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What Inspires you?


By Susan Ticker

This summer, I had an unexpected encounter with Poppin’ Fresh (the Pillsbury Doughboy) and was truly inspired. We met at the Mill City Historical Museum located on the historic Mississippi Riverfront. While our meeting was casual and brief, it changed the way I think about my everyday life and about my work as a Jewish educator.


As lifelong learners, we are always growing and stretching – as human beings and as Jews. This summer, my rafting buddies and I traveled to Minneapolis for the wedding of rafting-trip-organizer-extraordinaire, Rabbi Lynn Liberman. This year, instead of the usual rafting, kayaking and singing around a campfire, we danced and sang at Lynn’s wedding to her loving partner, EB.

The day after the wedding, I took a long walk with my colleague and friend Cindy Reich who lives in Minneapolis and consults to our Coalition of Innovating Congregations. Cindy recommended I take a field trip to the Mill City Historical Museum, a place that has taken great care in designing an immersive, learning environment.

Built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill, it is a monument to the processing facility that stood there. It is also a place where all ages can learn about how wheat is processed into flour and made into bread products and baked goods. It brings visitors on an encounter with the history of the place and a simulation of the explosion that disrupted its activity. I enjoyed learning that story and appreciated the way Poppin’ Fresh and the rest of the museum staff brought the grand narrative down to the level of individual people, their voices, and stories. We felt the explosion, heard the history, saw the old equipment, and tasted fresh-baked bread.

I was struck by the intricacies of going from wheat to flour to table, and of the sacred task of the farmer, the farm worker, and the baker. It is incumbent on all of us who eat bread to give thanks to all those who had a hand in bringing it to us. I am similarly struck by the awareness that each educator is tasked with the awesome responsibility of taking the grand narrative of the Jewish people and making it accessible to every child, teen, and adult. And I appreciate that the Mill City Museum stands as an inspiring example of how that can be accomplished.

As you reflect on your own summer experience, think about where you went and what you learned. How was your learning supported by the setting and the people in it – both the real people and the mythic ones, like Poppin’ Fresh? How does that inspire you to bring your learners into an encounter with people and places, and how will you design learning that truly inspires?

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