Stephanie Luxenberg, 50, and Ayelet Pearl, 30, are the co-founders, along with Rabbi Jonathan Pearl, of Ashreynu, a new pluralistic, creative and musical Jewish community in Astoria, Queens. As the fledgling group’s co-directors of arts and education, “we are building our startup with an innovative vision for the Queens Jewish community: cultivating a space for creativity and engagement, both in person and online, by prioritizing relationships and responsiveness,” they tell us.
Ashreynu, which means “our happiness,” has a “relational” structure, they add, resulting “in a community where all our members are activated in a largely disaffiliated neighborhood.” In addition, Ayelet Pearl (who is the daughter of Ashrenu’s rabbi) works at the Voelker Orth Museum in Flushing, and Luxenberg works at The Village Temple and together the pair combines their art practices (Studio Shoshan and Av Rimon) to create ketubahs, interpretive text series and more.
For the full list of this year’s 36 to Watch — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
Who are your New York Jewish heroes?
We’re inspired by rabbis, musicians, artists and educators. A few of our heroes: Dr. Ora Horn Prouser, who brings balance and love to pluralism at the Academy of Jewish Religion; Yona Verwer, artist and founder of Jewish Art Salon; Shoshana Jedwab, inspiring educator and sacred drummer; Audrey Korelstein, education director at the East Midwood Jewish Center, who models relational Judaism and inclusivity as an educator; and Rabbi [Jonathan] Pearl, whose brilliant Torah and lifetime of innovation gives us the inspiration to realize our creative Jewish ideas.
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
We’ve been working together for seven years on projects that build activated, creative and connected Jewish communities and increase Jewish visibility in the cultural landscape of Queens. We tackle a range of Jewish topics through immersive experiences that draw on our textual tradition, historical context, cultural diversity and the arts, while providing a safe place for big questions and feelings, and navigating through the world.
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
Anywhere Rebbetzin Pearl is making cholent.
In one sentence, what was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?
When we ran into all our friends picking up challah from Bread of Idleness, a new challah project launched by a community member in Astoria.
How can people follow you online?
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Instagram! Follow us @Ashreynu, and our art practice at Av Rimon (@Av.Rimon) and Studio Shoshan (@Studio.Shoshan). You can also visit ashreynu.org.
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