The Institute for Contemporary Midrash (ICM) was created by Rivkah Walton to support the participation of contemporary midrash, a type of biblical interpretation, through visual, performing, and literary arts. Formalized in 1996, after several Bibliodrama trainings in 1995 and 1996 led by Peter Pitzele and Walton, the ICM received foundation funding in 1997 and created a membership/journal-subscriber base to facilitate multi-disciplinary summer training programs, Bibliodrama training for Christian clergy and seminaries, and courses in contemporary midrash and serve as a resource on the subject. The ICM also published “Living Text: The Journal of Contemporary Midrash” (1997-2000).
The idea for the Institute for Contemporary Midrash was seeded in the spring of 1995 when ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal sponsored an experimental, three-weekend Bibliodrama training by Peter Pitzele in Philadelphia. Managed by Rivkah Walton, the ALEPH Associate Director at the time, participants included psychotherapists Bobbie Breitman and Judy Freed, rabbinical student Lisa Kapin, Rabbi Goldie Milgram, Cantor Chaim Rothstein z”l, Rabbi Shawn Zevit, and actor/director Robb Hutter, among others.
Following the success of the experiemental training, Walton designed a week-long Bibliodrama Training Institute in the summer of 1996, which was sponsored and hosted by Elat Chayyim and subsidized with discretionary funding from the Nathan Cummings Foundation. This led to the official creation of the Institute for Contemporary Midrash (ICM) in the fall, which was to include visual, performing, and literary arts as a 501(c)(3).
In 1997, the ALEPH Board committed to serving as the fiscal sponsor of ICM and listed the organization as an ALEPH asset in order to broaden ALEPH’s spiritual identity beyond ecstatic worship.
Until 2001, ICM offered five week-long, multi-disciplinary, subsidized summer training programs; three week-long Bibliodrama trainings for Christian clergy and seminarians at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.; courses in contemporary midrash at ALEPH Kallahs; along with publishing eight issues of "Living Text: The Journal of Contemporary Midrash." The ICM served as a resource and referral service for individuals seeking information about Contemporary Midrash and communities seeking artists-in-residence through its website.
Gift of Rivkah M. Walton and the Institute for Contemporary Midrash in 2017.