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Gather 'Round, Gather 'Round: YU Celebrates Jewish Storytelling

Between the rapid clicks of an Xbox controller, the ever-present allure of escape to Hulu-land, and the oppressive yoke of our dual curriculums, few of us have time to set aside for something as arcane and irrelevant as…a story? I suspect that for a good portion of us, the last time we sat down and truly listened to a story—other than the occasional seudah shelishit stories extolling the unfathomably wholesome secret righteousness of Rabbis or tailors or woodcutters living through Polish winters in the 1820s—may have not occurred since Stuart Little rested on our parents laps and we remained transfixed by the adventures of that wonderful mouse, slowly drifting off into La-La-Land.

On November 6, starting at 10:00 AM, the Yeshiva University Museum will host a unique seven-hour event titled F"olktales of Israel: A Festival of Jewish Storytelling." Co-sponsored by Stern College for Women and the American Zionist Movement, the event is a day “dedicated to the art of storytelling in about the Land of Israel…highlight[ing] the beauty of Israel and its people, presenting through scholarship and performance some of the ways that storytellers have transmitted their love of Israel through the ages.”

Speakers include open remarks by YU Jewish History professor Dr. Jess Olsen and University President Richard M. Joel, and feature a range of renowned speakers, scholars and storytellers. Keynote speakers include Professor Dan Ben-Amos, a internationally acclaimed University of Pennsylvania Professor of Folklore & Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

But most importantly, "Folktales of Israel" is an event dedicated to honoring Yeshiva University’s very own Professor of Speech and Drama Peninnah Schram, a storyteller, teacher, and recording artist who, in addition to all this, has found time to author a staggering ten books of Jewish folktales. Professor Schram is a recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator (1995) awarded by The Covenant  Foundation. She has been awarded the National Storytelling Network’s 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award “For sustained and exemplary contributions to storytelling in America.” Professor Schram has said of her craft, “Since storytelling is a dalogue, shared stories create more understanding, bring people together as a community, and serve as a string that binds one heart to another.”


Nathaniel Jaret is Arts and Culture Editor of The Commentator.