been cultivated by her Hasidic music background and a series of trips to the Middle East, Africa, Israel, Egypt, Central Africa, Turkey, Kurdistan and Greece. Pharaoh’s Daughter has toured extensively through the U.S., Eastern and Western Europe, as well as Greece and the United Kingdom, and has had the honor of debuting at Central Park’s Summer Stage series. The band has played on such prestigious stages as Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Over the past two years, she was the recipient of numerous compositional and project grants from the New York State Council of the Arts, American Composers Forum, and the American Music Center. She collaborated with educator and Sephardic composer, Galeet Dardashti, and visual artist, Siona Bengamin, on a song cycle recording project of compositions about biblical women. She is now recording Pharaoh’s Daughter’s fifth album, Hagar.

Joelle Wallach (Fall 2007) grew up in Morocco and now lives in New York City where she composes music for orchestra, chamber ensembles, choruses, solo voices, and instruments. She earned bachelors and masters degrees at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University. Her String Quartet was the American Composers Alliance nominee for a Pulitzer Prize in Music. The New York Philharmonic Ensembles premiered her octet, “From the Forest of Chimneys,” written to celebrate their 10th anniversary; and the New York Choral Society commissioned her secular oratorio, “Toward a Time of Renewal,” to commemorate their 35th Anniversary Season in Carnegie Hall. Wallach’s ballet, “Glancing Below,” a Juilliard Dance Theater showcase production, was commissioned by the Carlisle Project, premiered in Philadelphia, and quickly became part of the repertory of the Hartford Ballet. Her choral work, “On the Beach at Night Alone,” won first prize in the Inter-American Music Awards. The Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with John Corigliano, granted her its first doctorate in composition. She is a pre-concert lecturer for the New York Philharmonic where she speaks on a broad range of musical subjects.

Sonia Gordon-Walinsky is a Judaic artist working in New York City. She creates original ketubot and artistic renderings of blessings, prayers, and verses from Tanakh and other Jewish texts. Her unique artwork is an integral component of life cycle experiences, deepening and enriching the meaning of these events as well as promoting a spiritual process of learning, reflection and growth. She is a graduate of List College, the Joint Program between Columbia University and The Jewish Theological Seminary where she earned a BA in American History and in Jewish literature with a focus on liturgy.

Laura Wiessen is a writer, producer and filmmaker whose work has appeared on such networks as PBS, MSNBC, The History Channel, and Bravo. She has a BA from Wesleyan University, and she earned a Master’s Degree in History from the University of Chicago. She has spent the last two years living in Jerusalem, where she wrote for the Jerusalem Post and Israel21c.org while researching two upcoming documentary projects.

 

2008-9

The end of year presentation for 2008-09, Artists Illuminating Texts, was held at Drisha Institute on Wednesday, June 10, 2009. The majority of works presented were inspired by a text they studied in the Artists’ Beit Midrash this year- Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Ta’anit, about Choni the circle maker.

About the Artists

Etta Abramson graduated with honors from Toronto’s York University with a BA in Theatre Studies, finishing an undergraduate degree that included one year at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Etta is writing a one-woman show about Serach bat-Asher entitled The Consistency of Flour, which she recently presented as a work in progress at the JCC in Manhattan. Etta is a vocalist and a first-class honors student with the Royal Conservatory of Music. She founded and directed York University’s first Hebrew a cappella choir, Kol Neshama. Etta has worked as an arts educator for the past three summers at BIMA, a Jewish arts program for high school students, where she taught interpretation of Jewish texts through drama. Etta teaches Chumash at Beit Rabban and Torah cantillation at Drisha. This is Etta’s second year learning at Drisha as an arts fellow.

Rena Bannett, a visual artist, is a full-time student in the Drisha Scholars’ Circle. She holds degrees in Biochemistry and Physiology from Bar Ilan University and has worked as an educator and consultant in various aspects of education including art, biology, Hebrew language, Judaic studies, and library and research skills. She worked as a media specialist at Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (RPRY) and as a coach for drawing and painting at the Academy of Art of Highland Park. While at RPRY, she developed a library curriculum to complement the students’ classroom learning for both Judaic and General Studies, served as the coordinator of the Binat HaLevCommittee, a grass-roots group dedicated to improving social and emotional intelligence skills in staff and students, as well as developed programs for students to make theme oriented group art. She works with a variety of media: works on paper and canvas including pencil, ink, watercolor, oil and collage, relief type works in paperboard, fabric, ceramic and metal. Rena has also constructed silver jewelry in a variety of Judaic and abstract designs and has a line of silver, button and paper jewelry.

Elana Bell is the recipient of a 2008-2009 Jerome Foundation grant in Literature and was selected as the winner of the 2004 Stephen Dunn Poetry Award. She holds a MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College and has been a featured poet at Bar 13, the NuYorican Poets Cafe, Hunter College, Teachers and Writers Collaborative, The Bowery Poetry Club, Cornelia Street Café, the Bronx Council on the Arts’ First Wednesday Series, and at the Indian Institute for Advanced Studies in Simla, India. Her poems have appeared in Words and Images Magazine, Houston Poetry Festival Journal, Parse, Clamor, and Poetz.com. Elana serves as the writer-in-residence for the Bronx Academy of Letters, and sings with the a cappella trio, Saheli. This is her second year as a Drisha fellow.

Lise Brown attended the Berklee School of Music where she was an arranging major and performer on flute and saxophone. She has performed with Celia Cruz, Mongo Santa Maria, and many other luminaries on the Latin music scene including the Harp Band, an all-women Latin jazz band featuring a concert harp. She is the band leader of Big Bandemonium, which is a nine piece band featuring her own original tunes and arrangements. She has performed at many music festivals and camps throughout the U.S. including Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Old Songs Folk Festival, Swannanoa Gathering, Pinewoods, and Dance Flurry Festival. Most recently, she has been performing, arranging and writing klezmer and Jewish music. She plays in a traditional format and incorporates Jewish music into contra dance, swing, and Latin music. Her work can be heard on recent recordings including “The Big Bang,” “Between Two Worlds,” and “A Little Shop of Horas.” This is Lise’s third year learning at Drisha as an arts fellow.

