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February 15, 2008 10 Adar I 5768

INSIDE

Jewish News CLEVELAND

PHOTOS / MARC GOLUB

BUSINESS of HEALTHCARE / 33-39 Knock, knock

PHOTO / MARC GOLUB

www.clevelandjewishnews.com

House calls make a comeback … of sorts / 33

Differing Rx GOP, Dems offer plans for healthcare; none is ideal: Case prof / 16

FOCUS Powerful portraits Second in series of pictures of Cleveland rabbis by photographer Herb Ascherman / 32

Run, bike and swim JCC’s first triathlon scores a win-win / 48

Making music Pharaoh’s Daughter puts a Jewish twist on rock / 40

NEXT WEEK’S CJN Eric Fingerhut, Ohio education chancellor, is Page 4 guest columnist

Index Deaths 56 Editor 4 Family 23 Holiday 49 Party Planner 63 Professional Directory 60 Reel Time 44 Synagogues 58 Torah 59 World News 50

Candlelighting 5:41 p.m. Shabbat ends 6:43 p.m.

Rabbi Yakov Travis strives to create a Jewish artist/activist community Sometimes the same old song needs a new beat. Add some different sounds, pump up the bass, and youʼve got your remix: a new version of a favorite track that suits your own individual rhythm. Welcome to Judaism Remix, a monthly series which examines alternative ways Clevelanders are practicing, understanding or connecting to Judaism and Jewish life.

JUDAISM REMIX

MARGI HERWALD ZITELLI City Editor

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PHOTO/ HERB ASCHERMAN

It takes a vision to raise a ‘Village’

ARTS

A&E 40 Births 24 Blogs 52 B’nai Mitzvah 24 Business 33 Campus 28 Cavalcade 29 Celebrations 26 City Beat 30 Classifieds 64 Cleveland 8

Aaron Evenchik performs at a Tiferet Village coffee house concert, as his father Sandy accompanies him on bongo.

hoenix Coffee on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights is packed to the brim. Every couch, chair and barstool is occupied. There’s barely any standing room either. Ari Lesser, a Clevelander home from the University of Oregon, is perched in front of Phoenix’s front window, microphone in hand. He performs original raps and spoken-word poems on themes Rabbi Yakov Travis presents his plans for ranging from Judaism to the making the Cedar-Lee district a Jewish hub. merits of vegetarianism. Grabbing a fellow performer to be his beat box, Lesser launches days, together with some who wish into his finale, “The Hippie Dance,” they had – swirl and sway, clap or encouraging the audience to get up sing along. Welcome to the Tiferet Village … and join him. People ranging in age from their early 20s to 60s – some or at least the dream that will somewho lived through the actual hippie day become Tiferet Village. Village / 54


PHOTO / MARC GOLUB

PHOTO/ MARGI HERWALD ZITELLI

JUDAISM REMIX

Phoenix Coffee on Lee Road hosts Tiferet Village’s awareness-raising concerts.

Cleveland native Mat Tonti, a former student of Travis’s, sings in both English and Hebrew at a Tiferet Village concert in December.

CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS / FEBRUARY 15, 2008 www.clevelandjewishnews.com

PHOTO/ HERB ASCHERMAN

It takes a vision to raise a ‘Village’

Village from 1 The Village is the brainchild of Rabbi Yakov Travis, a former professor at Siegal College and founder of its now-defunct ruach (spirituality) master’s program. Travis has a dream to create a fellowship program through which young 20- or 30-something Jewish artists and/or activists would be brought to Cleveland for a year. These fellows would form Tiferet Village, a community of Jewish learning and arts based in Cleveland Heights. “It’s like ‘Yentl’ for the 21st century in a noisy place like this with men and women together,” Travis explains gesturing to the environs of the coffee shop. “You study together in the morning, and in the afternoon, you do your art or social activism. The idea is to bring in 40 idealistic young people a year who are seeking community. Hopefully after a year, maybe 10 will stay” in Cleveland. “The future of Judaism is not suburban synagogues and JCCs with fitness programs,” Travis maintains. “It’s people hanging out in coffee houses and yoga studios.” Travis has rallied quite a bit of support around his idea through an informational meeting in December and several “coffee house” events like this one featuring casual musical performances and speakers briefly hyping the project. However, he has yet to secure all the necessary funding to make Tiferet Village a reality. Big dreams On a much quieter morning at Phoenix Coffee, Travis glances around and remarks, “I don’t have a shul, so I’m here.” That’s the same attitude he sees in young Jews today who have no desire to join “a suburban bigbox shul.” Travis hopes Tiferet Village will fill that void: that Phoenix Coffee will become Cleveland’s cool, new beit midrash (house of learning) and that 54 the fellows will create their own “no-rules” Shabbat

