Jewish Learning as Fuel for Creativity

jU holds innovation and creativity as central values. While this means a lot of experimentation and new ideas, it also demands becoming steeped in the Jewish tradition and its key ideas, practices, and wisdom. In fact, we see text study as an important driver of innovation; the interpretation and re-interpretation of our ancient texts is a creative enterprise that challenges our student interns to see Judaism as a wisdom tradition that is relevant to their lives today.

Our year-long internship program includes one full quarter dedicated to weekly text study led by Executive Director Dan Libenson. Largely through the study of Biblical texts about Moses’s journey as a leader, but also using texts from the Talmud, Dan helps the interns find lenses through which to read and experience Jewish texts that resonate for them. “In the Jewish tradition, it is said that there are ’70 faces to the Torah,’” says Dan, "and that everyone present at the time of the giving of the Torah heard it in a slightly different way.” Our goal is to help each intern find the way in which they best relate to Jewish texts—for some, this is a traditional lens, while others resonate with a mythic lens, a linguistic lens, a practical lens, and a wide variety of other lenses. Our goal is for each intern to find his or her lens and voice in relating to Jewish texts and ideas.

Students are encouraged to write about their own interpretations of Jewish values and philosophy, which we publish on our blog. These essays have even been cross-published in online publications like New Voices and Moment Magazine, showing that our students are able to make valuable contributions to the ongoing conversations around Jewish life.

When our students graduate from the internship program, we give them the gift of Unscrolled, a book in which contemporary writers, artists, actors and filmmakers (including some of the most popular Hollywood writers of today) wrestle with and creatively interpret the 54 weekly Torah portions that are read throughout the year.

Our emphasis on Jewish learning is meant to cultivate young leaders who see within Jewish text and tradition the raw materials to create the Jewish future.