Miriam Leah Droz – producer, actor, and singer – has a BA in English and Theater from Barnard College and an MA in Jewish Studies from Touro College. She performed and trained in Pennsylvania in musical theatre, and now creates opportunities for religious Jewish women to perform in the New York area. She is founder and director of ATARA (Torah and the Arts), a professional organization for Torah observant artists. This is Miriam Leah’s second year learning at Drisha as an arts fellow.

Nicole Fix is a writer and the founding member of Page 73 Productions, an award winning, New York-based theater company. Nicole received a merit award from Summer Literary Seminars Kenya and is a grant recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her work is forthcoming in Thieves Jargon. She holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is currently writing a short-fiction collection.

Carol Hamoy, a visual artist who works with mixed media and installation, has studied at the Newark School of Fine Art and the Art Students’ League. She uses lace, fabric, ribbons, feathers, thread, beads, photographic images, and other intimate objects arranged in and on boxes, clothing and other containers. Her work has been shown in many group exhibitions and she has had solo exhibitions in numerous galleries including, most recently, the Opalka Gallery, The Jewish Museum of Florida, Hebrew Union College Museum, and the Mizel Museum. She has received grants and fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, the Artists’ Fellowship Inc., the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and other foundations and residencies. She is currently working on a visual arts project called “Valued Above Rubies.”

Carol Kay worked as a learning specialist and educational consultant. She developed a visual/story based program to develop handwriting and phonics skills for kindergarten and first grade children as well as a poetry writing workshop for fourth graders, which she implemented over a 14 year period at four elementary schools. She studied sculpture and painting with Akiba Emanuel for 10 years and sculpture and collage with Leslie Dor for 7 years in addition to taking courses at the Westchester Art Workshop and the Art Students League. She has worked in clay, bronze, stone and mixed media including foam, wax, wood, and found objects from nature. Her work has been shown in a number of group exhibitions.

Dages Keates is a professional dancer and choreographer. She received her BA in dance from Bard College after attending Interlochen Arts Academy. She has most recently been seen in venues such as Saint Mark’s Church, Construction Company, Dance Across Borders, and Bulldog Studios in works by choreographers Susan Osberg, Noemie Lafrance, and The High Cliff Project, of which she is a founding member. Dages is also a board-certified Holistic Health Counselor (American Association of Drugless Practitioners) and is the founder and director of Delicious Dialogues. This is Dages’ second year learning at Drisha as an arts fellow.

Lori Leifer is a vocalist, musician, and composer. She received her BA from the University of Utah and has studied at Medreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jerusalem. She performs regularly at Girls Night On, sings with Nishmat Hatzafon, and is a member of the Nashir Chorale Group and the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Choir. Her repertoire includes a diverse arrangement of songs influenced by Yiddish folk songs, lullabies, and Hebrew liturgical music.

Bronwen Mullin received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2006 with a concentration in Music/Theater and Judaic Studies. Bronwen’s plays “There’s Glass in the Sandbox” and “Tasting the Apple” have appeared in the Philadelphia Fringe Festivals of 2000 and 2001. Bronwen has composed original music for numerous theater pieces, including Axis Mundi (Downstage Theater), Speak Truth to Power (in collaboration with Pan Asian Repetertory director Ernest Abuba), Caryl Churchill’s Fen and Vinegar Thom (Sarah Lawrence College), and The Mary Trilogy (Mir Productions). She is the author of three original One-Act musicals based on the poetry of Shel Silverstein (currently being developed for the New York Fringe Festival 2009). In 2005 Bronwen attended the Conservative Yeshiva of Israel where she studied Midrash and Aggadic literature. She is currently working on projects using theater and music as tools for the psychological exegesis of classical Jewish texts and stories.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is an award-winning journalist, essayist and non-fiction author, as well as a jewelry designer and mother of three. For close to two decades she worked as a reporter at The New York Jewish Weekand Jewish Telegraphic Agency, where she wrote stories on Jewish identity, spirituality and philanthropy. She has also contributed articles to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, The Village Voice and innumerable other Jewish and general publications. She has been recognized as an outstanding journalist eight times with awards from the American Jewish Press Association and the New York Press Association. She also won a grant from the Lilly Endowment to write a series of articles about women in ministry. That series was carried by the New York Times Syndicate and picked up by newspapers around the country. Debra is the author ofCelebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant (Jewish Lights Press). Debra has also contributed to several other books, including those on Jewish ritual and spiritual growth, on explaining Judaism to Christians, and on September 11th, 2001. Debra also designs and creates jewelry, from pearls and semi-precious gems, which she sells at craft fairs.

Nicole Raphael received her BA in Theatre from Smith College and her MA from The Actor’s Studio. She is the Artistic Director of The Mesaper Theatre, dedicated to producing Jewish themed plays. As an actor, she has appeared in the independent feature film, House of Women, and has appeared in numerous theatre productions including Glyn Maxwell’s Wolfpit with The Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, The New World Theatre Project’s production of Carcass, and Bonnie Culver’s award winning play, Sniper. She played the role of Anne Frank three times (Meadow Brook Theatre, New American Theater, and Penobscot Theatre); Juliet twice (New American Theater and Riverside Shakespeare Festival.); and Alice in You Can’t Take It With You at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre. She spent two summers at The Shadowland Theatre playing in the British farces, Perfect Wedding and What the Butler Saw. She tours in Ellen W. Kaplan’s With Dream Awakened Eyes, a one-woman play about the German Jewish painter, Charlotte Salomon. She was invited as a guest artist at Manhattan Day School where she held the workshop “Anne Frank in Performance” and also ran a theatre club for students at Ramaz Lower School which culminated in “A Shabbos Play”. She is currently in The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre’s production of Gimpl Tam adapted from the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer. This is Nicole’s second year learning at Drisha as an arts fellow.

