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Adding Some Jewish Into Your Week: Joseph's Dreamcoat

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Looking for a new way to think about Judaism this week? Here are some reflections Parshat Vayigash to add a modern perspective to this week's Torah reading.

This week's parsha (Torah reading), Vayigash, finishes the story of Joseph that we started reading last week. If you're like me and don't have it in you to memorize every part of the Torah, here's a quick recap of what happened over the course of our last two parshiot

We started with Joseph receiving his "coat of many colors" from Jacob, and his subsequent capture and sale into slavery by his jealous brothers. After being sent to jail, Joseph is brought to Pharoah to interpret his two dreams, and makes his well-known prediction that there will be seven years of prosperity, followed by seven years of famine. Pharoah decides that Joseph should oversee the collection and distribution of food for all of Egypt. Fast forward a few years, and Joseph's brothers have come to ask for food because of the famine. Joseph (who is completely unrecognizable to his brothers) tests them by accusing them of being spies and thieves, and accuses Jacob's youngest son, Benjamin, of stealing a goblet. He demands that Benjamin stay as his slave, while the others can go free. Judah steps up to the plate, defends Benjamin, and heroically asks to be enslaved in his place. In this moment, the brothers "pass" Joseph's test and Joseph knows, through their actions, that the brothers are different people than the ones who abandoned him so many years before. 

Now, I imagine when you saw "Parshat Vayigash" and started reading this reflection, you may not have expected the plot of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat." It is a well-known, well-loved story- I couldn't help singing "Close Every Door" the whole time I was writing this summary. That's the cool thing about the Torah and Jewish learning, you can find it everywhere, and often without realizing it or thinking too hard. Because of this famous retelling of the story of Joseph, we already have a connection to what's been happening in the last few Jewish weeks.  

 As Jewish educators and leaders, it's our job to find and create connections between the individuals we work with and classic Jewish thought and texts, but what if we don't know how? 

We can thank scholars, authors, screenwriters, tv and film producers for their help. Our tradition is so rich with interesting stories that versions have been used for all kids of commercial purposes including movies and TV shows. The Rugrats have adventures for both Hanukkah and Passover. Disney Channel has the movie "Full Court Miracle." There's a NBC show that features a modern retelling of King David's story called "Kings," and full Biblically inspired storylines on the CW's Supernatural. There are even movies like "Exodus: Gods and Kings" and "Noah" that incorporate biblical commentaries into their retelling of classic stories. 

When we come across stories in the Torah that are hard to connect with, we shouldn't just write them off or ignore them. We should look for modern versions or find a way to tell them ourselves. One reason Jewish life has thrived over the course of history is that there are so many ways to relate it to our lives. Let's challenge ourselves to look for them!  

How a Road Trip Changed My Life

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How a road trip changed my life

When I was in 9th grade, I went on a road trip that changed my life. I boarded a bus with a group of teens that I had never met before, and we traveled across the country. The purpose of this trip was to see things that we had never seen before, and to learn more about a variety of subjects through their respective hall of fames. On this trip I visited the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Although I was a huge fan of football and baseball, I was not a huge fan of Rock music. To my surprise, looking back, my favorite and most memorable part of the trip was walking through and exploring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not only did I learn a ton, but through the interactive exhibits and music making work shop I gained a ton of new respect for a music genre that I was not all that interested in.  

Looking back that trip gave me many memories, new friends, and hundreds of pictures and also an appreciation for something new. It is something that I look back on very fondly, and that I want others to experience too. Because of this, I have decided to run a similar trip, with a couple of added twists, for teens around the Chicagoland area. Whether you have interest in each stop of the trip, or just one or two, you might find that by being around a great group of people, and traveling to some amazing and beautiful places can become a trip that you will cherish for many years to come! 

The main stops on the trip include:  

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! 

Location: Cleveland, Ohio          

Size: 6 Floors and over 50 exhibits! 

Newest Inductees:  

ELO, Joan Baez, Journey, Nile Rodgers, Pearl Jam, YES, Tupac Shakur 

Some Highlights Include:  

Each floor takes on a different Era of music, from the Oldies and the British Invasion, to Classic Rock, to the Rise of Rap, and the Right Here Right Now (Modern Bands), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has something for everything! Each exhibit has interactive aspects, video and visual aspects, and of course a ton of Musical aspects.  

The Baseball Hall of Fame! 

Location: Cooperstown, New York.    

Size: Three floors and nearly 20 exhibits  

Newest Inductees:  

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez, John Schuerholz, and Bud Selig 

Some Highlights Include:  

Diamond Dreams (An exhibit dedicated to the Women of Baseball)  

Autumn Glory (A look at every world series in History, including an entire Cubs 2016 World Series display!)   

The Base Exhibit (An entirely interactive exhibit)   

The Hall of Fame (Complete with bronze plaques for each MLB Hall of Fame Player.)  

The Pro Football Hall of Fame! 

Location: Canton, Ohio            

Size: 82,300 Sq Feet, and Newly Renovated  

Newest Inductees:  

Morten AndersenTerrell DavisKenny EasleyJerry JonesJason TaylorLaDainian TomlinsonKurt Warner

Some Highlights Include:  

Interactive Area (Includes a Teletrivia game, Call-the-Play-Theater, an all-new Madden EA Sports video game display and other exhibits such as a display devoted to officiating.) 

Hall of Fame Gallery (which houses the bronze bust of each enshrine) 

Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery (Recaps every Super Bowl played to date. home to the Super Bowl Theater, an incredible presentation of a NFL Films production.) 

Niagra Falls, Maid of the Mist!  

Location: Buffalo, New York 

Some Highlights Include:  

“Journey into the heart of one of North America’s most powerful waterfalls. Hear the thundering roar of 600,000 gallons of water falling right before your eyes. Feel the Mighty rush of the mist on your face aboard the Maid of the Mist.” 

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