Mini-Kallot Rousing Successes
In April and May, groups in the Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York areas organized successful half-day gatherings that brought communities together to study Mussar and introduce it to new audiences.
Each Mussar Institute mini-kallah presented opportunities for local groups to reach out beyond their own congregations and organizations and share a communal experience with veteran Mussar practitioners and teachers as well as students receiving their first exposure.
TMI lends its enthusiastic support, as well as senior faculty, to help local Mussar communities grow and hopes other areas will emulate the success of this first wave of mini-kallot by organizing several more in the near future.
Here are brief reports on the mini-kallot:
New York City
TMI held its first NYC mini-kallah on Sunday, May 3. Rabbi Pam Wax and past TMI president Gary Shaffer served as the main teachers for the event, which attracted 40 people.
We held joint sessions and two breakout sessions. Pam and Gary led discussions in the breakout groups on the middot of Patience and Humility, and our joint sessions included a wonderful presentation by Hanan Harchol, who showed his humorous and enlightening “Landlord/Forgiveness” animation. Hanan led a lively discussion about both the middah of Forgiveness and the background of his Jewishfoodforthought project, which addresses different middot through animations that are funny, moving and insightful.
TMI Dean Alan Morinis, who that weekend was leading a Mussar Shabbaton at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, Conn., bucked the traffic detours from the Five Borough Bike Tour and joined us for some inspiring words.
One of the best aspects of the event was the mix of people. People came from New York City, Long Island and Westchester, including past and present Mussar students, and those who were curious to find out about Mussar. There was a wide demographic mix (the event was free for students), which meant diverse viewpoints and ideas went back and forth. We closed with a very moving song written and led by Max Jared, a student at HUC and a wonderful musician who recently developed an interest in Mussar. It was an energizing afternoon. Everyone mingled, and people stayed around at the end to talk, have Alan sign a book, and ask questions.
Kalinka Moudrova-Rothman, Max Jared and Justin Pines helped in the planning and with some heavy lifting.
– Gary Shaffer
Over 50 souls gathered at UCLA’s Hillel on Sunday, April 26, led by Alan Morinis and Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar. It was a half day version of our Annual TMI 4-day Kallah held every fall in Chicago, as the group had opportunities to learn with two of the same leaders with whom several of us had studied six months earlier in Zion, Ill.
Alan and Efrat split the opening and closing sessions to spend time separately with newcomers to Mussar and more experienced students. Event coordinator Michele Jackman brought a sizeable contingent from the Conejo Valley that included several experienced facilitators, and attendees included many Kallah regulars and advanced Mussar students who knew one another from past programs and courses as well. For much of the group, the warmth and familiarity we share helped turn the day into a welcome reunion as much as a learning opportunity.
Miriam Goodman, Bonnie Leopold, Jason Winston and the Jackmans led breakout sessions on individual middot (Chesed/
Many of the attendees said they hope to make the mini-kallah an annual tradition to stay in closer connection with our larger Mussar community across Southern California.
– Jason Winston
Since the San Francisco Bay Area does not have a large established Mussar community, our theme for the May 17 afternoon was Community and Connection. Our goal was to bring together people from the disparate small Mussar communities, as well as people new to Mussar. We had 62 attendees including volunteers and faculty; about half were completely new to Mussar.
The faculty were all local. Rabbi Serena Eisenberg, Director of Hillel at Stanford, taught Intro to Mussar as well as a breakout on Seder/
The feedback and atmosphere were wonderful. We began and ended with nigguns. At the conclusion, the organizers and faculty put our arms around each other as Reb Brian started the niggun, and everyone else stood up and formed a giant circle around the room, everyone chanting together. When we stopped, Marilyn Paul shouted, “Wasn’t that great!” She quoted Rabbi Wolbe about letting others see your shining face, and we went into another round of the niggun, this time with everyone displaying radiant smiles. I feel very blessed to have been part of that moment.
Greg Marcus, Marilyn Paul, Joan Zecherle, Sarah Rose, and Sharon Schwartz planned the day.
– Greg Marcus
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