Carly Sachs has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School University. She has taught creative writing at George Washington University among other places. Her book of poems, the steam sequence won the 2006 Washington Writers’ Publishing House first book prize, and she is the editor of the anthology of poems, the why and later (deep cleveland press, 2007). She is currently at work promoting creative healing and community for those affected by rape and sexual assault. Her poems have recently appeared in nextbook.org andPresentTense. Read Carly’s blog.

Tamar Sidi, a dancer, received her degree in dance from Orot Yisrael College in Israel, where she participated in numerous performances, including two solos pieces. She was accepted into the Ministry of Education for Excellence Program in Israel where she taught dance for several years. Also a singer, she often incorporates song into her dance. She has choreographed dances for children as well as adults.

Eliza Slavet (Fall 2008) is a creative non-fiction writer and scholar. She received a BA in English Literature and an MM from Yale and a PhD in Literature from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). She currently teaches at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. In her book, Racial Fever: Freud and the Jewish Question (Fordham University Press, Fall 2009) she explores Freud’s theory of Jewishness as a racial theory of memory, particularly as he developed it in his final book Moses and Monotheism. In her current project, Genealogies of Mosaic Memory, she follows the lead of Freud and many other artists who have creatively re-written the story of Exodus to explore how it may be possible to creatively and responsibly read the Bible, both as literature and as history. In addition, over the last nine years, she has created, re-written and re-edited a Haggadah (which many people call the “Haggadah for the Wicked and the Wandering”).

Heather Stoltz is a visual artist with an MA in Jewish Women’s Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and a BA in Jewish Studies and BS in Mechanical Engineering from Lafayette College. She is a fiber artist whose quilted wall hangings feature themes from classic Jewish texts. She was an Artist-in Residence for the National Havurah Committee in the summer of 2008, where she taught the class “Translating Text into Textile.” Her work has been exhibited at many venues including JOFA’s 10th Anniversary International Conference and the International Quilt Festival in Houston, TX and was also recently featured in Creative Quilting: The Journal Quilt Project and Zeek Magazine.

Samantha Verrone has been designing textiles and printing fabric for over 25 years. She lived in Florence, Italy where she honed her skills in screen-printing, batik, IKAT painting, resist dyeing and special techniques like appliqué and weaving. She also designed and executed two women’s-wear collections: POSTI SACRI (Sacred Places) and PLANET EARTH. Upon returning to the United States, she began painting backgrounds and sets for television and film while continuing to make clothing, accessories and fabrics for home furnishings for private clients. Commissions have included challah covers, Torah mantles, wimples, Megillat Esther scroll covers, matzah bags, tallit/tefillin bags, Simchat Bat and Brit Milah gowns to name a few. Her many Judaic exhibitions have included “Living in the Moment: A Celebration of Jewish Time,” Hebrew Union College, New York and Cincinnati; Judaica Exhibition at the University of Wisconsin Gallery of Design; and UJA Federation Exhibition: Passover. A retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Synagogue for the Arts in Tribeca.

Jaime Wynn is a painter and Jewish educator. She recently completed her MA in education at the American Jewish University where she was also active in family and arts education. Jaime was trained as a community muralist at Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center of San Francsico and has directed and participated in over 40 mural projects in the Bay Area, Israel and Russia. She has studied at Yeshivat Hadar in New York and the WUJS Institute, Arad, Israel.

 

2009-10

The end of year presentation for 2009-10, A Letter Unread, was held at Drisha Institute on Sunday, May 16, 2010. The majority of works presented were inspired by a text they studied in the Artists’ Beit Midrash this year- Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berakhot 55a. Audience members were treated to live performances of musical theater and storytelling, short stories and poetry. They were guided through the classrooms to see exhibits of new art work and listen as artists discussed their work and its relationship to selected texts.

About the Artists

Trisha Arlin received a BA in Theater from Antioch College in 1975 and MFA in Film (Screenwriting) in 1997 from Columbia University School of the Arts.  As a playwright in Seattle in the ‘70s and early eighties, Trisha had readings, workshops and productions at various theaters. In 1984, she moved to New York City, in large part to find her way back to her Jewishness and then to Judaism.  Trisha now works as a freelance writer and editor. In 1998, Trisha found her community, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of our Lives in Brooklyn NY. She edits their journal, VOICES.  From 2003 to 2005, she wrote and performed her one-woman show, THINGS I HAVE BELIEVED IN, directed by Arthur Strimling.

Rena Bannett, a visual artist, is a graduate of the Drisha Scholars Circle and currently studies in Yeshivat Maharat. She holds degrees in Biochemistry and Physiology from Bar Ilan University and has worked as an educator and consultant in various aspects of education including art, biology, Hebrew language, Judaic studies, and library and research skills. She worked as a media specialist at Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (RPRY) and as a coach for drawing and painting at the Academy of Art of Highland Park. While at RPRY, she developed a library curriculum to complement the students’ classroom learning for both Judaic and General Studies, served as the coordinator of the Binat HaLev Committee, a grass-roots group dedicated to improving social and emotional intelligence skills in staff and students, as well as developed programs for students to make theme oriented group art. She works with a variety of media: works on paper and canvas including pencil, ink, watercolor, oil and collage, relief type works in paperboard, fabric, ceramic and metal. Rena has also constructed silver jewelry in a variety of Judaic and abstract designs and has a line of silver, button and paper jewelry.

Nicole Fix is a second year arts fellow at Drisha.  Her fiction has appeared in print and online journals and is featured in the current issue of Post Road Magazine.  She was awarded a fellowship from Summer Literary Seminars and is a grant recipient of the Elizabeth George Foundation.  She is the founding editor of HALLPASS, a new print and online literary journal, scheduled to launch late 2010.  Nicole holds a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.  She is presently working to complete her first novel.

Tanya Fredman is an artist, world traveler, teacher, African and ballet dancer, and perpetual student.  Originally from St. Louis, MO, Tanya graduated Brandeis University summa cum laude with a degree in Studio Art in 2008.  In 2008-2009 she worked as an art educator at the Yemin Orde Youth Village in Israel and the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. Tanya seeks to share the tremendous power of art as a form of expression and as a tool in uniting communities.  Her medium of choice is oil paint and through her expressive, vibrant portraits she aims to explore the depths of humanity and diversity of experiences through the stories of individuals.  She is also a community artist, and has directed public art projects in Massachusetts, New York, Israel, and Rwanda.  In addition to learning at Drisha as an arts fellow this year, Tanya teaches at the Abraham Joshua Heschel High School where she is the Edy Rauch Memorial Artist-in-Residence.

