Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peninnah Schram: Gathering The Sparks

Yesterday I performed for the Sisterhood of Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, NC.  We had a wonderful time sharing stories about strong women.  When the set was complete, an elderly woman came over and told me a story.

"This all took place before you were born."  She began.  "I used to take my children down to the 92nd street Y, and there was a storyteller there.  You probably don't know her.  Her name was Peninnah Schram."

She went on to tell me how Peninnah had been such a huge influence on her life, and the lives of her children.

"She wouldn't know me."  The woman said, "I never even spoke to her, but her stories changed the way I taught reading, and they gave my children a profound love of stories and literature that has stayed with them all of their lives."

She told me she'd forgotten all about those far away days, because it was so long ago, but hearing me tell brought it all back to her.

I called Peninnah this morning to share the story.  I asked what she was doing with herself, and if she'd mind if I wrote about her on my blog.  She said I could write about her if I liked, and then told me about the projects in her life.  I forget how much of a whirling bundle of energy she is!  I could do an entire series on what Peninnah is up to these days.

For those of you who are new to her work, there are myriad biographies of this incredible woman all over the web.  If you want to explore more about how she has been shaping storytelling in general, the Jewish storytelling traditions in particular, and using stories to reclaim culture for over sixty years, click here.

Here is a small sampling of what she's been doing to keep busy these days....

Peninnah is currently working with the Maggid-Educator Certification and Ordination of Jewish Educators.

This organization put out a marvelous collection of tales called Mitzvah Stories:  Seeds for Inspiration and Learning.  Not only did Peninnah Schram provide a story and essay for this book, it was dedicated to her.

The proceeds from this book go back into the organization to fund projects.

She performs with a musician by the name of Gerard Edery in a program called The Minstrel and the storyteller.  

They have been working together for twenty one years.

Peninnah Schram and Gerald Edery

She still teaches at Yeshiva University in the speech and drama department, and she is currently working on her thirteenth book of Jewish stories.

Here is a little something from her listing over at NSN.

"Peninnah is a recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator (1995) awarded by The Covenant Foundation. In mid-1990s she received the National Storytelling Network Regional Leadership Award and in 1999 she received NSN's The Circle of Excellence Award for "a body of work which is nationally recognized as a shining example of quality in the art form of storytelling performance." Peninnah has also been awarded the National Storytelling Network's 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award". This makes her a triple NSN award winner."

Peninnah is a member of the Jewish Storytelling Coalition, and still actively travels the world telling stories, conducting workshops, and teaching as an artist in residence.

She is an award winning author, educator par excellence, master storyteller, and Mensch of the highest order.

Many years ago, I worked with a teller by the name of Susan Stone.

Susan introduced me to the concept of Tikkun Olam.

Once, at the beginning of time, the world was good.  Then, the ten vessels that held the light of the world shattered, and the shards were scattered through the world.  It is the responsibility of the Jewish people to gather the shards of light.  Once all of the sparks of that bygone time have been collected, the vessels can be restored, and the world will be healed.  In order to gather the shards, you must do good deeds and kind works.  These works are called Mitzvahs.

Susan informed me that 'Gathering the Sparks' was an important part of the Jewish tradition.

Storytellers don't always know how we touch people's lives.  We see so many faces in audiences over the years, and we don't remember all of them.  We hope folks enjoy our stories.  We hope that we leave laughter and memories in the hearts of those who share stories with us.

Yesterday, at the end of a wonderful brunch, I was reminded once more that we touch lives much deeper than we know.

If it is a sacred duty to gather the sparks by doing deeds that lift the human spirit in order to bring back light to heal the world, then Peninnah Schram has picked up so many of them she has become a beacon.

Happy Telling!

Here is a list of Peninnah Schram's work.

CD & BOOKS  by Storyteller                 Peninnah
           Peninnah Schram

Schram, Peninnah and Gerard Edery. The Minstrel and the Storyteller: Stories and Songs of the Jewish People. CD.  Sefarad Records.  $15.00      This 72-minute CD includes 6 folktales told by Peninnah Schram interwoven with the 
     songs and music sung and played by Gerard Edery. The stories and songs come 
     from Sefardic and Ashkenazi traditions.

