Storytelling in Jerusalem — Donna Sife

In August 1996, I was awarded a scholarship to attend a conference on alternatives in Jewish education in Jerusalem.

Having been previously forewarned that the choice of workshops and seminars available at the conference would be overwhelming, I decided to concentrate on storytelling. I hoped that by narrowing my range and focus, I would be more effective with the time I had.

The week at the Hebrew university, on Mt. Scopus, a most extraordinary and inspiring place, was unforgettable. The American storytelling community welcomed me with open arms, generously shared their stories and their secrets, and drew me into the family of tellers instantly. There was Cherie Karo Schwartz, internationally renowned, who found metaphor in EVERYTHING, and allowed the story to take her, rather than her take the story.

There was Dante Gordon, who told me stories from morning till night and showed me how to weave one into another so that many stories become one. Bonnie Greenberg, who taught me how to use song as a refrain and build a story around it. I attended workshops on the use of story for conflict, a technique to encourage children to write and perform their own stories, and how to honour the sources — something taken very seriously indeed.

I returned a `born-again’ teller. It was one of those transforming experiences that I shall be forever grateful for, and hope to repeat. The value of hearing and watching other tellers is immeasurable. Every storyteller gave me a gift that became a part of me — be it a song, a thought, a gesture, a feeling. This is the great oportunity given to us through the Guild, and I for one, shall be taking advantage of it as much as I can in the future. We all have so much to teach each other.

Donna Sife © 1996, NSW