Adina Gerver, a freelance writer and editor, is a member of the Drisha Institute’s Scholars Circle. She spent 2008-2009 studying at the Pardes Institute and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and previously served as assistant director of the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning and program officer at the Covenant Foundation. Adina enjoys writing creative non-fiction about Jewish texts (especially as they intersection with contemporary social issues), mental health and prayer, and gender as a lens for exploring religious and ethnic identities. She has a B.A. in History and Women’s Studies from Harvard University, and has previously studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum and Yeshivat Hadar.

Michal Hutler-Silver was born in Los Angeles. She is completing a Masters in Liberal Studies from Brooklyn College and studied photography at NYU. She has shown her series ‘The Rabbis’ at the International Center for Photography in 2004. ‘Fairytales’ NYU, 2005.  ‘Submissions’, NYU, 2005. ‘Kaporot’ (Video Installation), Storefront Forefront, 2005. ‘Veils’, NYU, 2006. ‘Jewish Women  Etz Jacob Congregation, LA, 2008, BU, 2009 and 2010, UCLA. She published ‘Women and Hair Covering’ in 2009.

Sara Levi is a visual artist and art educator. In 2007, she graduated from JMU with a BFA in Graphic Design and Licensure in Art Education. She combined her love of art and identity exploration at the JCCNV where she used art to advertise, develop and teach Jewish outreach to multiple generations. Drisha’s Art Fellowship provides an environment of discussion and critique which, Levi enjoys and uses to stimulate her personal artwork.

Bronwen Mullin received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2006 with a concentration in Music/Theater and Judaic Studies. Bronwen’s plays “There’s Glass in the Sandbox” and “Tasting the Apple” have appeared in the Philadelphia Fringe Festivals of 2000 and 2001. Bronwen has composed original music for numerous theater pieces, including Axis Mundi (Downstage Theater), Speak Truth to Power (in collaboration with Pan Asian Repetertory director Ernest Abuba), Caryl Churchill’s Fen and Vinegar Thom (Sarah Lawrence College), and The Mary Trilogy (Mir Productions). She is the author of three original One-Act musicals based on the poetry of Shel Silverstein (currently being developed for the New York Fringe Festival 2009). In 2005 Bronwen attended the Conservative Yeshiva of Israel where she studied Midrash and Aggadic literature. She is currently working on projects using theater and music as tools for the psychological exegesis of classical Jewish texts and stories.

Rachel Ravitz received her BA in Theater from the University of Massachusets in Amherst. She is a singer and an ordained maggidah (storyteller)in the lineage of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. She developed and has presentedher one-woman show, *A Song of Ascents: A Spiritual Journey back to Judaism, throughout the country. She co-writes and performs original Jewish music both solo and with her husband, Matti, and they are currently recording a CD. Rachel is grateful and excited to be studying at Drisha Institute for Jewish Education.

Emily Stern’s poetry and song are imbued with a joyous and intense conceptual devotion. She is a graduate of The Stella Adler Studio of Acting, where she received her BFA from The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She is currently writing her first play.

Miriam Waltz received her Masters of Architecture from Princeton University following undergraduate studies in architecture at Cambridge University and work at Studio Daniel Libeskind in New York. Her continuing research addresses the nature of the relationship between Inside and Outside and how this can inform meaningful interactions between form, materials, spaces, places, structures and people that create our built environments. She is fascinated with the concept of ‘Leftovers’: how can one exploit a wasteful situation and convert it into a fruitful one? How can one make the whole equal more than the sum of its parts?

 

2010-11

The end of year performance for 2010-11, The Seventh day: Drisha Arts Fellows Explore Shabbat, was held at Drisha Institute on Thursday, June 2, 2011. In the Artist Beit Midrash this year, Rabbi Fox included the history behind Yedid Nefesh and its author Eleazar Ben Moses Azikri. This struck a chord with many artists, who then chose to focus their work on Yedid Nefesh.

About the Artists

Julie Sugar Blum designed a BA in Playwriting through the Thomas Hunter Honors Program at Hunter College, where she studied the medium under the gentle, eccentric brilliance of playwright Tina Howe. Julie’s one-act,Throw in Some Violins, received the Eleanor and Andrew McGlinchee Prize for a Play, and was a Hunter College Theater Department production at The Frederick Loewe Theatre. Her full-length, Izzy Gold Drops Dead, received the Eleanor and Andrew McGlinchee Prize for a Play as well as the Irv Zarkower Award for Best Play. She also writes poetry, memoir, and narrative nonfiction, and can be found online at julie.wordpress.com.

Ilana Ellis grew up in New York City and attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia Arts High School in Lincoln Center.  She has a B.F.A. from SUNY Purchase Film Conservatory and works primarily in documentary filmmaking, drawing technical insights from sculpture, collage and video art into her work, weaving concepts in Chassiduswith modern philosophical ideas.  Her most recent work Bayit – Dirah (2010) won the Bertha Anolic Fine Arts Award to pursue her next film in Tiberias, Northern Israel, currently in pre-production.  She is currently living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where she works part-time as a videographer and editor.

Mónica Gomery asks many questions, primarily through poetry and fiction. She has also been a theater artist, an educator, a community organizer, a Spanish language translator and interpreter, and a farmer. She is a co-founder and editor of the *Never on Time Journal *project, a poetry and visual arts journal and monthly reading salon in Philadelphia, which won a Leeway Foundation Arts and Change Grant in 2009. Mónica’s writing has appeared in *Shearsman Magazine, Shadowtrain, Bridges Journal, Guideword*, and *Scythe Literary Journal*, and is forthcoming in *Word For/Word. *She graduated from the Goddard College BFA Creative Writing program, where she was blessed to work with amazing mentors. Mónica hails from Venezuelan Jews who raised her in Brookline, MA. She has studied at Yeshivat Hadar and recently participated in the Adamah Jewish Environmental Fellowship. Mónica cares deeply about how we tell our stories, about stutters, utterances and silence, and about how we seek holiness in our lives. She is currently learning to pray.

