Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Maven & Becoming Israel in Delaware:
Gushing About The Power of Storahtelling

by Jake Goodman

This last weekend, Elana Bell, Michael Bradley Cohen, Emily Warshaw and I traveled down to Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, DE for a jam-packed weekend. I have been on many gigs, all of which feel special in their own way. This one was particularly meaningful. Below is an email I wrote after the gig...

Hello All,

I want to write a very heartfelt mazal tov to the ENTIRE Delaware team. This weekend, Emily, Elana, Michael and I traveled to Congregation Beth Shalom (CBS) in Wilmington, DE.

First, Emily and Elana performed their first ever Maven of Parshat Vayeshev called “To Know A Veil”. Both Tehilah Eisenstadt and Naomi Less, the chevruta partner and Maven mentor, respectively, went above and beyond their required duties to support these ladies in the creation of this script. It was a job exceptionally well done by all. I wish you could have been there to see it. People’s attention was rapt, they were laughing hysterically at times, 100% engaged. During the stretch and, later, during the talkback and in informal conversations, people were so involved that they brought up other perspectives that they wished were brought to this story. We heard so many comments about how meaningful this story was, how they will never ever forget this story of Tamar and Judah, how they will never think of it the same way again. Moreover, from the clergy down, everybody at CBS wants to continue Maven at their synagogue--it is likely that Rabbi Beals will join us for Maven training at HUC this January! Emily and Elana performed brilliantly: they totally took control of the space, engaged the congregation with skill and wit, and just shocked people. It was exhilarating to see so many people so surprised that they found a Torah service so meaningful. Truly, we changed their lives.

And then there was Becoming Israel, performed by Emily, Elana and Mike—performing BI for his first time. This is a stellar cast. (We have so many stellar casts!) The relationships they created together, the poise and nuance of their performances, and the power of this script overwhelmed the audience. One person—Richard, the Christian custodian—said that he had to work very hard to control himself during the performance, and afterward he went to a different room and had to pray to God. It was soooo meaningful to him to see these characters, to hear this story. One young woman, Hana, approached me after the performance and asked how she could bring Storahtelling to Brown, where she attends college. Later, her mom told me that she literally had to drag her daughter there because she is very involved in Israel politics and current events, and is not interested in hearing a simple love-Israel-or-else play, although she does love Israel. The mom said that she now has language to speak with her daughter, who loved the show.

I could go on and on. This weekend reconfirmed for me the power of Storahtelling, across our five programs. (I also spoke with many people about Raising the Bar, and expect to hear from them—and many others.) Elana, Emily and Mike each worked sooooooo hard, and with such heart. I thank them. And I thank all of us, for helping to support them. I cannot gush enough.



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