Sunday, October 28, 2007

Congregation Kol Ami's 1st Shabbaton/Retreat

The finished Prayer Pocket Journals:

Me with my students:

Last weekend I attended my synagogue's first Shabbaton (Retreat) at the beautiful Shalom Institute camp in the Malibu mountains. I was the art director and writing teacher for the event (yikes!). Little did we know that we would have to evacuate on Sunday because the Malibu fires had started just down the road from our camp and we had to leave via a back route to avoid the fires near Pepperdine University! Luckily, I was able to teach my art class on Saturday. It was so much fun teaching the class and as you will see, everyone was creative in their journals. Most in the group had never done anything like this but all enjoyed the process. The pages were made from paper bags and I encouraged people to use any found objects from nature that they found on the ground.

Blessing Bags:

At the opening announcements on the first day, I shared that up near our art area I had "clothespinned" a paper bag with each attendees name on it. These were Blessing Bags and the object for the weekend was to get to know each person and write at least one positive thing for or about each person and put it in their bag. At the end of the weekend each person would be able to take their Blessing Bag home and have 40 positive notes to remind them of this Shabbaton. I watched as people sat and wrote little notes throughout the weekend. I loved walking to my cabin and seeing the Blessing Bags gently blowing in the hot breeze. On Saturday night after roasting marshmallows in a grill for 'some mores'(due to the fire danger - no campfires) I went to bed feeling good about my successful art class and the Blessing Bag exercise. I was looking forward to teaching my journal writing class the next morning. At about 3 am I woke up to the wind gusting loudly at my window but didn't give it a thought as I was exhausted from too much fresh air. (later found out the winds gusted up to 70 mph)The next morning I got up to go to breakfast. The smell of smoke was strong in camp and the Blessing Bags were gone. Only the clothespins hung on the line. My first thought was that someone took the bags down to save them from the strong wind. But when I got to breakfast my friends told me they had blown away in the night. I was so disappointed for everyone who was anticipating reading their notes. But then I was reminded that the Blessings had blown to G-d and that the real exercise was in the writing of the notes rather than what they said! Beautiful!!!

Students with works-in-progress:

Friday, October 26, 2007

I'm baaaaaaaaaack...

I know...I know....I need to blog on a regular basis...but life got in the way - I always hate when other bloggers say that but now I know exactly how they feel - hope the things I have to share with you will make up for my absence.

I have taught two classes since I last posted. One at a new spiritual bookstore in the NoHo Theatre district - Many Paths Bookstore ( and the other at my synagogue's first Shabbaton/Retreat in the Malibu mountains at Camp Shalom Institute ( I taught my "Prayer Pockets Journal" at each workshop. The second one with a Jewish slant to meet the needs of my students. My students were all so creative and we had such a good time creating art! I love teaching.

These are my students in my very first art class I taught at the Many Paths Bookstore in North Hollywood, CA. The workshop was "Prayer Pocket Journals" and my students said they were not artists but identified as mortgage brokers. Well, that might be their "day jobs" but I disagree with them not being artists!

The Fabulous Kenny - Bookstore Manager