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Hillel event encourages Jewish identity, expression through creativity

The Hillel Foundation held the “Jewish Identity and Expression in Movement and Word” program Sunday at the Hillel center to encourage the University’s Jewish community to use various modes of creative expression to explore its cultural and religious heritage.

Linda Kahn, a modern dance teacher at Metro Cuyahoga Community College, led a workshop on self-expression through movement. She especially focused on the relationship between grief and creativity.

“According to Freud, sublimation is when you make something adverse and painful into something socially and culturally acceptable,” Kahn said. “I had my ‘Ah-ha!’ moment and realized that this is what an artist does: Take something that is gritty and hard and difficult and transform it into something beautiful and uplifting. This is the fabric, the essence, of being Jewish.”

Encouraging participants to feel a physical connection with the various traits of the Jewish soul, she had the attendants use their bodies to express and explore characteristics such as humility, love, and strength.

“We are all 100 percent creativity. …We have these tools to express ourselves as long as we can unblock ourselves,” Kahn said.

Claire Z. Shulman, writer and director of the Certified Story Workshop, led a writing workshop to teach participants to express and understand Jewish identity through the form of storytelling.

“A lot of storytelling is what might have been. And what might have been gives us great opportunity to express our identity,” Shulman said as she led participants in word games, oral stories, and impromptu writing.

Both ended the memorial with exhibitions of their personal works. Kahn performed “Tefilah,” a work she has been choreographing over the past several years, and Shulman read her short story, “Release Time in Toledo: With Liberty and Justice for All.”

The event marked the 10th annual Rabbi Daniel I. Leifer Memorial Program put on by Hillel. Rabbi Leifer was the Director of the Hillel Foundation on campus for 25 years. Since Leifer’s death in 1996, the Leifer Memorial Fund commemorates him with programs to explore Judaism through one of Leifer’s many interests.