So many classics and memoirs have been written, centering on the theme of courage; to name a few, “Red Badge of Courage,” and JFK’s “Profiles in Courage.” On that note, the Jewish Women’s Theatre & Newground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change presented a poignant at home salon theatre, entitled “More Courage.” One standout vignette (among many) was written by Barra Grant and performed by Tiffany Mualem; Ayeleyte Robinson and Mark Jacobson. “You can’t be beautiful and hate” told the story of the first Jewish Miss America, Bess Myerson, who wore the badge of courage well, as she faced and defied both subtle and blatant anti-semitism during the pageant. In the end, she just could not abide by the organization’s policies and wishes; i.e. to change her name, etc. In a proud fit of heroism ala Queen Esther, she declined the tour, removed her gown and crown; and chose to stay loyal to her heritage.
Another wonderful performance, apropos to this upcoming Mother’s Day was a piece called “Mothers,” written by Leora Eren Frucht, adapted from Hadassah Magazine by Rhonda Spinak; and performed by Ayelette Robinson; Aneela Qureshi; Mark Jacobson and Tiffany Mualem. This vignette focused on two women, one Arab, one Israeli, each from diametrically opposing cultures and mindsets, yet when encountering one another, develop an unbreakable bond as they discover they have more in common than one would ever believe, all in the name of motherly love.
“Kosher Rebel,” written by Abby Stein, and adapted from an interview by Julie Bram, and exquisitely performed by Ayelette Robinson, was perhaps the most powerful, compelling presentation of the evening. Herman Hesse often wrote about the divergence between men and women and how often men have innate feminine characteristics. Even in today’s world, with transgender culture much less taboo, we are in constant dialogue and discussion over whether men are really men; women are really women; or are we just human beings conflicted within our own bodies? In this performance, a Hasidic man/woman comes to terms with sexuality against all odds and family tradition.
The need to improve and empower Muslim-Jewish relations and strengthen cooperation and mutual respect is clearly evident in this theatrical presentation. Rather than a black and white news story or documentary, this vivid portrayal is a creative attempt to bridge the gulf. Jewish Women’s Theatre and Newground have impeccably brought together a meeting of the minds and melting of the hearts and souls in one. It’s clear that the only true solution is negotiation and tolerance , not war, hatred, fear, or madness.
The creativity and collaboration by these talented women is a huge start.
through May 18