3 Mmm: Maggid, Mitzvah & Mussar

New Skills for Jewish Educators through Distance Learning

3 Mmm: Maggid, Mitzvah & Mussar is a new distance-learning certification program for Jewish educators, tutors, counselors & youth leaders. This two-year program is designed to advance the skills of Jewish educators, camp counselors, and youth leaders yearning to effectively engage students and transmit the meaning, relevance and joy of Jewish learning and living. Training will focus on the skills of Jewish storytelling and spiritual development (hashpa’ah), coupled with depth studies in the texts, practices and methods of mussar (ethical development) and mitzvah. Core faculty are Peninnah Schram, Rabbi Goldie Milgram, Arthur Strimling (and colleagues). Contact: [email protected]

Details after the jump.
Sessions will be weekly, via experiential video-conference-call learning, monthly one-to-one supervision calls, and an annual retreat. 52 mitzvot will be coupled with middot (character attributes that can be cultivated) and matched with a significant repertoire of stories drawn from midrash and folktales, as well as contemporary Jewish literature.

This is a great way to deepen learning, make new friends with colleagues and delight in the methods of experiential education that will be provided by our team of master teachers.

Option: In addition to providing Maggid Certification, those who wish Maggid Educator Ordination through the lineage of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi will remain a third year in supervised practice and study with Rabbi Goldie Milgram and other ReclaimingJudaism.org clergy members.

The first 3 Mmm training cohort will commence with an opening retreat late in the summer of 2013. For information as it becomes available e-mail: [email protected]

  • Peninnah Schram, storyteller, teacher, author and recording artist, is Professor of Speech and Drama at Stern College of Yeshiva University. She is author of twelve books of Jewish folktales, including The Hungry Clothes and Other Jewish Folktales, and recorded a CD, The Minstrel and the Storyteller with singer/guitarist Gerard Edery. Mitzvah Stories (Reclaiming Judaism Press) was published in her honor. Peninnah is a recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator (1995) awarded by The Covenant Foundation. She has been awarded the National Storytelling Network’s 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award “For sustained and exemplary contributions to storytelling in America.”
  • Arthur Strimling is Maggid HaMakom at Congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Performer, writer, director, and author, he has appeared at venues including Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, 92nd Street Y, Symphony Space, and across the US, Europe, and Latin America; and has been featured on NPR and the PBS series “In The Prime.” He is the Founding Artistic Director of Roots&Branches Intergenerational Theater and author of Roots & Branches: Creating Intergenerational Theater. He has been in residence at MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Jewish Museum.  
  • Rabbi Goldie Milgram, founded and directs the 501(c)(3) non-profit Reclaiming Judaism. A Covenant Award Finalist for excellence as a Jewish educator, she is best known for her inspiring programs and innovative resources that prepare Jewish educators, clergy and families to guide students towards more meaningfully living and loving their Judaism. A widely published author, internationally acclaimed storyteller and workshop leader, who has served as a religious school teacher & principal, BJE director, Federation executive & faculty member of several seminaries as well as a seminary dean, NBC innovator/anchor/producer and presently as Judaism Editor for the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Reclaiming Judaism offers innovative resources & programs for meaningful Jewish living world-wide. The newest book from ReclaimingJudaism.org, Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning is presently being featured on the Moment Magazine Blog here: http://momentmagazine.wordpres…

To receive an application or inquire about 3 Mmm: Maggid, Mitzvah & Mussar a distance-learning certification program for Jewish educators, tutors, counselors & youth leaders e-mail Rabbi Milgram at [email protected]

Film Chat: One of the Lamed Vav

— by Hannah Lee

With much difficulty and the necessity of a personal courier to hunt for it in Israel, my shul, Lower Merion Synagogue, was able to screen the documentary film, One of the Lamed Vav, about the life of Rav Aryeh Levin, whose biography was titled, A Tzaddik In Our Time. (Lamed Vav refers to the 36 righteous people hidden in our midst, according to mystical lore.) Our Rabbi Emeritus, Abraham Levene, then spoke about his esteemed grandfather to an audience of seniors. I took privilege in attending, although I was not a member of the target audience.  

More after the jump.
I’d read the 1976 biography A Tzaddik In Our Time but the new documentary filled in for me the early years of Rav Aryeh’s life and how he became known as the “Tzaddik of Jerusalem” and one of modern Israel’s most beloved icons, known for his great acts of chesed (loving kindness) for prisoners, lepers, and the poor. He died in 1969, but people still tell stories about Rav Aryeh.  Israel used his image on postage stamps in 1982.

Aryeh Levin was born on March 22, 1885 near the village of Urla, near Bialystok, in northern Lithuania. He was tutored by local teachers until the age of 12, and then left home to attend the great yeshivas of Eastern Europe in Slonim, Slutsk, and Volozhin.  His passion for Eretz Yisrael led him to study with Abraham Isaac Kook, later the Chief Rabbi of Palestine.

