More than one year ago, Rabbi Joseph Robinson, director of community engagement at the Riverdale Y, approached ELI Talks and suggested the Riverdale Y as a venue for one of their productions. Robinson explained that the Riverdale community was filled with tremendous possibilities for storytellers and that the Riverdale Y, the Riverdale Jewish Community Project (RJCP) and ELI Talks could work together in discovering new voices. The conversation led to plans to bring a story slam-style event to the Riverdale Y on Sunday, September 15, at 6:30 p.m.
Robinson, the main facilitator and program design manager, had a plan. From his first steps in building and “selling” the project, to deciding on requirements, facilitation, organization, execution and everything in between, Robinson has been the force behind bringing this event to fruition. He believed that his cohort would provide a rich spectrum of significant Jewish experiences to share with the Riverdale community.
Robinson explained, “The Riverdale Y acts as a central conniver for not only the Jewish community, but the Riverdale neighborhood at large. One of our central roles is to facilitate and coordinate the Riverdale Jewish Community Partnership (RJCP), which consists of 18 Jewish institutions in the area. The leadership of this group has been calling out for new and innovative ways to engage the spectrum of Jewish observances and experiences.”
Robinson knew that ELI Talks would be the perfect answer. As Robinson said, “ELI Talks is the Jewish TED Talks!” Since Eli Talks showcases interesting journeys from across the landscape of Jewish life, Robinson was confident that he could attract enough people willing to share their rich experiences of Jewish life.
The story slam will showcase the diversity and vibrancy of the Jewish population of Riverdale. Stories will be entertaining and informative, relating the highs and lows of people’s experiences and the twists of life that have brought people to where they are today. Submissions to the story slam were received from a wide span of representation in the Riverdale community. The decision-making process was difficult, with the team of reviewers dedicated to finding the best cross section of stories. Finally, seven featured story tellers where chosen who will present their stories for roughly five minutes each on the night of the story slam. The seven chosen presenters have been trained by the ELI Talks team as well as by personal theater coaches from The Second City Improv enterprise.
The story slam event will begin with a cocktail hour and welcome gathering for the community. A reception will follow, where participants can schmooze with presenters.
By Yvette Finkelstein