observance in their Cleveland Heights living rooms. Who would the Tiferet Village fellows be? On his website, Travis describes them as “pioneering cultural creatives.” He is seeking young adults from New York City and other major urban areas (and, he dreams, someday possibly even Israel) who are already taking initiatives in the art world or in the realm of social activism. The ideal Tiferet Village fellow is represented by Jesse “Yishai” Freedman, a theater artist from Baltimore who is the first potential “Villager” to put his name in for the program’s pilot year. Freedman runs a theater project and online arts community for Jewish teens. He’s already visited Cleveland to help Travis pitch the Tiferet Village project to funders and to start building relationships with local theater directors and eduJesse Freedman is the first cators. applicant for the fellowship. “I want to be a part of a community that supports artists – and I mean community in both the sacred and the political sense,” explains Freedman. “As a person, I want to start a family. I want to commit

Add your sound to the Mix From the arts to meditation to new social networks, Cleveland’s Jews are creating their own version of Jewish observance outside the walls of synagogues, schools and community centers. Does Judaism Remix strike a familiar chord for you? Are you or someone you know celebrating Judaism in nontraditional ways? Send your thoughts and ideas on this article or other alternative ways of exploring Judaism to mherwald@cjn.org. Stories examined in Judaism Remix are available on www.cleveland jewishnews.com. more time to learning Torah and deepening my relationship with God. I need to get politically active again. I want to reconnect to my core values. And I want all of that to inform my art. The Village is the convergence of a lot of the things I want to do with my life.” Fellows, Travis explains, would live in Cleveland from September to May. Every morning the Village would meet for Jewish study, prayer and meditation, followed by a communal lunch. The rest of the day would be left up to the fellow for his or her own pursuits, aided by local mentors. Cleveland is the “ideal” locale for the fellows, Travis notes, because the artistic community is strong but small enough that they could make an impact, and “there are plenty of problems here for the activists to fix.” Once the Tiferet fellows form this alternative, young Jewish community among themselves, Travis envisions local Jews joining in, congregating in the Cedar-Lee area, and taking part in formal and informal Tiferet Village activities. It could, he explains, fill the gap of Jewish connection many adults experience between Hillel and joining a shul once they


have children. As an added bonus, Travis hopes it might even draw back to the Heights some Jews who have moved to far eastern and southern suburbs. “It’s important to get the younger Jewish population involved with the community and each other,” says Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley, a staunch supporter of both Travis and the Tiferet Village project. The idea appealed so much to Hiram College and NEOUCOM professor Martin Kohn that he joined the Tiferet Village board to help make it a reality. “We can have Jewish homes, but to live Jewishly outside our homes, we have to get into our cars and drive to big box (shuls),” Kohn explains. “We create all this ruach in young people through day school, (Israel trips) and summer camp, and then where do they go? Except in the Orthodox community, there’s no way to be Jewish incidentally or coincidentally, where you just walk down the street and say ‘Good yontif.’ (Tiferet Village could be) at least one vibrant, mixed Jewish community in Cleveland.” “Ideally, if we’re successful, we’ll be attracting young, community-oriented people to Cleveland,” adds board member Joel Ratner, president of the Wean Foundation and longtime fan of Travis’s. “That’s good for Cleveland Heights. It’s good for Cleveland. It’s good for all of us who want a vibrant community around us.” Cleveland’s pre-existing assets – high quality arts offerings, a strong Jewish community and affordable housing – combined with Travis’s dream of a tightknit, geographically condensed young adult commu-