Michal Huttler-Silver was born in Los Angeles, CA.  She is a graduate of Touro College and is completing a Masters in Liberal Studies from Brooklyn College.  She has studied photography at New York University and the International Center of Photography.  Her inaugural series “The Rabbi’s” was previewed at the International Center of Photography (ICP).  Following she had worked shown at:  ‘Fairytales’   at the Commons at NYU, ‘Submission’ at The Barney Building at NYU, Kaporot (a video instillation) and Veils at Storefront Forefront – Old Tower Record Building.  Most recently her work ‘Woman and Hair Covering’ was shown in Boston University and will be traveling to UCLA in the fall of 2010.  She published a book Women and Hair Covering in 2009 to accompany the exhibit.  You can view her work at michelesilverphotography.com.

Hannah Minnette Katz: Visual artist in Acrylic Painting and Digital Photography with background in Theatre and Performing Arts. Hannah is currently a student at Drisha in the full time Torah study program and Artist fellowship and is thrilled to be in New York City learning and working as a Jewish artist!

Eliana Kissner is enthusiastic and grateful to be in the Drisha Arts Fellowship program for 2010-2011.  After growing up in South Orange, NJ, she studied opera and classical voice at Hunter College, City University of New York and graduated as salutatorian, summa cum laude in January 2009.  With a strong Jewish background, a degree in music, and a passion for liturgy, she decided to make the leap to a career in the cantorate and completed her first year of cantorial school in 2009-2010 in Israel through the Jewish Theological Seminary. She has performed in multiple settings including as a principal soprano in fully staged opera productions at Hunter College and in Italy at the Amalfi Coast Music Festival in 2008.  She also functioned as cantor for the High Holidays in Kochav Yair, Israel in 2009 and Sosua, Dominican Republic in 2010. Before cantorial school, she worked at the Hadassah Archives at the Center for Jewish History in New York and helped run the choir at DOROT, an organization that provides social services for senior citizens.  She sees the Drisha Arts Fellowship as a forum for creativity in a Jewish context.  She is excited by the opportunity to expand her knowledge base, collaborate with other artists, and produce uprooting and engaging music and performance work.

Nomi Lerman is a musician, writer, wanderer, farmer, and storyteller who is passionate about social justice, building community, and healing processes. Coming from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nomi participated in the Adamah Jewish Environmental Fellowship, and worked as a Jewish Environmental educator for the Teva Learning Center. She attended The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is currently a first year, full-time student in the Yesodot Skill-Building Program at Drisha. Nomi is especially excited about exploring Safrut, the holy scribing tradition of Jewish texts.

Sara Levi is a visual artist and art educator. In 2007, she graduated from JMU with a BFA in Graphic Design and Licensure in Art Education. She combined her love of art and identity exploration at the JCCNV where she used art to advertise, develop and teach Jewish outreach to multiple generations. Drisha’s Art Fellowship provides an environment of discussion and critique which, Levi enjoys and uses to stimulate her personal artwork.

Ruth Levy (fall 2010) is a Singer/Songwriter/Pianist and the Founder-Director of www.TotalSingerSupport.com, a holistic vocal studio dedicated to empowering beginner and professional singers with the skills and confidence to sing more authentically, beautifully and fearlessly in any style of music using the Speech Level Singing technique-the same technique studied and practiced by artists like Stevie Wonder, over 100 Grammy Winners, and thousands of successful singers worldwide. Ruth has recorded and performed her songs with some of NYC’s most sought after instrumentalists at venues including The Bitter End, Makor, Cafe Vivaldi, Triad, Rockwood Music Hall, Mo Pitkins, the University of Judaism in Los Angles and Room 5. Her debut CD, ‘My Song Is Out Now’ was a top-seller on CD Baby and is available on itunes, amazon and on www.myspace.com/ruthlevy. Ruth regularly facilitates improvisational and heart-centered singing workshops for women, and has been teaching Yoga/Meditation/Stress Management since 1997. She has been the Yoga Instructor for students and staff at the Juilliard School since 2006.

Bronwen Mullin received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 2006 with a concentration in Music/Theater and Judaic Studies. Bronwen’s plays “There’s Glass in the Sandbox” and “Tasting the Apple” have appeared in the Philadelphia Fringe Festivals of 2000 and 2001. Bronwen has composed original music for numerous theater pieces, including Axis Mundi (Downstage Theater), Speak Truth to Power (in collaboration with Pan Asian Repetertory director Ernest Abuba), Caryl Churchill’s Fen and Vinegar Thom (Sarah Lawrence College), and The Mary Trilogy (Mir Productions). She is the author of three original One-Act musicals based on the poetry of Shel Silverstein (currently being developed for the New York Fringe Festival 2009). In 2005 Bronwen attended the Conservative Yeshiva of Israel where she studied Midrash and Aggadic literature. She is currently working on projects using theater and music as tools for the psychological exegesis of classical Jewish texts and stories.

Debra Nussbaum Cohen is an award-winning journalist, essayist and non-fiction author, as well as a jewelry designer and mother of three. She is a contributing editor at The Forward newspaper and contributor to its blog The Sisterhood. For close to two decades Debra worked as a reporter at The New York Jewish Week and Jewish Telegraphic Agency, where she wrote stories on Jewish identity, spirituality and philanthropy. She has also contributed articles to The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, and The Village Voice.  Debra’s first book, “Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant,” was published by Jewish Lights. She is currently working on her second book.

