A Taste of June – Part 3 of 4

10 07 2013

This post is a continuation of “A Taste of June: Part 2 of 4“.

There were of course oodles of fun one-off events in June.  I was asked to MC the kick-off for the Yogabatics Acroyoga video series at Spiderhouse Cafe. The MC request came in same-day and, though it was flattering to be asked, I had never MCed someone else’s event before!

But I rose to the challenge and added my personal touch to the introductions, performances and skits throughout the evening.  By the end of the night, I had everyone following my impromptu activity directives and doing “the wave” in random formations around the room, so I would say that the night was a success!

(One week later at Blues on the Green, I was recognized by a handful of folks who had seen me MC, so my friends lovingly razzed me for becoming a local celebrity, a silly but fun role to occasionally play.)

MC Ayo

MC Ayo

In late June, I was booked at Camp Young Judaea – Texas for a staff Jewrotica oneg and also as a circus performer and acroyoga instructor.  It was fun to enter camp in an acrobatic capacity and only later switch to my Jewish educator hat.  The kids had tons of fun, my dear friend Daniel and I were given the honors of an aliyah to the Torah and leading Hamotzi and for the whole camp, and we learned to survive in almost record-breaking 105 degree weather.

But Young Judaea – Texas and Boys & Girls Club were not the only camps that I attended this summer… I jumped onboard as a teacher at – you guessed it (no, you’re not going to guess it), Hip Hop Hope Bible Camp!  Wesley hosted a week of music, praise dance, conversation and Bible study, all through the prism of hip hop and modern culture.

Certified!  Ignore the Jesus Part for Just a Moment and Read On.

Certified! Skip the Jesus Part for Just a Moment and Read On.

I was one of the teachers for the teenage group and I took the opportunity to stir up some excellent trouble.  See, the instructor was talking about sin and how we are all sinners.  (“Who here isn’t a sinner?  I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, etc.”)  But that doesn’t make for a very positive conversation.  Shortly thereafter, one of our brilliant teens piped up and asked “But weren’t we created in the image of God?”

Before the teacher could respond, I jumped in:  “Yes, we were!  Hey guys, wouldn’t it stink to live in a world where we were sinners, are sinners and always will be sinners no matter what?”

“Yeah!”, they chimed in.

“Right, so Nathan is spot on in that each of us has a choice.  Parts of us may be tempted to do bad things, but parts of us are able to do good and all of us were created in the image of God.  It’s up to us, up to each of us, to choose ‘the good’ and to grow that part of ourselves through positive actions and deeds.  We have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk, and that’s how we live up to being created b’tzelem elokim.”

My #1 Fan - Dharion Runs Onstage to Hug Me Every Sunday After Services - My Reward for Sitting Through the Sermon? :-)

My #1 Fan – Every Sunday After Services, Dharion Runs Onto The Stage To Give Me A Hug – My Reward For Sitting Through The Super-Long Sermon? :-)

Okay, so maybe I didn’t use the Hebrew lingo, but I proceeded to share with the teens the midrash about the man caught in a flood who is offered help from family, friends, neighbors, boats and eventually a rescue helicopter.

At each opportunity, the man turns down the offer of help, saying “God will save me!” until the water passes over his head and he drowns.  When he goes up to shamayim (the heavens), he accuses God: “I had such faith, and you didn’t save me!” to which Hashem (or, in this scenario, Jesus) responds:  “Who do you think sent your family, your friends, the neighbors, the boats and the helicopter?!”

This led to a conversation about the concept of Ein Somchin Al HaNes, not to rely on miracles, and instead to take good works into our own hands.  Particularly once we kicked the older teachers out of the room, I was able to have heart-to-hearts with the teens.  We spoke about everything from prayer to bullying to family challenges to run-ins with the authorities.  It felt really good to be able to relate to the teens on their level and share bits of Jewish and human wisdom through a shared vocabulary. (Though, to clarify, I would not teach anything that goes contrary to the belief system of their community out of respect to them and their families.)

There were definitely lighter parts of camp that counterbalanced the heavy conversations.  Here is a video clip from one afternoon when I joined the middle schoolers for praise dance practice.  Feel free to skip to 2:20 for the freestyle where we “break it down for God”, and then imagine doing this at your shul (synagogue).

Though I think of June as a lazy month, reflecting on the sheer number of excursions and experiences that made it to my calendar is exhausting!

I squeezed in adventures to Jacob’s Well with new housemates, theater visits to Trash: The Musical and Dixie’s Tupperware Party, dance excursions to Argentine tango milongas, The Fed swing dance and Code Blue blues, an acroyoga photo and video shoot, an appearance at NerdNite where I supported a friend in his academic presentation on the history of cymbals, a handful of brain-stimulating book reads and a visit to a friend’s Magic Berries party, where guests devoured lemon wedges and other goods, our taste buds telling us that we were savoring the sweetest of the sweet as we consumed the tartest of edibles.

I also received a fabulous private lesson on a “pattern machine” (i.e. piano) and indulged in several majestic summer sunshowers, where I and friends (safely) danced and frolicked on our rooftop in the rain.

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These silly bouts were accompanied by bursts of project work, which continue at a stop-and-go pace as other people’s schedules and my own proclivities toward computer time dictate.  After conversations with several foundations, Jewrotica seems poised to bring in potential grants and recognition in 2014 if I choose to stick with it and grow it in a workshops and curriculum direction.

My workshop for young Orthodox marrieds is enjoying a few final touches before an August launch and, as I am disinterested in (actually, kind of sick of!) taking the lime light in the press, I will be passing the project onto a young Jewish sex educator as this will be a great opportunity for her portfolio.

A New Workshop for Young Marrieds in the Halacha-Observant Community

A New Workshop for Young Marrieds in the Halacha-Observant Community

Continue Reading the Final Post in “A Taste of June: Part 4 of 4“…

posted by ayo

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