Musician Michael Rotman plays a January coffee house concert to promote the Village among Cleveland residents.

nity creating its own alternative expressions of Judaism and worship, would make it “hard for (young people) to leave Cleveland,” he predicts. The Tiferet Village board has three areas in which it assists Travis: connection to Cleveland’s arts community, advocacy programming, and business/ fundraising. (Full disclosure: CJN publisher Michael E. Bennett is a member of the Tiferet Village board.) Kohn, who focuses on the arts side of the Village, has joined Travis on recruiting trips, provided assistance to visiting artists interested in the project, and served as a liaison, introducing prospective fellows to prominent Cleveland Jewish artists with whom they may want to work. Board member Ratner focuses his attention on “supporting the healthy development” of Tiferet Village as a nonprofit organization. “Often, when you have someone like Yakov who is a visionary, the administrative details aren’t taken care of,” he admits. “They’re not exciting, but they are necessary for (a venture) to be successful.” Big price tag Travis estimates “conservatively” that the project will cost $20,000-$30,000 per Tiferet fellow. That means he needs $240,000 to $360,000 in order to successfully launch his planned pilot program with 12 fellows this fall. An ideal year with Travis’s desired “critical mass” of 40 fellows will cost more than $800,000. To date, Travis and his board have not secured a lead gift or enough funding to cover the pilot year. Nonetheless, they are forging ahead with plans, organizing more coffee house concerts, and recruiting potential fellows in New York City. “It’s a Catch-22,” admits board member Kohn. “If you wait for the funding to happen, you could be waiting forever. You have to at least create an embryo and say (to potential donors), ‘This is what the program will look like.’ But then, you have to make it clear that this is only our vision.” With the aid of members of his board, Travis is working on a business plan. At the initial Tiferet Village informational meet-

ing at the end of 2007, Travis pitched his idea to several major local grant-makers, including representatives from the Jewish Community Federation, The Cleveland Foundation and the Myers Foundation. Jewish fundraising, Travis feels, tends to take a “defensive posture. We raise money out of fear, because they hate us and they might try to kill us again. I’m trying to raise money for something positive.” In addition to funding the fellows, Travis and his board will have to provide them housing for a year. The rabbi is interested in purchasing several foreclosed neighboring duplexes in the Meadowbrook/Lee area, within walking distance of the project’s Phoenix Coffee hub. “I call it the new urban kibbutz,” he quips. Mayor Kelley says the city of Cleveland Heights and the council are willing to help Travis with the project in any way possible, “from planning, to helping to market it, to helping with clean up in that area. We want this to work as much as he does or more.” While Travis is beating the bushes for funding, he’s also got his own personal expenses to worry about. He’s not receiving any income from his timeconsuming work promoting and setting up Tiferet Village. Travis makes a living through tutoring and running the Tiferet Institute, an online Jewish studies program he founded at tiferet.org. Travis and other instructors teach online classes on kabbalah, Talmud, meditation and more via Web conferencing. If the fundraising doesn’t catch up with his plans and the Tiferet Village idea tanks, Travis insists he will not be deterred. He will simply start over and try to launch Tiferet Village in another city of comparable size to Cleveland. “I’ve wanted to do something like this since my teens,” he says. mherwald@cjn.org For more info, visit www.tiferetvillage.org.

CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS / FEBRUARY 15, 2008 www.clevelandjewishnews.com

Rabbi Yakov Travis has whipped up enthusiasm for the project but is still seeking funding.

New York and Jerusalem-based songwriter Aliza Hava visited Cleveland to support Tiferet Village.

PHOTOS / MARC GOLUB

PHOTO/ MARGI HERWALD ZITELLI

PHOTO/ MARGI HERWALD ZITELLI

JUDAISM REMIX

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It Takes a Vision to Raise a "Village"  

Rabbi Yakov Travis strives to create a Jewish artist/activist community. - Cleveland Jewish News - Cover Story Feb. 15, 2008

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