Thursday, January 22, 2009

Becoming Israel at LiMMUD NEW YORK

nevele grand resort in the catskills

january 16-19, 2009

By Elana Bell

For those of you not yet familiar, Limmud is a conference that brings together hundreds of Jews from all walks of life, all Jewish backgrounds, all lifestyles, and all ages for four days of lectures, workshops, text-study sessions, discussions, exhibits and performances. Storahtelling was invited to Limmud to do two performances of Becoming Israel, as well as to lead the workshop: Backstage with Storahtelling.

Our adventure started on the night before we were supposed to leave when we got an email from the Limmud Staff that the boilers at the Nevele Grand Resort had broken down and there was no heat and that they would let us know by 11am the next day whether the conference would continue. Mike Cohen, Annie Levy, Emily Warshaw and I gathered at the various departure points awaiting the decision.from Limmud. By 12:30pm we got the green light that the conference was on!

Although the heat had started working by the time we got there, the hotel was still very cold. Also one of the wings of the hotel had been closed down so many participants and presenters still had not been given rooms. Imagine 900 cold, hungry Jews. Oy! I mention all of this because it sets the scene for what ended up being two very successful performances of Becoming Israel.

By Saturday morning, the lobby was getting warmer, and so were the participants. Our first show took place on Saturday afternoon. We had to change the location from the giant theater (impossible to heat) to the much cozier "Festival Room." The room was filled. And even though it was pretty chilly, people stayed for the entire performance. They listened with rapt attention and even laughed in moments. Our second performance took place on the final evening and the room was even fuller. They had to bring extra chairs. Afterwards a young woman came up to us and said "Thank you so much for this play. Thank you for being here. We needed to hear this voice."

One of the lines in the Becoming Israel is "You can't just walk away. You have to wrestle with it. Play." In the play, this line refers to the land of Israel itself. But I think it really says something about out experience this past weekend. About 1/3 of the presenters/participants decided to leave, not wanting to deal with the discomforts of the cold. But those of us that stayed created our own warmth--by sharing meals, by singing and praying together at Havdalah, by sleeping on the floors and couches of those people who did have heat in their rooms, by studying together, and by sharing our stories--both spontaneous and scripted. I am not saying that I was thrilled about the broken boiler. But I can certainly say that it brought us closer to each other and to our fellow Limmudnicks.

As Americans we are really used to being comfortable. But on occasion I think it behooves us to remember those people who constantly without heat or hot water or enough to eat, and to be grateful for our blessings. And I would say that this experience certainly helped to remind us of that.


  1. Interesting blog - and nearly unreadable (orange type on an orange background?!?).

    Pick a blogspot template with black type, and switch to it.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion! We fixed it. Hopefully you can read it better now.