Posts

Celebrating In the Light of Peace

On Saturday evening there was a digital book launch for In the Light of Peace, Bayit’s latest publication, a volume of spiritual poetry and photography.

For those who missed it, here’s a video of the event — and if you click through to view it on YouTube, there’s a listing of each speaker / reader in the video with timestamps. Mazal tov to editors Leiah Bowden, Abby Bogomolny, Sally Churgel, Rita Rowan Rapoport, and the whole Ner Shalom community!

Learn more about all of Bayit’s publications here on our website.

Announcing In the Light of Peace!

Mazal tov to Leiah Bowden, Abby Bogomolny, Sally Churgel, Rita Rapoport Rowan, and the Ner Shalom community: this week Bayit is releasing In the Light of Peace, a collection of poetry.

Here’s some advance praise for the book:

In times of loss, ordinary language often fails to reach the cave of the heart. We need a soul language that offers a feeling of companionship to where we are walking. In the Light of Peace is a rich and beautiful gathering of poems to caress the tender heart. Everyone who knows sorrow will be graced by this offering.

–Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

These may be spiritual seekers, but for this anthology they are truly FINDERS — finders of river words, wind poems, heart psalms, spirit dreams. This collection reaches far out and deeply inward. It is a wave of words crashing on the shore of consciousness — soothing, startling, sanding down and building up. There is great heft here, and great beauty, great boldness.

– Jan Philips, Speaker, Artist, & Activist, No Ordinary Time

Read more about the book, and buy a copy for $18 on Amazon and its global affiliates now.

#ColorTheOmer at ReformJudaism.org!

Jews customarily count the Omer during the seven weeks between the second day of Passover and the beginning of Shavuot, a process dating back to when ancient Israelites would offer an omer (an ancient Hebrew measure of grain) as a Temple sacrifice before consuming any of their crop. (Lev. 23:9-11, 15-16). After the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., Jews began reciting a blessing for each of these 49 nights instead, but for some Jews today, this process may seem outdated or cumbersome.

However, like every aspect of Judaism, there is an esoteric mystical component of counting the Omer that can deeply inspire Jews today. According to Rabbi Daniel Syme, Jewish mystics “[see] the period as joining the Jewish people’s physical (Pesach) and spiritual (Shavuot) redemption.” Shari Berkowitz and Steve Silbert embraced this mystical component by creating Color the Omer, a coloring book filled with illustrations and Jewish wisdom designed to engage Jews during this period with mindfulness and artistic expression.

Shari, Steve, and editor Rabbi Rachel Barenblat spoke with us about their new release and what they hope readers can glean from it this season.

ReformJudaism.org: Where did the idea for this book come from?

Shari Berkowitz: When the pandemic started, I took an online mysticism class with my rabbi, David Markus, and learned about counting the Omer as a spiritual practice. It was hard to keep track of time, and I needed a way to settle my mind, so I printed a grid of Stars of David and started coloring one section a night. That’s where I got the idea for an Omer coloring book.

I brought the idea to Bayit and am grateful that they took on the project. Working together with Rabbi Barenblat and Steve to connect deep text and creative visuals has helped all of us to learn and innovate Judaically.

What can people expect from this book?

Berkowitz: The combination of a focused prompt and accompanying image that pushes creativity will help the colorer connect with the ideas around the Omer in ways that are meaningful to them. The book explains how to count and offers 49 visual and textual prompts, and some of the drawings have 49 elements, like the fish swimming in the Sea of Reeds.

We hope each colorer will find meaning and beauty as they co-create each illustrated page with us by bringing it to life.

What are the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of counting the Omer?

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat: Contemplative coloring is an increasingly popular mindfulness practice, with good reason. Bringing color to a page can focus the mind, calm the heart, and bring joy to the soul. We’ve paired each illustration with kavanot (intentions/questions/thoughts) so that the colorer reflects on a spiritual question that will enrich their Omer journey.

From your perspective, how do self-care and Judaism intersect as a whole?

Steve Silbert: Much like keeping Shabbat is a deep form of self-care, hiddur mitzvah (beautifying a mitzvah) is another. Through contemplative coloring, we hope to bring a taste of Shabbat-like calm to each day of the Omer, and through making each page beautiful, we can practice hiddur mitzvah every day. And if any colorer turns this into a self-care practice that extends beyond the Omer, we will be very happy indeed!

How can this book serve and empower people, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Silbert: Isolation is a real challenge during this second pandemic spring. We hope that Color the Omer helps bring stability and comfort to those feeling isolated by establishing an engaging framework for study, introspection, and creativity.

We invite users to share their colored-in pages on social media with #ColorTheOmer and comment on each other’s work in the hope that we can build and deepen connectivity with each other.

What else do you want readers to know?

Silbert: Shari and I would like to thank Rabbi Barenblat for her editorial skills, but more importantly, for being a great partner in forming and re-forming ideas and visuals. We’re very excited to share this labor of our love of Judaism out in the world! We have ideas for other multimodal projects to bring to life and are already refining them.

 

Reprinted from ReformJudaism.org.

How To #ColorTheOmer

So you’ve got a copy of Color the Omer, and you’re wondering whether there’s a “right” way to use it. Here’s an answer from illustrator Steve Silbert:

instructions

If you don’t yet have a copy of Color the Omer, grab one now! Available on Amazon for $13.*

 

 

*About that. We know that some are boycotting Amazon during the week of March 7-14. We support Amazon workers’ drive to unionize: they deserve fair labor practices and meaningful pay. (Here’s a link where you can send Jeff Bezos and the Amazon board a letter about that.) Kindle Direct Publishing (owned by Amazon) is our mechanism for getting this beautiful book out, and we want it to be in your hands by Pesach so you can use it for the full Omer journey. We wish that there were more and better options to allow small / indie publishers and authors to publish and distribute books worldwide, and, right now KDP is what we’ve got. We don’t have answers to this conundrum. If you’re boycotting Amazon this week, we hope you’ll buy the book as soon as the week is out, and it should still reach you in time for you to color all 49 days