Monday, February 21, 2011

Storytelling: Rebecca Matyas ‘13

Once upon a time, there was a quiet village. Then, one terrible day, a fearsome dragon began to terrorize the villagers. Luckily, a brave hero stepped in to slay the dragon and return peace to the countryside…

Last week, I attended community organizing training focusing on storytelling by the Jewish Organizing Initiative (JOI). Two professionals from JOI spent the afternoon us, a group of Jewish student leaders, both board members and others, who wanted to learn tools to make a difference in the world. We learned about structuring our personal stories in the most effective way to express ourselves, with a clear beginning, middle, and end like the story of dragon and the village. Then, we discussed ways that storytelling can be useful in inspiring people to action, making connections with others, and helping others find connections with each other. Finally, we practiced our own stories and gave each other constructive criticism.

Storytelling is a tool that I use a lot as a CEI intern, especially in one on one coffee dates. For instance, many of my engagees are uncomfortable in Jewish settings where they feel they are “not Jewish enough.” I believe that no one should feel inadequate or excluded because of their beliefs or choices, so I will often tell a story about a time that I had doubts about aspects of Judaism, where a certain belief or custom did not seem like something I wanted to incorporate into my own practices. Hearing how I reconciled my personal Judaism within a broader Jewish context has been comforting or validating for several of my engagees because it allows them to see how their doubts or choices contribute richness to their own Judaism without detracting from “how Jewish they are.” With this validation, people can feel more comfortable exploring their options without being deterred contexts outside their comfort zones.

I use my stories to connect with people of all different backgrounds and encourage them to tell me their stories so that I can learn what they are passionate about and help them find opportunities to take ownership of their Judaism in ways that are important to them. While storytelling was a tool I was using regularly, I really enjoyed the workshop because it helped me reexamine the tools that I use every day and will allow me to be more intentional and successful in my own storytelling.

No comments:

Post a Comment