Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Mavens-in-the-Making at Hebrew Union College: Last Minute Tweaks
By Josh Breitzer

On Monday, November 16, Vicky Glikin and I had the wonderful opportunity to present a Maven for our classmates and teachers at Hebrew Union College in New York during that morning's t'filah. Our take on Parashat Toldot, "Harmful Side Effects May Occur," centers on a restless Jacob the night before reuniting with Esau. He recalls his early childhood, how he craved his father's attention and how unappreciated he felt, and ultimately relives the infamous birthright purchase, knowing that he must face Esau in the morning for the first time in years. The bullseye: how do we take care of those close to us while in pursuit of our individual dreams? We were blessed with the support of the HUC administration, some extremely generous sh'lichei tzibbur (one of whom was a fellow Maven-in-the-Making), and the presence of our friend and teacher Jake Goodman. None of us anticipated the presence of a large group of visiting out-of-state synagogue delegates, but we relished the opportunity to include our surprise guests in the maven. They participated eagerly in the aliyot and in the stretch, contributing as much as (if not more than) the resident HUC community.

One thing that surprised me during the rehearsal process was that despite all the hours we had set aside, we were still tweaking the show right up until that very morning. While I was never really able to divorce myself from the script, I still found opportunities to "play" within the characterization of Jacob, improvising whenever the moment seemed to allow for it. We also had to improvise when the sh'lichei tzibbur moved right from returning the Torah to the 'Aleinu, skipping right over our chatimah. Fortunately, some split-second communication allowed for us to offer the chatimah before the Mourners' Kaddish. I was very grateful to have worked with such flexible service leaders, and came away from the experience even more certain of the need for good communication - before, during, and after the maven!

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