Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When the Show Goes On

Last night I appeared in a Gush Etzion Women's Variety Show, called Chutzot HaYotzeret. I tapped in two great numbers with my fellow tappers, Those Tappin' Dames, led by our choreographer Judy Feinerman Kizer.
Chutzot HaYotzeret is an evening that women of Efrat and Gush Etzion look forward to all year long. It begins with fabulous arts and crafts and clothes and jewelry and more. Hundreds of women wander through the booths to try on the latest hats, check out new colors in make-up, and peruse the gorgeous challah covers and ceramics. (At left, Liora Nitsan and her magnificent painting of Abraham and Isaac.)

There was plenty to see and plenty to buy.

On top of that, there were scrumptious quiches, delicious salads, and yummy soups by Daniel BaHar, a catering company in nearby Neve Daniel.

And this was before the planned show.

Bad News

But something else happened before the show. A fatal car crash claimed the lives of two adults - one from Alon Shvut and one from Elazar. In addition, we heard that a second woman in the car was in critical condition.

So, here we are with our dance bags on our shoulders, preparing for a show, and our community is in tears. We get a phone call from one of our dancers that the woman from Elazar was her dear friend, and she can't bear to go on stage. Suddenly, we realize how close the tragedy has come to us. Next, we hear the identity of the man that has been killed, and almost all of us know of him, and surely know his inspirational wife. They were parents of terror victims and were raising their orphaned grandchildren. Now the father/grandfather has been killed, and more tragedy has hit this amazing family.

We are all sad, and we look at each other. "Are we going to perform tonight when our friends are attending funerals?"

We hear rumors. The show will be postponed. The show will go on.

Memory of 2001

Suddenly my mind is filled with another show, ten years ago, a show on 9/11/2001 by the theater company I had just founded, the Efrat/Gush Etzion Raise Your Spirits Summer Stock Company.

Flashback: We are on our way to the same theater in the Gush Etzion Community Center. Two planes have just plowed head on into the World Trade Center in New York City. We're putting on make-up and listening to the news. We're getting into costume and watching some disaster movie on TV with planes smashing into NYC's Twin Towers.

The phone starts ringing. "Are you performing tonight?" "Yes, of course." "What? You're performing tonight. Planes have destroyed the World Trade Center. Many people have probably been killed."

Yes, it's true. It's a terrible disaster. We've had many terror attacks in Israel, but our decision was always to cry, pray and go forward.

The Jewish people have spent their history going from one terrible disaster to the next - the Exile of the Ten Tribes, the Destruction of Bet HaMikdash, the Expulsion from Spain, the Inquisitions, the Pogroms of Russia, attacks of the Mujahideen, the Holocaust, Arab terror attacks and more and more.

If we got into bed and pulled the covers over our head with every tragedy, life would never go on in Israel.

We're not heartless when we perform. We are full of faith in this hour of darkness.

Instead of cancelling the show, we send cast members to synagogues all around to borrow prayer books. Four hundred women come to our show, JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and they are asked to pray and recite psalms. The audience is standing, tears running down everyone's cheeks. Behind stage, the performers are praying as well.

We are united in our sorrow and united in our emunah (belief in G-d).

So, first we have a massive women's prayer service and then we put on the gosh-darnedest best show we possibly could. That's what we do. We're Raise Your Spirits.

We go on, the show goes on, because life must go on.

There is tragedy. We say a prayer. We hug one another, and we continue on.

Back to the Future

So, we're in Alon Shvut waiting to hear if we're going to perform or not, and we're told by Event Producer/Director Sima Gal that the show will go on, beginning with psalms and quiet music, instead of the opening act that was expected (us!!).

We get into our costumes and take our seats. Everyone says very heartfelt prayers.

My friend Fayge looks beautiful and all dolled up with her tap shoes, costume and long gloves. We're going on soon, and yet Fayge has a cell phone in her lap.

She's on the Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish burial society, of our town and she's waiting to hear if the second woman in the accident will be okay. If the woman passes away, Fayge may be called at any moment to purify her body for burial.

She is ready for everything - ready to perform with your dance troop or ready to jump into her car and perform the ultimate kindness.

We tell Fayge that she must be a very holy person if she can perform such a holy act. Fayge disagrees, "No. I do it because I'm a Jew and that's what we have to do for one another."

We dance (B"H, we were great!). We're so happy. Then Fayge gets the call. The woman passenger in the car has passed away. Baruch dayan ha'emet. (Blessed be the true Judge.)

We hug one another very tightly. We don't have to say anything. We take off our tap shoes and go home.

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