Monday, May 28, 2012

Remembering Sarah Blaustein, HY"D

I thought of the women of Raise Your Spirits on Shavuot, as we listened to Megillat Ruth. I imagined all of them in their places on stage in the show, RUTH & NAOMI in the Fields of Bethlehem.
I didn't sing out in shul, but I did swing my bent knee to the imaginary music playing in my head.

Then I though of them again today.
We broiled this morning in the hot start-of-summer-sun, at the cemetery in Gush Etzion, as we remembered Sarah Blaustein, HY"D, who was murdered on Isru Chag Shavuot 11 years ago.
It's a sad thing to remember, but it's also the catalyst for the launching of Raise Your Spirits.
My friend Sarah's murder, along with that of my next door neighbor Esther Elvan, HY"D, and other friends and neighbors of Efrat/Gush Etzion, led to a depression in the entire region that could not be shook.
In order to raise the spirits of the area, I came up with the idea for a summer project – a show. Our first production was the Andrew Webber-Time Rice Musical  JOSEPH and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. B"H, it was a celestial hit.
The little women's theater company that I founded to raise spirits, comfort and strengthen all of us who had been so shaken by terror truly became the mouse that roared!!

Now today, eleven years later, hundreds of women have taken the stage as a part of Raise Your Spirits.
Tens of thousands of women from all over the world have come to see the women/girls of Raise Your Spirits.
RYS women/girls have entered the hearts of so many, putting a song on the lips of women and girls from Perth, Australia, to Cincinnati, Ohio, to Bombai, India, to Brooklyn, New York.
Thanks to Arlene Chertoff, Toby Klein Greenwald and me (at left - and our compan for the words we have written over the years. (ESTHER and the Secrets in the King's Court, NOAH! Ride the Wave!, RUTH & NAOMI in the Fields of Bethlehem, and parts of In Search of Courage). And thanks to Yael Valier who joined Toby for In Search of Courage and JUDGE, The Song of Devora.
Thanks to Rivka Epstein Hattin, Mitch Clyman and others for their musical contributions.
Thanks to Toby for her inspired direction.
Thanks to Rivka Schlesinger, Aviva Karpel, Sara Halevi, Elisheva Savir, Tamar Rund, Gayle Berman and everyone else who pitched in, for bringing out the music in our casts.
Thanks to Arlene, Sarah Orenstein, Tamara Spitz, Jocelyn Odenheimer, Batya Daniel and everyone else who turned our performers in to dancers.
Thanks to Eudice, Tammy, Felicity, Toby, Yael, Arlene, me and others for their production work.
Thanks to the Board – past and present – for their guidance and hard work – Arlene, Toby, me, Shelley Bloom, Susan Suna, Jill Kuchar, Tammy Rubin, Felicity Aziz, Ruthie Lieberman and Yael Valier.
Thanks to all those talented women who appeared on stage and those talented women who helped off stage (our artists, our make-up artists, scenery designers, seamstresses, ushers, saleswomen, techies, etc. etc.). We thank all of them. "__________, you are great."
Together we ARE Raise Your Spirits.
And we have raised spirits for 11 years. B"H we're still going strong.
Sarah Blaustein, HY"D, (in life as in death) was responsible for tefillah and Torah study in Kever Rachel.
I think she'd really smile to think that women and girls sing and dance and light up the night in Gush Etzion and beyond, because of her.
May her memory and that of Esther Elvan be blessed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Excitement is mounting for the newest RYS production, ESTHER and the SECRETS in the KING'S COURT.
Even last night after the Yom Yerushalayim Tefilla, when I handed out the notice at Zumba, women were abuzz. J
And yesterday's Pirkei Avot reminded everyone (who learned the Perek) about ESTHER.

Perek 6, Mishna 6

The Mishna speaks about the virtues with which sovereignty, priesthood and Torah are acquired. They include studying, listening, …awe…humility,…joy, purity…slowness to anger…good heartedness…love of charity….and saying something in the name of its speaker.
The Mishna continues, "Thus we have learned,  'One who says something in the name of its speaker brings redemption to the world, as it is stated (Esther 2:22), "And Esther told the king in the name of Mordechai."'"

I read those words and thought of all of the wonderful Raise Your Spirits Women, and the stories of Jewish history and heritage that their performances introduce to others. I'm excited that RYS is performing ESTHER this year. 
Today is Yom Yerushalayim. Jerusalem Day.
Together may we see Mordechai and Esther's dream fulfilled – the complete redemption of the Jewish people and the return of all of our brethren toJerusalem and Eretz Yisrael.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Excitement is running high here in Gush Etzion. Auditions have been announced for the newest RAISE YOUR SPIRITS production: ESTHER and the SECRETS in the KINGS' COURT. 

As Raise Your Spirits celebrates TEN YEARS to the production of ESTHER, we're going back on stage to introduce a new audience to this fabulous show. JOIN THE CAST.


WHERE: The boutique theater in the Rakefet room of Matnas Efrat.
WHEN: Monday night, May 21st, from 7:30-10:00 PM

WHAT TO PREPARE: Two minutes of a song, OR a song + monologue. Please bring sheet music or playback, if available.

AGE: From 5-120. Girls under the age of 12 must come with a mother, or other female relative or friend who is 15 or older.

ESTHER..., the story of the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people from the murderous hands of HAMAN, through the courage of Esther, Mordechai and the Jewish people.
Written by Arlene Chertoff, Toby Klein Greenwald and Sharon Katz.
Music by Rivka Epstein Hattin.

New choreography and musical arrangements!

For more info:

Photo above, the cast of ESTHER ten years ago! Photographer, Hilary Hurwitz