In one of his most renown roles, Rav Aryeh was the unofficial chaplain (he refused to be paid) for the Jewish political prisoners– members of the Palmach, Haganah, Irgun or Lehi who were fighting for Israeli independence– held during the British Mandate in the 1930’s. As these individuals dared not implicate their families, they had no means of communication with their loved ones. Walking long distances, Rav Aryeh would walk from his home in the Nachlaot neighborhood to the Central Prison in the Russian compound, then deliver messages to the prisoners’ families all over Jerusalem, offering words of comfort and hope. The former prisoners who were interviewed for the documentary were effusive in their praise of a man who was so gentle and loving; he inspired them all to become better people with his mere presence and kind words.

The documentary film, One of the Lamed Vav, has interviews with two grandsons, Rabbi David Levin and his cousin, Rabbi Benjamin (Benji) Levene as well as others, both in prominent positions as well as elderly folks interviewed on the streets. The two grandsons spoke about how their grandfather helped them find their niche in life– the former as chaplain in the Israeli Defense Forces, the latter for work bridging secular and religious Jews through his work with Gesher– as well as a continued source of inspiration and chizuk (strength), such as managing one’s anger in the face of verbal attacks.

Simcha Raz, the author of A Tzaddik In Our Time, was interviewed on the documentary and he recalled that on one of his last visits with Rav Aryeh, he asked if Rav Aryeh thought of himself as one of the Lamed Vavniks.  Sometimes, said the latter, because it’s not a permanent role and one could fulfill a necessary task and revert to being an ordinary person.  How inspiring is that for all of us?  We, too, could have our moment of divine mission and rise to the occasion!

Spiritual leader of Lower Merion Synagogue for 40 years, Rabbi Avraham Levene told me how his family’s name got changed: They were visiting his maternal grandparents in England when World War II broke out. He was traveling on his mother’s visa (being so young) and her name was spelled Levene.  His father’s name was Anglicized Lewen (in Hebrew, Lamed Vav or Lev), so to avoid the confusion of multiple names, his family adopted the spelling of Levene. After the war, they moved to the United States where his father had a pulpit position and there they stayed until the father retired back in his beloved Israel. Abraham Yitzhak was 15 when he traveled by himself to visit his grandfather, Rav Aryeh, who cried when they met– Abraham Yitzhak being the eldest grandchild of his eldest surviving son. The stories that my Rabbi Levene tell are of the time spent living with his grandfather, in a simple one-room home, where love and faith were the guiding principles.

Rabbi Benji Levene, younger brother of my Rabbi, has published a story about their grandfather, “The Escort,” in the 2011 book Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, edited by Philadelphia Jewish Voice Religion Editor, Rabbi Goldie Milgram and Ellen Frankel with Peninnah Schram.

The biography of Rav Aryeh Levin, A Tzaddik In Our Time, by Simcha Raz is now out-of-print but it can still be ordered through Amazon; the DVD is not yet available for distribution in the United States.

Meetup with Philadelphia Jewish Voice Writers At LimmudPhilly

If you are planning on attending Limmud Philly this weekend, be sure to stop by the Philadelphia Jewish Voice’s table this Sunday, April 29 any time between 11am and 3pm. You’ll get a chance to meet our Living Judaism editor Rabbi Goldie Milgram, our Kosher Table editor Ronit Treatman, myself and other members of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice community. There will be free bumper stickers, books and mitzvah cards available for purchase, and you’ll be able to see what herbs Ronit has growing in her garden.

If you weren’t thinking of attending Limmud Philly 2012, please do. Click here for details about this year’s Limmud, and see our coverage of

Please come. We would love to meet you.

  • Location: Friends Select School, 17th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA
  • Time: Sunday, April 29, 2012, 11am-3pm.

Shabbat Afternoon Tisch at Limmud Philly

— Aviva Perlo


Peninnah Schram’s tisch on Shabbat afternoon at Limmud Philly was amazing.  She wove her own stories together while encouraging us to share as well.  Niggunim, or melodies, carried us in between each story.  The Schlibovitz front-and-center on the table reminded us that this is an age-old tradition of telling stories on Shabbat afternoon and it was time to exhale and enjoy.  At the end, she tried something that seemed artistically challenging but managed to pull it off quite well.  We were divided into three groups and each group represented a particular song and sentiment: love, peace, and faith, and the songs were woven into her story so that each of us contributed to the fullness of one story.  

I admire Peninnah’s storytelling skills and I wonder how many walls she must have knocked down in order to stand tall as a woman maggid years ago.  I look forward to learning more from her, and it was a pleasure to see her embody true talent at Limmud.

More after the jump.
Aviva Perlo lives in Philadelphia and is a social service project manager and improv artist.

Peninnah Schram, storyteller, is Professor of Speech/Drama at Yeshiva University’s Stern College. She is vibrantly elegant in telling Jewish stories of wisdom and wit. Her latest anthology is: The Hungry Clothes & Other Jewish Folktales and CD, The Minstrel & The Storyteller with singer Gerard Edery. Peninnah has received the Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator and the National Storytelling Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award.