Shira Schwartz is a writer, singer and a member of the Scholar’s Circle.  She spent two years in Jerusalem, Israel at Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim, studying Bible, Talmud, Jewish Law and Jewish Philosophy.  She holds a BA from Yeshiva University, where she studied English Literature, History, Philosophy and Jewish Studies, concentrating in the History and Philosophy of Science across her majors.  Her paper, The Theological Science of Isaac Newton won first place in the Chronos History Journal of Yeshiva University in 2007.  In addition, she has spent time studying at Case Western Reserve University, Harvard University, and Columbia University.  Her Senior Thesis, The Platonic Chronotrope, a critique of the Socratic Method, uses literary and psychoanalytic theories to link epistemology and pedagogy, redefining Plato’s tropic use of literary tools within philosophy not only as style but as method.  Shira has been involved in founding and developing various non-profit enterprises in the areas of Education, Social Enterprise, and Social Justice.  Currently studying French and working on her poetry manuscript Line-Breaks, she is also fundamentally a collaborative artist, engaged in the merger of installation, performance art and text to create evocative artistic and educational experiences. She is primarily interested in interdisciplinary curriculum development, honing the common ground between intellectual and artistic creativity toward academic success and social innovation. She has also worked as a figure skating instructor in Boston and Cleveland.

Sarah Young is an internationally exhibited mixed media artist utilizing performance,sculpture, video and photography. Sarah Graduated from the Rhode Island school of design with a BFA in Sculpture with a concentration in gender and sexuality and is now pursuing her MFA at Hunter College. Working with a hermeneutic of gender, she makes art about Judaism that grants her access into a world that goes far beyond text. By staging issues of personal faith on the contemporary lived-in, and performed female body, she seek explore how ritual has been passed down through the text to turn into existing practice. Her artwork explores the space in-between the letters on the page or parchment where revelation continuously transpires.

 

2011-12

Chaya Bender is very excited to have been able to share her music in the Drisha Arts Fellowship. The program has truly enriched her understanding of the text she studies by allowing her a way to express the learning musically. Chaya is a guitarist, lyricist, singer, and producer. She has been featured on three albums: Live (and Jade), 2006; Syllabolical, 2009; and Degrees of Freedom, 2012. Her biggest project has been creating and co-producing the “Folk-Stage” as part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts in the Spring of 2010 and 2011. Performers and EmCees included Livingston Taylor (brother of James Taylor), Sarah Jarosz (now a “Top 50” artist and Grammy Nominee), and Geoff Bartley (Godfather of the Cambridge folk scene). Chaya hopes that you enjoy listening to her music as much as she enjoys creating it.

Marylynn Charnas studied Fine Art at the Pratt Institute, Queens College, and Hunter College, and earned a BFA and a MFA. in Arts Education. She’s been teaching art to children in NYC public school settings since 1987. During her years teaching she was awarded several grants in arts educational programs. Her paintings and prints were exhibited in a juried show at the National Academy of Design, and at a show at the Synagogue for the Arts. She has shown with the “Art Salon” at the Stanton Street Shul. Although she is primarily a painter, she has studied varied forms of printmaking including lithography, etching, monoprinting, and most recently, the art of the Japanese woodcut. She’s painted here in the states as well as in Israel during a board of education travel sabbatical while also studying text at the Israelite Institute in Jerusalem. Presently she is in the Drisha Arts Fellow program where she interprets talmudic text into visual depictions.

Hayley Goldstein grew up in Minnesota as the daughter of a deaf artist and had artwork in her mother’s shows since she was 14 years old.  A photographer, writer and mail-artist, Hayley enjoys experimenting with different mediums of expression. As a writer, Hayley is a Contributing Editor at Jewcy.com and has been published in Heeb magazine. Hayley’s photography centers on portraits which work to capture people’s inner essence. An avid mail-artist, Hayley makes her own envelopes and stationery, and enjoys leaving meaningful notes around the city for strangers. She is a certified yoga instructor and enjoys hands-free bike riding, thai food, cardigans, and anything Jewish. To see some of Hayley’s work online visit her blog at www.openthisletter.wordpress.com or look up some of her articles on www.Jewcy.com 

Valerie Issembert was last seen on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in the Bartlett Sher production of Il Barbiere di Sivilia. Other credits include The Happy Elf, directed by John Rando; 12th Knight, directed by Donald Byrd; andParis Syndrome at HEREarts. In 2008, Valerie joined the cast of the Birthright Israel Next monologues where she performed her solo piece about her experience in Israel both locally and regionally. Valerie is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association and a company member of EXPgirl. www.expgirl.net.  Thanks to all the lovely ladies of the Drisha Arts Fellow program.

Jessica Rosenberg is a creative non-fiction and fiction writer. While an undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College, she minored in Creative Writing and shared work at readings and in the Bryn Mawr student literary journal. Jessica was the fiction teaching assistant in the Creative Writing department at the Pennsylvania Governer’s School for the Arts. For the past 4 years Jessica has lived and worked as a community organizer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she used her writing in activism, arts, organizing, and ritual projects. Jessica believes in engaging with creation through storytelling as the thread which holds together her artistic and organizing work, spiritual and ritual energy, and community building efforts.  She sees storytelling as a vital part of human understanding, healing and liberation.

Gella Solomon was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, and accordingly doesn’t like to let people forget that fact. She holds a BA in Hebrew Language and Culture from SUNY Purchase, and has been engaged in full-time Jewish study since 2007. Gella has been a writer of one sort or another for as long as she has known how to string together letters into words and sentences. Her relationship to poetry has been an on-again-off-again sort of affair, reaching peaks during her summers at CTY academic summer camp, at Stuyvesant high school under the tutelage of Douglas Goetsch, and in her year in the Drisha Arts Fellowship. A theologian since the age of seven, Gella considers the pursuits of writing and rabbinics to be her two earliest and most resilient dreams. She is also a singer, a teacher, a dabbler in various sorts of arts and crafts, a Youth Rights activist, angry feminist, and self-described Windmill Assault Technician. 

