In Honor of Maggid: What’s Your Story?

by Stacey Zisook Robinson



What’s your story? That’s what started it. Well, ok; not really. There were introductions. There were songs. There was food. What? You thought we’d survive on words alone? Of course there was food (and, speaking as one who spent almost two decades at overnight camps, this was decidedly not camp food; hats off to the chefs of OSRUI).

But really, for me, when you get right down to it, what started this amazing journey was the question “What’s your story?” Believe me: the answer had little to do (nothing to do) with the kind of story you wanted to tell, and we heard so many kinds of stories! There were fairy tales and vampire stories (Jewish ones, at that!), tales of the Baal Shem and of Bubbies (though normally not told together). There were animal stories and beaver songs, family sagas, fables and cautionary tales. We even managed to share a few Torah stories and engaged in a Torah slam.

We imagined. We sang. We created. We crafted. We shared. We prayed. We laughed, cried, learned, smiled, felt uncomfortable (in all the best ways). We risked, with intention. We were changed.

And it all started with “What’s your story?”

What is your intention? What is the kavanah (intention, kavanah) (Clap!)? What is the shape of your hand and how you hold your arm? How do the words taste in your mouth? What is the sound of your heart, the feel of your voice or the smell of your soul? What is your story?

We each of us had a different answer. How could we not? But they were honest (sincerely) and raw (sometimes) and joyous (often) and personal (always). And each one, each bit of kavanah wove its way into this magical weekend filled with stories and learning and teaching and discovery. So, to all our teachers–

To Jordan, who gave us Crick, Crack with passion and enthusiasm, and demanded we define our kavanah so lovingly, who showed us rebbes filled with joy and vampires filled with hunger,

To Marilyn, who shared princesses and challah and her family with equal parts love and wisdom and humor, who shared her stage with puppets and an impish smile that drew us in and made us hang on her every word;

To Ellen, whose gentle soul and quiet joy shared what happens after, making that live and breathe and become as important as what came before;

To Fran, whose stories let us know that we are each one of us a letter of Torah, that we are loved, that our lives touch those around us in ripples that never end;

To Danny, who gave us mystics and kabbalists, music and joy, who insisted on intentionality balanced with intuitive leaps, and drew pictures of Shabbat that gladdened hearts while his story procession towards Havdalah filled us with hope and tears together;

And to Jerry, who crafted the vision of Maggid and let us all share in it—

Thank you. You helped to draw us all together into a community bordered by love and care. Together, we stepped into a sacred space and found holiness. You helped us all to see the richness of our lives, our words, our stories. You asked us “What’s your story,” and helped us find the answers we needed. Thank you.



To all my teachers, my friends and the Maggidot who shared their stories and their hearts, their talents and dreams, their voices and their thoughtful silence—thank you.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a member of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL, and Congregation Hakafa in Glencoe, IL. She blogs at Stumbling towards meaning:  Stacey’s Blog.