Becca Grumet worked as Reboot’s LA intern from September 2015 to May 2016. During that time, she jumped in head-first to learning about Reboot’s programs and projects. Graduating from intern to community partner, Becca is now the Program and Engagement Director of Open Temple, an emerging spiritual and creative community in Venice, California. Here are some of Becca’s reflections upon reading Reboot’s Unscrolled for the first time in the fall of 2015:
Last week, I did something I hadn’t done in a long time: I read from the bible. Except, it wasn’t so much The Bible, but a bible, called Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle with the Torah.
Ironically, I had just come home from a local synagogue event in Los Angeles for Simchat Torah, a holiday at the end of Sukkot that marks the conclusion of public Torah readings for the year. I hadn’t really wanted to go, but my carpool was stopping by on the way home.
I poked my head into the giant room to watch young families dancing fervently with several torahs around a klezmer band. Senior congregants sat on the sidelines and clapped happily. Young professionals mingled and drank “Torah-tinis.” I had never seen anything like it, but I started to think: I guess if a synagogue constituency is equivalent to a weekly book club of sorts, they certainly did have reason to celebrate. They had, after all, as “people of the book” spent the last year reading their super long and seminal work.
I don’t read as much as I should, especially when I come home after a long day of work. My personal “text study” usually consists of delving into the visual work of Shonda Rhimes, or listening to whatever NPR podcast strikes my fancy that night. Reading comes in 3rd or 4th place, and biblical-y, Jewy reading? Well, that’s just hilarious.
But there I was, reflecting on how happy everyone at the synagogue looked to finish this task of reading for the entire year, of really completing something, and there it was. Unscrolled. Like a magical moment from scripture itself, Unscrolled had appeared in the mail a couple weeks before as part of an orientation packet for my new graduate school internship at Reboot.
I opened up the book to the first parsha from Genesis, B’reishit, and found a quick recap of the original text, followed by an interpretation from none other than Josh Radnor, aka Ted Mosby from one of my favorite shows, How I Met Your Mother. I turned to my roommate, a Jewish education masters student, and said: “Did you know Ted Mosby wrote about Genesis?” He did not know.
I was confused and delighted. I continued flipping to find more of my favorite writer-performers and their contributions. Jill Soloway on Lekh L’kha. Damon Lindelof on Vayeara. Michaela Watkins on Vayishlah, my bat mitzvah portion I hadn’t read since age 13. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. This was a bible? The last bible I had read was large and scary and part of the required reading list for a course during my first semester of college. It had over 1500 pages. Most of all, I remember it being really, really long and boring. God rambled for like, ever.
But not so much the case with Unscrolled. Josh’s B’reishit was brief, poignant, and truthfully unexpected. It even had a thought provoking reading guide you can find online. As a writer myself and former film student, this was the perfect companion for me to engage with the “old” Jewish text I hadn’t connected with in years. I had a feeling some of my friends in the arts community would feel the same way, Jewish or not. And best of all, they could now find portions from Unscrolled released online on a rolling basis.
As much as I shocked myself by wanting to read more of the artsy variations ahead in Unscrolled, I stopped after Josh’s chapter and made a challenge to myself for the year. I thought of the excited congregants earlier at Simchat Torah - and decided to hold off until next week, when I would read Noah on schedule with the rest of one of the world’s largest book clubs, not in a synagogue, but in the comfort of my own bed. Then would come Shonda, and then NPR.
Becca Grumet is the Program and Engagement Director of Open Temple, an emerging spiritual and creative community in Venice, California. She's a graduate of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management and also studied film and television at USC. Her masters thesis, Doing Jewish at Burning Man, was featured in HuffPost Religion.