June 20, 2024
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Tizmoret Shoshana: Growing Through the Arts

Walk into the living room of Dr. Mark and Mrs. Chana Singer’s apartment in Baltimore, MD, and you know this is the home of a couple who are artists by profession. Brightly colored, framed paintings line the wall behind the rust-colored sofa; there is a collection of papier mâché puppets on a table on the left side, and to the right of the window above a red couch is a black concert grand piano. But also prominent are leather bound Hebrew texts and books on Jewish thought, law, and custom that fill the tall bookshelves. It was in this room that Judaism and the arts were fused to create Tizmoret Shoshana, a two and-a-half week creative arts summer program for Jewish girls in middle and high school.

“It began when I invited girls in the neighborhood who played string instruments to come over on Sundays to form a string quartet,” said Dr. Singer, a violinist with a doctoral degree in music. “Before I knew it, we were a string ensemble of 12. As summer approached, I thought, ‘Why not bring this group to some scenic place and just focus on music for a week?’ We spent our early years at a retreat center in Maryland. The first year we had a chamber music program with the twelve girls for a week as well three of Mrs. Singer’s art students. The girls all loved it so much they wanted to do it again.”

It was not only the girls who had a vested interest in seeing Tizmoret grow into a full-fledged camp. Rebbetzin Shoshana Feldman, z”l, and her husband, Rabbi Yoel Feldman, both educators in the Jewish community, considered the creation of a creative arts camp for Jewish girls to be of paramount importance. At such a camp, the girls would not only be studying an art form and honing their skills, they would be able to do so in an environment that shares their religious values and is conducive to religious growth.

“Our creative writing program started because of Shoshana Feldman,” added Mrs. Singer. “She suggested it and was planning on teaching it. Sadly, she was unable to do so because of her illness, and she passed away not that long afterward. Tizmoret was then renamed Tizmoret Shoshana in her memory.”

Fast forward 13 years, and what began as an ensemble has become a flourishing overnight camp, attracting Jewish girls from across the U.S. as well as Canada and Israel. The program has expanded from chamber music and visual arts to include vocal music, creative writing, dramatics, and dance. These majors, as they are called, are taught by staff members who have degrees in their respective fields. Campers select a major, and often a minor as well, for the duration of camp. A typical schedule has allotments for study in each art form, daily prayers, classes on Torah topics, independent study, collaboration between the majors, recreation, and three healthy kosher meals a day. Also featured are master classes, special guest artists, and workshops geared to greater exploration into the arts. Camp culminates with a performance by the drama, music, dance, and writing divisions and an art exhibition by the art majors and minors.

Though the program is designed to provide learning opportunities and promote self-expression, it is the campers themselves who truly create Tizmoret’s unique environment.

Chana Chava P., Tizmoret’s creative writing coach, tells us, “For two and-a-half weeks I have the privilege of being surrounded by young women who love art in its different forms and are willing to learn from others. As a teacher, this is a true gift. Most of the students I come in contact with over the course of the school year are in school because they have to be there. No one “has to be” at Tizmoret; they come because they want to be there, and they learn because they realize that all the talent in the world means nothing without the proper direction. Just like a fire, if not directed to a specific task or shape, will run rampant, devouring all in its path. I usually come away from the summer inspired to be a better writer, teacher, and person.”

“Expression is a vital part in every person’s development,” wrote Suri L., a high school junior and long-time camper at Tizmoret. “And as an Orthodox teenage girl, expression isn’t always easy…writing and singing, music and acting, they have always been channels through which I was able to articulate my innermost thoughts and feelings. But I wasn’t always comfortable doing so. And that’s where Tizmoret Shoshana comes in. Tizmoret is a dream world. The very air is conducive to spiritual growth. The real kicker is that everyone there is growing spiritually by expressing themselves artistically. Two unbelievable weeks in the summer, doing all the things I love, and benefitting more than I ever could have imagined? I was intrigued as soon as I saw the ad. So far, I have spent four incredible summers at Tizmoret Shoshana. Over the course of my time there, I have learned a tremendous amount about the arts, Judaism, and myself. More than that, Tizmoret also gave me access to fabulous instructors, mentors, and friends.”

“Tizmoret is an opportunity to discover, explore, and immerse yourself in your work as an artist while infusing that work with Torah values,” wrote dramatics coach Jessica S. in an email. “I love how the setting of camp gives me the opportunity to experiment with different modes of drama and innovate new forms of expression. I learn so much from the girls that go there and I think that I grow just as much in my artistry as they do in the two and-a-half week span of camp. I only wish that it were longer! I think that it is such an important place for artists to come together and dedicate their time to the creation of something bigger than themselves and share that with each other. It solidifies for me my artistic voice and gives me the strength to continue the creative process throughout the year.”

This summer, Tizmoret Shoshana will be sharing an 1100 acre site in the Poconos with the Orthodox girls’ Camp Shoshanim. The camp is adjacent to a beautiful 50-acre mountain lake. We look forward to being inspired in our music and arts by this sublime natural environment. A whole building will be dedicated to our dance program, and we will have a large space with a stage and lighting equipment for our drama program.

Tizmoret Shoshana offers major concentrations in:

Vocal music, including voice-training, solo and small group performances;

Instrumental music, including instruction in orchestral string instruments and piano, as well as coaching in chamber music;

Visual arts, including drawing, painting, ceramics, artist’s books, weaving, fabric and fashion design, as well as art and color theory;

Dance (modern, folk, and classical); drama, including puppetry and mask-making; and

Creative writing in all genres of poetry and prose.

Our various majors are taught and coached by artists and musicians who are professionally active in their fields. They also serve as role models of successful Jewish women who are committed to practicing their art within a Torah framework, uncompromising in their Middos and Hashkafa.

We are pleased that Ina-Esther Joost, the principal cellist of the Jerusalem Symphony, will be joining us for two weeks as Artist-in-Residence. She will be teaching cello and coaching chamber music as well as presenting several master-classes and performances.

Girls in middle school or high school between the ages of 11 and 19 who have a special interest in the creative and/or performing arts should apply to Tizmoret Shoshana via our website, www.tizmoretshoshana.org where the application is available. Spaces are limited to 75 participants.

Based on an article by Sara Olson

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