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We Are All Artists


My saba’s stern yet warm dance-teacher voice echoed from the front of the living room.

“Someone’s not getting the steps right!” my mom exclaimed as she glanced back at me and my partner.

We were immersed in learning a dance for our wedding. And not just any dance, but one that my saba, now a retired Israeli-dance teacher and choreographer, had created.

We do the steps again from the beginning, with my mom and aunt positioned in front of us, guiding us through the dance as my saba sat in his “director’s” chair.


My saba, now 95, had spent a lifetime teaching communities to dance. In fact, that’s how my parents and many family members first met—dancing at one of his “rikud” weekends. Growing up, I often heard stories about those days; how Israeli folk dancing brought people together.

But it’s not just my saba who is an artist; I come from a family of artists.

My father is a builder. I grew up observing him executing numerous projects around the house, whether it was crafting a new table, constructing kitchen cabinets, or turning a wooden bracelet for me on the lathe. He possesses a remarkable knack for working with his hands, seamlessly bringing his creative visions to life. My mother, on the other hand, finds her artistic expression through dance. She would often dance around the house. I would admire her creativity in her movements as she successfully maneuvered an arabesque while cooking a meal on the stovetop.

Inspired by my family’s creativity, I embarked on my own artistic journey. During my undergraduate years, I attended art school. I continued to create; experimenting with new materials and techniques, whether in the woodshop or at the ceramic wheel. However when the time came to think about future career paths, nothing in the art world felt quite right to me. I love creating and have great respect for artists who create work full time, but what I wanted was not labeled as “art” at the time. It took time to find, but the kind of art I realized I actually wanted to do was creating art in community. What brought me the most joy was making art by building something tangible together in community.

Something I didn’t learn until recently is that my saba initially started his career as a professional dancer. However, he didn’t feel like this specific career allowed him to express himself in the way he wanted. He pivoted his career to Israeli folk dancing so he could be inside of a larger community. Similarly, influenced by his journey, I realized that I wanted my art to focus on community-building, leading me to pursue a path in the rabbinate.

And while we don’t all need to have careers centered around community-building, we each participate in this project every day by being members of the BJ community.

Whether professional or not, I firmly believe that we are all artists. While some may dismiss this notion, claiming they can’t even draw a stick figure, that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that I believe that we each possess the ability to bring people together; to foster deep community connections. I see this every day that I am lucky enough to be part of the BJ community. Each person contributes their unique self to the project of community.

We are about to read the first of five parashiyot that are about every Israelite participating in the great construction art project of building the Mishkan—a dwelling place for God. God is expecting each person to bring their own skills and means to the building of the Mishkan. And this art project has high stakes, and high expectations. It is not just meant to be functional, but also beautiful, built with “blue, purple, and crimson yarns, fine linen, goats’ hair;” among other materials.

But the biggest goal in this grand art project that God is commissioning seems to be the coming together of a nation. Art is a medium through which we can build connection. We learn from Parashat Terumah that God’s perception of us is that we are artists, and that we have the capacity and skill necessary to build one of the holiest places.

As my partner and I continue to learn our first dance, often tripping through the movements, we remind ourselves that the process of learning the dance with family—and bringing others in by sharing its story—is the art. Art is not only what we make, but it is the impact we have on one another when we come together for a shared project.

Shabbat Shalom,