Sunday, November 16, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
, a 21 year old girl is fighting
for her life. Actually, as she lies in a coma, others are fighting for
her life, sitting by her bedside, praying for her, saying psalms in her behalf
– Yemima bat Avraham Avinu. Hadassah Hospital
Correct, “bat Avraham Avinu”, the father of all Jewish souls. Only a few short months ago, Yemima, originally from
received her conversion certification.
Terror in Jerusalem
On Wednesday, an Arab terrorist plowed down a group of Jews at the Ammunition Hill train station. Infant Chaya Zissel Braun was murdered in the attack, and eight others are in various stages of injury. Yemima Mascera Barera is in critical condition, on life support systems. It’s ironic that Yemima, who wanted so much to be Jewish and come closer to Hashem in His Holy City, became a victim of Arab terror just for that – being a Jew in
Yemima has been living in
for the past two years, strengthening her connection to G-d, Judaism and Israel. Her
friends and teachers all say she was always very single minded, focused on one
goal - becoming a Jew, coming ever closer to Hashem, marrying a Torah-observant
husband and raising a Jewish family here. Completing the dream would be
bringing her mother and sister to Jerusalem.
As of this writing, Yemima’s mother and sister are on the plane to
Israel, but not
in the way the 21 year old had hoped.
Searching for G-d
Rabbi Gavriel Guiber of Un Mundo Mejor (who teaches Torah in Spanish) has helped Yemima for the past five years, since she first wrote to him on the internet, asking him for guidance in leading a more observant life. Her questions had such depth, the rabbi thought she was Jewish. Yemima told him that while she was not Jewish, her mother lit Shabbat candles, and the family had a tradition that the grandmother and great-grandmother had done so, as well. Her family name is one of anusim (forced converts who tried to observe vestiges of Jewish practice), but the family had no documentation that they were Jewish.
Rabbanit Chaya Engel, one of Yemima’s teachers in Machon Roni, a Spanish-language seminary for women, said that the Zohar states that when G-d asked the nations of the world if they would keep the Torah, as a whole they rejected it. However there were small voices within the nations that answered, “Yes!” “No one heard them, except HaKadosh Baruch Hu,” Rabbanit Engel said. “Before Meshiach comes, Hashem is bringing back all those neshamot (souls) that wanted to accept His Torah, because they deserve it.”
Yemima is one of those souls.
Tradition in Ecuador
, Yemima lived as
traditional a life as possible with her mother and sister. Her parents are
divorced. While they all wished to become Jewish, since the family had little
money, Yemima’s mother gave her whatever they had in order to come to Guayaquil, Ecuador Israel.
Rabbi Guiber helped her, and brought her to Machon Roni where other Spanish-speaking women learned Torah. He said, “She is a model example of a gentile that wanted to convert, and also an example to us.”
In order to support herself, she worked in a senior residence in Bnei Brak, and commuted to seminary daily. Rabbanit Sara Yalta Katz, director of the seminary, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, said that Yemima traveled the farthest to learn, but she never missed a day.
When she moved to
to be closer to Machon Roni, Yemima worked cleaning houses. Her best friend
said, “She would have done anything to learn Torah.”
Rabbanit Engel teaches many Spanish-speaking girls who are preparing for their conversion. “These girls come to
Israel, having a relatively high
level of education or standing in their home countries. They were teachers,
clerks, and today they clean floors. But they are willing to be nothing here,
like the Biblical Ruth, in order to be Jewish. We were born Jewish, but they
chose to be Jewish.“
Rabbanit Katz said that Yemima decided at a young age that she wanted to become Jewish, but she was always hoping for a sign proving that “Hashem controls the world”. Yemima told her that once while praying the Amida (the Silent Prayer), an earthquake hit. Her family went scrambling under the table, and everything was falling around her. Yemima said that perhaps she was concentrating so intensely on her prayers that she did not feel the earthquake at all. She told herself, “This is it.”
While Yemima has completed her conversion process, she is still working through the bureaucracy of citizenship. IY”H, may she recover and fulfill the entire dream – living as a Jewish woman in
Israel and one day raising a Jewish
family that will be a tribute to our people.
Your psalms for Yemima’s recovery are vital. http://tehilimyahad.com/mr.jsp?r=Fudis7dfI1
Monday, April 7, 2014
It was June 21, 2001, almost a month since the murder of two beloved Efrat residents, olah chadasha (new immigrant) Sarah Blaustein, HY”D, and youth group leader Esther Elvan, HY”D. My community of Efrat (and the greater community of Gush Etzion) was reeling from the Arab terror on the roads of Gush Etzion and across the country. We were all in a huge depression. Tears flowed easily and often. Smiles had long been forgotten.
The much-awaited summer vacation was filled with dread. Folks didn’t drive on the roads. There was nothing to do and no place where we could escape the deadly realities of the day.
On the Efrat list, which I had established some years before, Efrat residents were writing their ideas of ways to cheer up the community – a town fair, cowboy-and-Indian movie nights, etc. All cute, but nothing that captured the imagination.
He’d say, “We're gonna put on a show. And it’s gonna be the greatest thing this town has ever seen. And everyone’ll be in it.”
The idea of the show was to raise everyone’s spirits! Well, by golly, it worked for Mickey every time! And if a show could cheer up post-Depression
maybe it could help depressed Efrat/Gush Etzion.
With Mickey's Inspiration
So, I wrote an email to the Efrat list:
“WE’RE PUTTING ON A SHOW. It will be the greatest spectacular in the history of the Gush Stage. A cast of thousands, or at least dozens. You’ll leave the theatre singing and dancing and feeling good.”
“We’re going to spend our summer preparing a fantabulastic show for women only (sorry guys – if you want a play, put on your own).”
Thirty-five women joined at my first meeting, and we had enough of a staff for two directors, two choreographers, a stage manager, a scenic designer, a producer (me) and lots of other stuff.
That night, I summed up the meeting. “I explained that the goal of the play is to give everyone something positive to do all summer, and to bring us closer together in HAPPINESS, instead of in SORROW. We’re going to sing together, dance together, work hard together, sweat together and smile together. And at the end of the summer, IY”H, we’re going to invite all the women of Gush Etzion to come see the show. I know all of them won’t come, but we hope several hundred will. We’re even going to invite the women of Chevron, Kiryat Arba, Beit El and Ofra. They all really need something to sing about.”
Little did I, or anyone else know, that the Gush Etzion Raise Your Spirits Summer Stock Company would not only attract hundreds of women, but more than 40,000 women/girls from Israel and the Diaspora would see our shows over the past 13 years, and B”H, bli ayin hara, we would become one of the most acclaimed community theater companies in the country.
And it all began because Mickey Rooney taught me the lessons of joyous song, a common goal, community effort, inclusion of everyone, and dedication to a dream.
They were right on target in 1939, they were right in 2001 and they still hold true today.
Those who remember him for his 200 movie roles will surely keep the legend of the tiny dynamo in their hearts.
Mickey, the women/girls of Raise Your Spirits Theater and their audiences thank you.