Breindel Wood first began writing scripts and producing shows starring her sisters and neighborhood friends in her back yard when she was very young. As a grownup, she has taught guitar, singing, drama and music video-making classes at schools and camps; held sing-alongs at nursing homes as a recreational therapist; and worked as an actress for TV, stage, films and commercials. In 1999, Breindel graduated with an MFA in Dramatic Arts from the Actors Studio Program at the New School for Drama. After graduation, she became a founding member of a women’s theater company called the Titans, where she acted and co-produced shows and events. There, her plays, Ophelia and Blackbirds were produced as readings. In 2004, adding some of her original songs to the former, she co-produced and starred in Ophelia: The Musical!, which premiered at the Common Basis Theatre on 46th Street. In March 2011, Breindel created Celebrities, a sit-com made for the Internet, which she wrote, produced, and acted in. In February 2012, Breindel completed a three-and-a-half year project: a feature-length epic screenplay called The Abolitionists, about the beginnings of the anti-slavery movement in the United States in the 1830s. Breindel is extremely happy and blessed for her opportunity at Drisha, where she has had the “dream job” of combining her two loves, Torah and Art.

 

2012-13

Chelek” (a ‘share’ in olam haba, the world to come).
The Drisha Arts Fellows 2012-13 performed and presented their work at the JCC of Manhattan on Wednesday, June 13. Visual and performance art reflected the 10th and 11th perakim of Tractate Sanhedrin.

About the Artists 

Chaya Bender is very excited to be able to share her music for her second year as a Drisha Arts Fellow. The  program has truly enriched her understanding of the text she studies by allowing her a way to express the learning musically. Chaya is a guitarist, lyricist, singer, and producer. She has been featured on three albums: Live (and Jade), 2006; Syllabolical, 2009; and Degrees of Freedom, 2012. Her biggest project has been creating and co-producing the “Folk-Stage” as part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts in the Spring of 2010 and 2011. Performers and EmCees included Livingston Taylor (brother of James Taylor), Sarah Jarosz (now a “Top 50” artist and Grammy Nominee), and Geoff Bartley (Godfather of the Cambridge folk scene). This year, Chaya will work to push herself out of her comfort zone to create a cohesive performance piece. Chaya hopes that you enjoy listening to her music as much as she enjoys creating it.

Michelle Bentsman received her BA from the University of Chicago in 2012, with a major in Fundamentals: Issues & Texts and a minor in Visual Arts. Her primary coursework focused on the intersection between aesthetics and ethics, which in turn informed her art-making practice. Her work is heavily influenced by public art, surrealism, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. She has constructed a 3-dimensional zoetrope with a team of artists at Redmoon Theater, painted and installed murals upon trees across the her college campus for the annual Festival of the Arts, designed and directed a team of students in the painting of a local school mural in Buenos Aires, garnered Uncommon Funding to throw a Graffiti Festival on her college campus, and curated art and music exhibitions in Hyde Park. She has contributed as an illustrator and writer for the Hypocrite Reader, a literary journal based in New York City, and as an editor and cover artist for Makom, the University of Chicago’s undergraduate journal of Jewish thought. She is delighted to continue intensive textual work at Drisha, chipping away at the treasury of the Jewish cannon. Her interests this year revolve around re-contextualizing the body as understood through Jewish mortality literature.

Brooke Borg is a New York born artist and educator. She holds a BA from Bard College and an MFA from the University of Barcelona. Her multi-dimensional art projects explore gaps and boundaries in human relationships, and often involve careful “performative interview” research with subjects, which she then filters into visual works, mainly drawing and video. She has exhibited at multiple international film festivals, museums and galleries, and even the world-renowned stage at Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, Spain. She received the 2009 Barcelona Producció Award and a summer residency at the Hangar Centre for Visual Art Production in 2010. In Barcelona she created the program Language and Art, teaching young people English through poetry and illustration (2006-2011). She currently works with Manhattan and Brooklyn schools as an Artist Educator, engaging youth with art making as a means to understand broader themes. Additionally, she creates custom ketubot for couples who seek a personalized representation of their hopes for the future. Read more about Brooke at www.brookeborg.com.

Jina Davidovich holds a BA in English Literature, with focuses in Poetry and Women’s Studies from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. She is now pursuing her MA in Bible from Bernard Revel School of Judaic Studies at Yeshiva University. During her tenure at Stern, Jina had the opportunity to organize and execute Yeshiva University’s Model United Nations conference as Secretary General, serve as Treasurer to the Student Council, tutor at the Writing Center, and participate in the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance’s (JOFA) On-Campus Fellowship. Jina’s passions have always centered on language, learning, and love of text. This direction led Jina to participate in the Drisha College Immersion June Program in 2011, which began Jina’s long relationship with Drisha. In the year after graduation, Jina was selected to participate in Drisha’s Beit Midrash program and Arts Fellowship, where she furthered her textual skills, knowledge of ancient and modern Jewish ideas, and fostered her poetry. Currently, Jina works as a Program Associate in the Office of Educational Resources and Organizational Development at UJA-Federation of NY, and plans to attend law school in the near future. She plans to continue writing, learning, and being an active member of her Jewish community.

Chamutal Gallin began dancing ballet and modern dance at the age of 14 under the tutelage of Nina Timofeeva and her daughter Nadia. She majored in dance at the Arts Emunah high school for women in Jerusalem where she choreographed a number of works. Chamutal is also an actor and played in three productions including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the age of 9 “The Government Inspector” as Nicole by Nikolai Gogol, “Korczak’s Children” as EVA (by The Jerusalem English Speaking Theater) at the ages of 13 and 14, respectively. Chamutal began playing the cello at the age of 15. In fact, in 2010 she was accepted into the Music Academy but changed course to focus on dance. In 2011 she joined the first intensive dance program at Kolben dance in Jerusalem and is now a proud Arts Fellow at the Drisha Institute. In addition to dance and music, Chamutal loves to paint, sing and do collage work.

Coretta Garlow is a visual artist. She studied painting at Brandeis University. Coretta painted Walking, used in the 2013 Arts Exhibition flyer.

Rabbi Joanne Yocheved Heiligman has created a style of fabric collage using piecing, quilting, applique and embroidery to bring to life Jewish celebrations and Biblical texts. Her work is a visual commentary on Jewish text, prayer and practice. She seeks to inspire the viewer to read the text in a new and inspiring way. She has exhibited in the American Visionary Art Museum and the Ratner Museum, and had one-woman shows at the Hoffberger Gallery at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and at Temple Emanuel in Kensington, MD.

