Journey to America

“Right away we made plans to go to America,” my Grandpa told me. “Your Grandma and I, we met, we fell in love. We wanted to go join our brothers in New York.” My grandparents, Markus Horowitz and Mania Alter, were born in Poland at the turn of the 20th century. Like many of their generation, they dreamt of immigrating to America, a land that offered more opportunity and less … [Read more...]

Close to Home: Family Stories

Grandma Jeanette and her sister Kitty were close in age and their good humored, wise cracking competition stretched well into adulthood. They both got married and pregnant with their first children in their early twenties and continued to live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood. Kitty’s baby was due three months before Jeanette’s. But Kitty’s due date came and went and nothing happened. Day … [Read more...]

Understanding the “Other” in Us

“Wait behind the line. One at a time,” the security guard cautions as my teenage daughter and I approach the check in for airport security. She is still a minor and does not yet have a driver’s license, so she is by my side as I step up to show my ID. “We are together,” I state loudly, my shoulders tense and my chin raised. The guard’s eyes dart from me to my daughter, his face shifting from … [Read more...]

Gathering Sparks

One night, on the new moon, the Ari led a group of his students out into the darkness. They carried no torch, and had only the stars to light the way. They walked until they came to a place and there they prayed. And as they swayed, it was as if they were rocked in a cradle of stars. Then there was silence, as profound as if it was the first day of creation. At midnight, the Ari spoke, revealing … [Read more...]

Listening Across Differences

“Try to be present and listen respectfully, with an open mind,” I suggest. I facilitate personal story sharing in schools and organizations with the aim of building understanding across human differences. I frame the session with guidelines, and by setting the intention of listening. “This is a time to listen to personal stories, to try to understand the reality of some members of your … [Read more...]

Frame Your Story

“How would you tell the story of what’s happening in this room?” I asked. “Depending on where you stand, you literally have a unique point of view.” I handed each person at my storytelling skills workshop a small rectangular cardboard frame. “Walk around the room and make choices about how you compose your shot,” I told them. “Step back to see a group of people, or get in close and focus on the … [Read more...]

Culture of Appreciation

"Time for appreciations is when the magic happens!” observed a high school faculty member following a personal story sharing session I designed. He was referring to a response technique that listeners use after hearing each other’s stories. Rather than engaging in debate, conversation or even asking questions, they are directed to comment on what specifically they found insightful, effective, or … [Read more...]

Stories of our Names

What is the story of your name – first, middle or last? Were you named after someone? Was your family name changed? Are you called different names or nick names, depending on the context? These are some of the prompts I gave to a group of teens recently. It evoked a lively response, as everyone had a story to tell about their names. Some explored connections to their family histories, some … [Read more...]

Have Fun Telling the Exodus Story

“Waaa...!” I hear a baby wail and look across the room. I see the rabbi, curled up on the floor. He is playing the part of baby Moses. “Look!” shouts an eight year-old girl playing Batya, Pharaoh’s daughter. “There’s a baby in a basket floating on the river! I want to help him.” I am visiting a congregation in the southwest. I was invited to work with families to prepare for Passover. … [Read more...]

Hear Our Voices

The young teacher stood in front of the entire school, one hand in the pocket of her khakis, a microphone in the other. She shook her short blond hair from her eyes and took a deep breath, as the whole room was quiet. “Coming out is something you don’t just do once, you have to do it over and over again,” she stated somberly. Then she smiled, “… unless you happen to come out to all 350 of your … [Read more...]

Story Arc | Cindy Rivka Marshall