Educator Spotlight: Moishe House's Faustine Sigal

Faustine Sigal was born, raised, and continues to be based in Paris, but she spent Chanukah in Munich, part of January in Brussels, and the week before Pesach in Prague. She visits these places and many others in her capacity as the International Director of Jewish Education for Moishe House, an organization that provides vibrant Jewish community for young adults by supporting leaders in their 20s as they create meaningful home-based Jewish experiences for themselves and their peers. Moishe House currently operates over 100 houses in more than 25 countries.

Prior to joining Moishe House, Faustine earned a master’s degrees in both Public Affairs and Jewish Education before attending the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies as a European Leadership Fellow. Sefaria emerged as an integral resource for her during those years, becoming the primary way through which she accessed and read Jewish content. Upon joining the Moishe House team a little over a year ago, Faustine knew Sefaria would be a critical tool for her. She explains that she “sensed right away that so many of [her] participants – be they a resident with four Jewish grandparents who grew up in a Jewish home or someone who found out they were Jewish just last year – wanted to learn Jewish texts, indeed wanted to engage in great Jewish learning, but just might not know how.” To her mind, this made Sefaria and Moishe House natural partners, or “havrutot.”

Sefaria removed many barriers to entry that affected the diverse members of the Moishe House community: it offered texts in translation for those with limited access to Hebrew, and provided these texts online for free, ensuring that even those without access to physical copies of these works could explore them freely. Even with all these inroads to access, however, one problem remained: For many, the library was just too huge and overwhelming to navigate comfortably or meaningfully.

Enter Sefaria source sheets. Faustine began creating source sheets as a way for Moishe House members to interact with a carefully chosen set of texts in a manageable fashion. Alongside the familiar Moishe House logo, each sheet contains an introductory line explaining where and how the sheet was originally used. These foundational details help make the learning experience less intimidating because her participants know that these specific set of texts were chosen with them in mind.

Faustine now turns to source sheets for a variety of occasions. That Chanukah she spent in Munich? She kicked off candle lighting with a source sheet on miracles. She has a source sheet on the why’s and how’s of baking challah — recipe included. For Faustine, source sheets have opened up the world of Torah for her participants: “It is a bridge for them to read and learn deeper, teach better and maybe wander further into the Sefaria library.”

Source sheets also help provide an opportunity for co-creation and connection amongst Moishe House’s geographically diverse community: Houses in Budapest and Mexico can have the same Shabbat dinner, using the same Sefaria source sheet. With time and frequent re-use, these sheets often become repositories for Moishe House members’ own lived experiences and memories. One notable example: Faustine shared a source sheet on water, specifically on the Talmudic discussion of what to do in a scenario where multiple people must share limited water, and one member in attendance from Montevideo brought up a true story about a plane crash that resulted in this precise scenario that had recently occured in Chile. A survivor of the crash was going to be joining this individual at a Moishe House event the following month! Faustine immediately edited the sheet to include this real-life parallel to the Talmudic story, bringing this text to life in an unprecedented way.

However, at a certain point directing members to source sheets alone became complicated. “It’s an ocean by now,” Faustine notes of Sefaria’s vast and growing repository of user created source sheets. To address this, Faustine became an early adopter of Sefaria’s new Public Groups feature, which allows members to aggregate specifically created content by and for the Moishe House community. In her words, “Our group helps us make the infinity and diversity of text on Sefaria accessible, relevant and empowering.” To date, the Moishe House group boasts 38 sheets and counting, some with over 1,000 views.

So what’s next for Moishe House and Sefaria? Now that the group is public, Faustine looks forward to sharing how Moishe House does Torah with the wider world – expanding the conversation of why and how Jews read texts in 2018. She is also eager to continue introducing Sefaria to more and more members of the Moishe House community. She recently trained Moishe House members on how to use Sefaria at two separate retreats, and is working on a series of tutorials with Sefaria Director of Education Sara Wolkenfeld to make the process even easier. Her go-to advice at these trainings? Create your account today! Make your first source sheet tonight! And for those in the Moishe House community, you may want to take that advice literally: Faustine and Sara just announced a 2018 Shavuot Sefaria X Moishe House Source Sheet Contest!

For more details on the Shavuot Sefaria X Moishe House Source Sheet Contest, watch this video. To check out Moishe House’s Public Group on Sefaria, click here. To explore all of Sefaria’s 100,000+ source sheets, click here.