Devorah Levine received her Bachelors in the Education of Arts, from Emunah College for women, located in Jerusalem, Israel. She also received four years of professional art training at Emunah’s high school for the Arts. Her main focus is portraiture art, with which she attempts to portray one’s inner psychology along with their outer appearance. Her portraits have been strongly influenced by artists such as Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo and Lucian Freud. She also focuses on Performance art and Video art, which fuses between her Fine Arts training and Performing Art’s background in dance, song and theater. Her strongest fascination is infusing art with the depth of Judaism; researching how Judaism affects the inner self and what it means to people throughout their everyday lives.

Sydney Schiff graduated from Princeton University (AB History of Science, Certificate in Dance) and currently dances and choreographs in the NYC area. In addition to showing work as Artistic Director of Sydney Schiff Dance Project | Perpetual Metamorphosis and as choreographer/performer with Meta-Phys Ed, she has worked with Patricia Hoffbauer, Rebecca Lazier, Emily Faulkner and Pedro Jimenez, among others, and is currently an apprentice with Zvidance. In 2010, she premiered an evening length work, Context Preconstructed, which explored the relationship between concert modern dance, traditional Judaism and the female dancing body. In 2012, she choreographed and performed in Prokfiev/Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin with the Princeton University Ballroom Club, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra and the Princeton University Glee Club. She most recently choreographed and performed in CHALOM: A Dream Opera, which premiered at the New York International Fringe Festival August 2012. CHALOM featured performances by several noteworthy Drisha Arts Fellow Alumnae including librettist and composer Bronwen Mullin, who is currently a Rabbinical candidate at the Jewish Theological Seminary. For information about upcoming projects, please visit www.sydneyschiffdanceproject.com.

 

2013-14

Emilia Cataldo, AKA Nehedar, is a performing songwriter, vocalist and guitarist who writes and records in a variety of popular styles. She has independently released 6 albums (one per year) since 2007 and is currently working on her next. She has been compared to Joni Mitchell and Regina Spektor.

Sharon Dolin is the author of five books of poems, most recently: Whirlwind (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012) and Burn and Dodge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008), winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. She received the 2013 Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress and was a featured poet at the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival. She teaches at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y and directs The Center for Book Arts Annual Letterpress Poetry Chapbook Competition. She has been writing Jewish-inflected poems for many years, including a letterpress chapbook entitled Climbing Mount Sinai (1996) as well as a more recent book of psalms entitled Of Hours, whose poems have appeared individually in such journals as NextBook, jubilat, American Literary Review, Barrow Street, and The Cortland Review as well as in The Poet’s Quest for God: 21st Century Poems of Faith, Doubt & Wonder, forthcoming in the UK from Eyewear Publishing (2014). Several of her poems are also in the new anthology The New Promised Land: 120 Contemporary Jewish American Poets (Continuum Press, 2013). She has been a Fellow at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Fundación Valparaiso in Spain, and the VCCA Moulin à Nef in France. Her other honors include a Fulbright Scholarship to Italy, the Poetry Society of America’s Gordon Barber Memorial Award, and a recent Pushcart Prize (2011).

Lisa Melilli is a fiction writer engaged in the passions that drive and define us.  She starts with her characters and then sees where their stories take her. She is currently working on a second novel about four women from diverse faiths who unite through the power of prayer. Lisa holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and has taught fiction writing at the Hudson Valley Writing Center in Sleepy Hollow NY. She has extensive nonfiction publications, having worked as an epidemiologist in academia, government, and industry for many years. Lisa holds a Doctor of Public Health degree from Columbia University, and has taught at Brooklyn College, Lehman College, and New York University.

Leeza Negelev is a first generation artist and educator raised in the Russian-Jewish neighborhoods of Bensonhurst Brooklyn, and Boston, Massachusetts. Leeza has taught students of all ages for over 8 years. Most recently she taught at Havurah Shalom, a Reconstructionist shul in Portland Oregon. Her classrooms are centered on joyful study, the creative process, and tikkun olam. Through visceral multi-sensory learning that brings Torah into day to day life, Leeza pushes her students to cultivate compassion for themselves and others. Leeza has developed and taught a variety of expressive arts programs with students of all ages: she founded and directed “Artrageous Storytellers” an expressive arts camp for middle schoolers as well as the Village Free School Theatre Camp. Most recently with her younger students, Leeza uses a teaching-puppet who speak in Russian, Hebrew, English and a bisel Yiddish. She spent the last year creating and implementing an original year-long Parshat Hashavua curriculum using puppetry, composing original songs on guitar, and creating original props and paintings to go along with the parshiyot and chaggim. Leeza previously taught her curriculum at the Portland Jewish Academy and currently is teaching at Kolot Chayienu in Park Slope. Other projects, honors and learning experiences that Leeza has been involved with include: Organizing a community and sustainable building workshop for Tivnu: Building Justice at PCUN (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United). The Jewish Women’s Archive Institute for Educators 2012, and Tivnu: Building Justice 2011. Everett Fellow, Havurah Institute 2011, and The San Francisco Mime Troupe Summer Workshop 2010. Leeza is excited and grateful to continue studying Torah with so many brilliant women at Drisha.

Mira Niculescu is a Paris-born multi-media artist, a scholar in Sociology of Religion, and a student of Jewish spirituality. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. as a visiting scholar at the Institute of Israel and Jewish Studies at Columbia University, where she focuses on the contemporary developments of Jewish spiritual practices as a response to the success of Eastern religions in the West. A proponent of the rediscovery of the tradition of silent meditation within Judaism, she offers meditation workshops at Drisha and at the Hillel of Columbia University. Mira’s artistic work develops in three main interrelated dimensions: visual art, poetry, and music. Her main mode of expression is drawing and painting, for which she trained in the Louvre Museum workshops in Paris. More recently, she has been working on several longitudinal “automatic poetry projects,” and singing and composing Jewish spiritual music. As a Drisha Arts Fellow, she will be focusing on her visual art, focusing on the relationship between text and image.