Monday, January 19, 2009

Parashat Vayehi: “Back to the Future”
Maven Shabbaton at BBYO Staff Retreat & Congregation Beth Emeth, in Herndon, VA

January 9-11, 2009

by Annie Levy

Storah On The Road

How do we turn everything we inherit, the obviously good stuff as well as our inherited challenges, into blessings? This is one of the many questions Chana Rothman and I explored over the past week as we performed the original Maven piece for Parashat Vayehi called “Back to the Future.” Choosing to translate the text from the perspective of Joseph’s wife, Osnat, and a time traveling Levite, the premise of the show concerned the two characters “eavesdropping” from outside the “door” where Jacob was giving out his final blessings to his sons.

We performed the Maven ritual twice, once for the entire BBYO staff at their professional training retreat at the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland and this past weekend at Congregation Beth Emeth in Herndon, VA.

You always want to think that your performances are successful, that they all go over well. But you never really know. Or else you find ways to doubt compliments. However, to paraphrase a well known line from each Maven ritual, this does not always have to be the case.

Right after completing the ritual at Beth Emeth, Chana and I were standing to the back of the sanctuary in that post-performance, momentary panic wondering if what we had just created and shared with the congregation had had an impact (and hopefully a positive one). As we stood there, a congregant came up to us. He looked very serious and came in close so that he could be heard while whispering. He said to us, in hushed tones, “I don’t know if you are the bees, the pollen, or the flowers, but this congregation will never be the same.” Well, that felt good!

Over all, it was an overwhelmingly successful weekend. I think the following quote, from Mike Wikes, program director at Congregation Beth Emeth, sums it up:

"I've seldom seen such an overwhelmingly positive response to any program that we've done. Not one negative or critical comment … from a synagogue program … unheard of!

I think the reaction speaks to how starved people are for genuine interaction with the Torah, how well the Storahtelling concept fills that void and how outstanding you are at your jobs as Mavens."

If I have inherited anything from working on this show it is the way that we really do effect change among the people we perform for.

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