Tuesday, June 02, 2009

HUC Maven-in-the-Making in Rye, NY
by Student Cantor Joshua Breitzer

On Saturday, May 23, my fellow HUC Maven-in-the-Making Rabbi Beth Kalisch and I performed our take on Parashat Bamidbar, "Duty/Free" at Community Synagogue of Rye, New York for the 40 congregants in attendance at the weekly 8:45am Torah study minyan. The show focuses on Gershom ben Moshef as he becomes acquainted with his "strange" new Levite family, and their charge to serve their Cohen cousins. How should Gershom negotiate his Levite duties along with the desire to live his own life? The dilemma allowed for the kahal to explore their own perspectives on balancing autonomy with family obligation.

For me, this mavenning was the first in which neither I nor my partner was currently employed by the congregational venue. Beth had served there as the rabbinic intern last year, but that Saturday was the first time I had ever stepped foot into Community Synagogue. That made me quite literally a "stranger in a strange land," and I tried to use that perspective to inform my characterization of Gershom. Whether it meant posing precariously on the bima stairs with my back turned or squeezing in between pulpits to allow 'olim through, every logistical challenge became an opportunity for me to stay in character. Like Gershom, I struggled between "duty" to the show (remaining a maven in the midst of it) and the "free" will to flee from the script (do I crack a smile? do I break that fourth wall?)

Ultimately, everyone could relate to Gershom's struggle, and our show was well received. We even finished in time for b'not mitzvah photo shoots at 10:30am! I look forward to my next opportunity to maven in a new community.

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