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Summer Solstice with Rabbi Sarah Tasman

June 1, 2017

Summer Solstice is almost upon us, and we have a great workshop/event to get your creativity flowing and summer spirit rising! Join Rabbi Sarah Tasman at CHAW on June 21st for a delightful Summer Soltice Workshop, and join us in getting to know Sarah and her program more through this wonderful interview we were able to snag with her! She has a delightful evening planned; it is a not-to-miss event!

How did you come up with this event?

Over the years, my friend Erin Brindle, who is an art therapist, and I have been getting together for “Art Night” to have dinner and make art. We’ve been dreaming of an artists workshop or retreat but one of us was always out of town over summer solstice. Then a couple of months ago, my friend, Erica Lea and I were discussing the book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert and thought that summer solstice would be an amazing time to tap into our creativity and honor the sources of light and inspiration in our lives. 

 

How does creativity play a role in your life?

Creativity has always been important in my life. My mother is an artist with a background in printmaking, collage and found object sculpture, and my father is a psychiatrist, gardener and photographer. I remember my mother in the living room with her colored pencils all around her working on a large quilt drawing. As a child, I always had a box of paints and brushes. Whenever I needed to express myself, I could use my art supplies and paint or draw or write in my journal. My parents always nurtured and supported my siblings and me to be creative in any medium we felt called to explore: robotics, charcoal, furniture making, painting, poetry, or photo-transfers (to name a few). It didn’t matter what it looked like. It was more about the process. From a young age, art and writing became a way for me to process my thoughts and emotions, to gain clarity. In college, I majored in Arts and Ideas in the Humanities and in Rabbinical School, I wrote my masters in Jewish Education thesis on integrating creative expression in teaching. I’ve taught about art as a tool for therapy, for identity expression, for enhancing ritual and ritual objects, for spiritual expression, and even as a meditative practice. As a rabbi and workshop facilitator, I often incorporate different modalities of visual art, collage, writing, yoga, meditation and ritual creation. Traditional Jewish learning is very intellectual, very heady. I want students and participants to connect not only with their minds, but also with their breath and their whole selves.

You lead a lot of workshops on Jewish spirituality. Is the Summer Solstice event an interfaith event? Who is the event geared towards?

I find when I connect with the seasons, nature, and what’s going on my life, I feel more grounded. This will be a gathering, workshop, and celebration of summer. So, it’s geared towards anyone who wants to connect with the seasons, tap into their own sense of creativity and light, and meet others. Many of the workshops I lead center around the Jewish calendar but I find that celebrating solstice allows me to connect with others from lots of other traditions. This event is open to anyone regardless of their background whether they are Jewish, Christian, pagan, spiritual or even atheist. Rev. Erica Lea will lead the solstice gathering with me and we hope people from all spiritual traditions will join us.

Why do you think of solstice as a time to tap into creativity?

Summer solstice is a time of bounty, celebration, a time of being with friends or family and in community. Summer evokes a sense of excitement and release, perhaps even a longing to return to a childhood freedom to be creative and play outside. Summer Solstice is a good time to honor the light and creativity we have and want to cultivate in our lives.

 

Why is community important?

As a rabbi, many of the couples I work with are new to DC or are beginning to explore their Jewish or spiritual/religious identities as adults as they begin to think about their marriage or future family life.  Many are looking for a real sense of community but haven’t necessarily found it at a happy hour or through networking. They may find it through a particular class or an immersive experience or through a monthly group or a Shabbat dinner with friends. These are the kinds of opportunities that I offer - ones that are intimate enough for one to deepen their connection with themselves and with others. It’s through those relationships that we begin to build community.

Creativity and Community building seem to be two important parts of your work as a rabbi. Where did that come from? What is it about creating in community that is special?

 I find that when I have participants create together - whether it’s art, writing, making music, cooking together or learning together - there is something special that happens. My favorite section of the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) is the building of the mishkan (the tabernacle) in the wilderness. Each person contributed their unique craft, skills, talents and offerings to build the space through which G*d’s presence would come to dwell among them.  This is image continues to inspire me as a rabbi - that each person needs to bring their special gifts and talents to build a sacred community. I see my job as the person to nurture the creative spark in all of us, to give others the chance to uncover and cultivate those creative qualities that make us each special, and to encourage others to help build community together.  I often have students who say, “I’m not creative.” Or they say, “I’m not good at art.” But it’s not about being “good” at art. It’s not about creating a museum quality masterpiece. It’s about connecting with who you are inside and expressing that on paper or manifesting that part of you. In Judaism, our ritual objects are varied and beautiful. This is because of “hiddur mitzvah” - the notion of “enhancing or beautifying” the commandment or ritual. I find that creative expression helps to enhance or beautify learning and community building as well.

 

Why were you drawn to hold the event at CHAW?

When I came to meet with Hannah Blumenfeld, co-director at CHAW, I realized we weren’t just discussing a place where I could hold art workshops. I discovered that CHAW is more than that. It’s a place to nurture creativity, personal expression and community. It’s a place that celebrates its students, teachers and community members.

 

You’re having dinner at the Solstice Workshop. What role does the meal play in the event?

My friend, chef Julia Kann of Julia’s Rooted Kitchen, will be catering the event. Julia specializes in seasonal, healthy and delicious meals. She also teaches students how to cook and how to run a community garden. The dinner at the solstice event will be a celebration of summer’s bounty and an opportunity to offer gratitude.

 

What is art as mediation?

Here is an example: I come back to the image of the tree with roots, trunk, branches and leaves. I have made many collages exploring this image. When I’m doing this, my mind is free and not encumbered by other thoughts. I don’t think too much, I just let the pieces of colored paper tell me where they need to go. It’s very meditative. After, when I take a look at what I’ve created, I notice that sometimes the roots look like ocean waves, or trunk is made out of a sunset, or the leaves are clouds. Some wonderful images and metaphors reveal themselves. Here are some recent ones. Afterwards, I feel refreshed and my mind is clear. It feels similar to after I’ve completed a meditation sit or a yoga class.

 

Learn more about Rabbi Sarah Tasman at www.rabbisarahtasman.com

Tickets for the Summer Solstice Gathering are available here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/summer-solstice-gathering-tickets-34020092011

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