Avraham & Rachel Kolberg - Underground Israeli Yogis (Photo by photo by Michael Fattal via haaretz.com)
Until recently, the idea that our parents and grandparents’ histories are alive and well inside of us is often refuted. This year a team of doctors in New York released information of their scientific proof that DNA is impacted and altered by the events and traumas of previous generations. This means, in sum, that the trauma that happened in the lives that precede us is embedded in our DNA, and impacts our day-to-day realities in, until now, unseen ways.
This program looks at how the complex histories of different communities are folded into the every day reality of the current generation. Looking at inter-cultural testimonies from Iran to Israel, India to Alabama and beyond, and incorporating some psychology and philosophy, this program offers students new tools to understand their own emotions, identity, and relationship with the culture that surrounds them. This includes a basic explanation of what defines trauma, how science shows it is passed between generations, and what that means for the current generation including tools to move through what is revealed.
This can be a lecture or a workshop, with or without reference to my work on Amazons Transparent. This talk is grounded in science, based on Rachel Yehuda's research, and expands into ethnographic accounts of life after war across cultures. Looking at what trauma even means, how it is passed between generations, and how it can be folded into the recesses of the ordinary, the workings and importance of understanding a Jewish legacy of trauma is unveiled.
Sexuality and Torah
(Or Sex and the Bible, depending on your community's religious persuasion.)
If you ask a young American where they learned about sex, more often than not it was not in the synagogue or church. They got messages from the internet and from TV, from billboards and movies and the news. And then were asked to raise Jewish families and adhere to Jewish values, but never learned about how to tie their bodies into the picture.
Judaism – the modern non-Orthodox American iteration, abandoned the laws around sex and the body for a whole range of reasons long before this generation began attending synagogue. This program looks at the how, why and when Judaism shifted and what that means about the centers of worship we frequent. In addition, it looks at the laws in Torah and Talmud around sex and sexuality, around intersex and trans identities, around homosexuality and pleasure in general.
This program offers its participants the tools to read Torah with four lenses, including the historical lens, and helps everyone reframe the ancient codes into a modern, sex-positive, LGBTQ friendly world.
This can be a workshop or lecture as well, unveiling Torah and Talmudic laws around sexuality that have been mostly lost in modern Judaism. This is done by looking at how to read Torah and Talmud with a sex-positive, LGBTQ lens including the breakdown of better understanding the "Judaism" from which we come, its influences, and how, when, and where sex education was lost for Jews along the way. This is really a talk about how to make Torah accessible to a modern audience.
(Merissa speaks about sex, Judaism and prayer at Beth Chayim Chadishim, an LA-based LGBTQ synagogue. You can see her speak at the one hour and seven minute mark here.)
Sex and Torah for Couples: Looking at Jewish Models of Intimacy
This is meant to be either a spiritual counseling session for one couple. or can be a module to a larger crowd. Looking at biblical models for relationships, and heavy Kabbalistic concepts about relationships, this workshop evaluates new ways of connecting spiritually, physically and intellectually. It not only looks at biblical laws from the past around couples and their bodies, but it finds inlets to making those ancient concepts relevant in the modern. This includes taking a closer look at what each couple brings religiously to the bedroom, how that is relevant to the functionality of a relationship, and what to do with said information.
Spiritual Burnout 101: A Course for Clergy
This is a class on self-care in a modern era. It looks at a five-point model for how to manage and remember key components to recharging and reinforcing one's own energy level. Keeping a body and mind and spirit in balance is key to serving any community. This workshop helps clergy people and leaders find the ingredients they need to continue to maintain a life of service. This includes individual care lists, community resource source sheets, and a follow-up. Can be done as an individual consulting session for rabbis, priests, yoga teachers in need of support, and also functions as a class/lecture at any institution.