Friday, September 26, 2008

Back to the story of Becoming

Becoming Israel at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael

By David Schiller

Storah On The Road

It's been four months since Elana Bell, Franny Silverman and I performed Storahtelling's original work, "Becoming Israel" at the JCC in Manhattan to celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut - Israel's 60th. But guided by our steady director Annie Levy and supported by another Jake turned stage manager, Isadore Alex Wolfson, we prep'd ourselves and made our way to Springfield, NJ and the congregation of Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael.

The first and only time I had visited this Shul, was when my father's community merged with this larger one in Springfield, and we brought the Torahs from Union, NJ to their new home. I joined in with others by blowing the shofar and heralding their arrival. That day, Rabbi Mallach welcomed their new congregants with a sermon talking about how their name had changed from Temple Beth Ahm, to Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael...and, I kid you not, discussed the meaning of the name Israel and how the shul had "become" something new. He even encouraged the congregants to struggle as much as they could with their beliefs and knowledge, reminding us that GOD wishes for us wrestle with the hard questions. If he only knew that half a year later or so, he would hire an acting troupe to hammer this idea home in the form of what I think is a fabulous theatre piece that takes the audience on a journey of laughter and tears.

The show itself went quite well and we did just that...made them laugh and cry! With the mics not working, an AC that was blaring, and a space that wasn't as full as we would have liked, our cast kept the focus and grabbed the audience right from the beginning with our modified figure 8's and beautiful chanting and translation.

Afterwards, Franny beautifully led us in an educational talkback where there were not many comments, but a few that hit home for us all. The first was from an audience member who noticed that there were 3 instances of Israel being born, or 'Becoming': Yaakov wrestling and winning his fight; our character Rachel working in Palestine and witnessing the birth of the State of Israel; and young Jake seeing the land for the first time and him becoming a lover of his heritage and people. This led to the Rabbi mentioning that all three characters took trips on water to get where they needed to go and how spiritually significant that was: Biblical Leah crossing the river Yabuk and watching the fight from across it; Rachel stuffed on a boat crossing the Mediteranean from Europe to the Holy Land; and Jake flying over the Atlantic.

It was an absolute pleasure to work thru and discover more of the beauty of this show and a double, no, quadruple pleasure to perform in front of both of my parents and my two sisters. We thank everyone involved and hope that those of you who haven't had a chance to see the show yet, will get to very soon. And let's all start manifesting the NYC run that this show deserves.

L'shanah Tovah, PEACE and BLESSINGS,

1 comment:

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