Schram, Peninnah. The Hungry Clothes and Other Jewish Folktales. Illustrated by Gianni De Conno. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2008. hc. $15.00
    22 Jewish folktales filled with wit and wisdom. Elegantly designed and splendidly 
    produced book with full color paintings, with sources and glossary.

Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, Edited by Goldie Milgram and Ellen Frankel. Phila: Reclaiming Judaism Press, 2011. $25.00
    60 mitzvah-centered stories by leading storytellers, rabbis and educators. It includes  
    essays about the Jewish oral tradition and techniques of storytelling. The Foreword is 
    by Richard Joel, President of Yeshiva University. The book is dedicated in honor of 
    Peninnah Schram. Free Discussion Guide: www.reclaimingjudaism.org/node/336

Schram, Peninnah and Rachayl Eckstein Davis. The Apple Tree’s Discovery.
Illustrated by Wendy W. Lee. Minneapolis: Kar Ben Publishing, 2012. 
hc $16.00    sc $8.00
     This illustrated book is about an apple tree that wants stars on its branches just like 
     what it sees in the oak tree branches when it looks up into the stars at night. It is an 
     inspiring story for all ages. For 9-page Study Guide created by Peninnah & Rachayl:  

Schram, Peninnah. Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another.  Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1987. Laminated cover. $55.00    64 wide ranging stories and folktales culled from various Jewish oral and written 
    traditions with source-filled introductions to each story, glossary, bibliography and an 
    index. The foreword is by Elie Wiesel. 
Schram, Peninnah. Tales of Elijah the Prophet. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1991. hc.  $35.00      36 stories of Elijah the Prophet, the master of miracles, gathered from various 
     sources and centuries with a major introduction and endnotes and written in an oral 
     style. The foreword is by folklorist Dov Noy.

Schram, Peninnah, ed. Chosen Tales: Stories Told by Jewish Storytellers. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1995. Laminated cover.  $55.00      A great variety of 68 favorite and meaningful stories chosen by Jewish storytellers 
     and presented as if the book was a "literary storytelling festival". The foreword is by 
     Rabbi Avi Weiss.

Schram, Peninnah. Stories Within Stories: From the Jewish Oral Tradition. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 2000.  hc.  $45.00     The fifty stories in this book, drawn from Talmudic and midrashic sources, medieval 
     sources, and especially the Israel Folktale Archives, are frame narratives. Stories are 
     embedded within stories. The intriguing stories range from witty tall tales to Hasidic  
     tales. The foreword is by Howard Schwartz.
                                                                                                                                             Schram, Peninnah. The Purim Costume. Illustrated by Tammy L. Keiser. NY: URJ Press, 2005. hc. $14.00
      Illustrated story about a young girl’s refusal to dress as Queen Esther for the Purim 
      costume contest. The story of Purim is recounted as part of a Purimspiel.

Schram, Peninnah. The Chanukah Blessing. Illustrated by Jeffrey Allon. NY: 
URJ Press, 2000. hc  $14.00
     Illustrated story about Elijah the Prophet who teaches the children of a poor family 
     why their potato menorah not only fulfills the mitzvah of burning the oil to celebrate 
     the holiday but, also, why it is filled with the love of mitzvah.

Schram, Peninnah. The Magic Pomegranate. Illustrated by Melanie Hall. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publishing Group, 2007. hc  $18.00  sc  $7.00
    Illustrated folktale about three brothers who find unusual gifts. By each using those 
    gifts, they then must decide who deserves to marry the cured princess.

Sefarad Records: www.sefaradrecords.com  
Sterling Publishing: www.sterlingpub.com
Reclaiming Judaism Press: www.ReclaimingJudaism.org
Rowman & Littlefield (Jason Aronson): www.rowmanlittlefield.com
URJ Press: www.URJPress.com    
Kar Ben Publishing: www.karben.com

FOR INFORMATION & ORDERS please contact:
   Peninnah Schram, 525 West End Avenue, 8C,  

      New York, NY 10024   Email: Peninnah1@aol.com

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