You’re about to read the most amazing thank you note ever. But first some background:
For the past half a year, I’ve been involved in the most amazing theater project. A brand new theater company, the Women’s Performance Community of Jerusalem, put on Count the Stars, an original musical by and for women. The musical is based on the journey of Abraham and Sarah, the Jewish patriarch and matriarch. We women of Jerusalem and Greater Jerusalem, rehearsed twice a week, week in and week out, for six months at the OU Israel Center.
During this time, the cast, comprised of women and girls of all ages, forged a powerful bond. Most of us had performed in a variety of shows through the years, but never did we experience such unity as we did this time around. There was just something special here. Something remarkable.
One cast member thought it was about the lack of ego among the performers. I thought it was about the dynamism of one of the founders of the performance company, Sharon Katz. Or perhaps it was about the fact that we were doing something totally new in theater, something new and Jewish, and doing it in the heart of the holy city of Jerusalem.
Whatever it was, that special something, and whatever the reason for it, it continues. We had our four performances at the Gerard Behar Theater. We had our cast party at the OU Center. And still, we’re just not ready or willing to say goodbye. That’s why we have a Chanukah party scheduled. We don’t want to see the holy atmosphere, the Jewish sisterhood we found here in Jerusalem, to dissipate.
This is something that must be nurtured, treasured, and indulged.
Now I’d like to say that even though I have a full time job, I felt pretty free to pick up and leave for rehearsals at the end of a work day. My kids are older. They can fend for themselves. I don’t know if I could have managed if they were younger. It was a big sacrifice for the women in our cast who are still raising young children. Or rather, it was a big sacrifice for their husbands.
Just how big a sacrifice became clear at our cast party, when our director, Shifra Penkower, read us a letter from the husband of one of our cast members. It seems that Betsalel Steinhart, a licensed tour guide and Jewish educator, sent this letter to the production crew with the specific intent that it be read aloud to the cast. He meant to surprise his wife Shoshana, a petite dancer who in real life, is an occupational therapist at Alyn Hospital Pediatric & Adolescent Rehabilitation Center.
He certainly succeeded. I watched her out of the corner of my eye as the letter was read. She was moved to the core. She was actually shaking with emotion.
Here is the letter:
Tuesday December 6th. BS’D.
To the wonderful women of Count the Stars, from the long lost men in your lives…
I think I am speaking on behalf of all the Count the Stars men when I write these words. True, I have never met them, your husbands, boyfriends, fathers and sons, and can only see my wife, Shoshana, as she went through the last six months, but I am hazarding a guess that this applies to us all.
I am sitting in my quiet house, as a few miles from here the last performance is winding down. My kids are sleeping or reading, and my wife, as usual, is not here.
I have two words for you all, the two words that have defined our nation since our matriarch Leah in this week’s Parsha named her fourth son Yehuda-Judah, meaning I will thank G-d, and eventually became the name of our people, Yehudim.
Thank you to Hashem for giving you the strength and ability to do what you did.
Thank you for your dedicated, hard work. Especially to the team of Shifra, Sharon, Bati, Judy, Ellen & Avital, but to you all.
Thank you for putting on such a beautiful show that inspired so many.
Thank you for raising the lives of the women in our lives who mean so much to us, despite the price we have paid (Laundry-help!-What are delicates??? What should I make for dinner??? Is there a limit to how many times I can order pizza??? Which kid wears what size and which clothes?? Where is the cleaning fluid?? Ahhhhhh!!!)
Thank you for fanning that spark of creativity that burns within the women in our lives, that sent them to the tryouts for Count the Stars so long ago, and enabling that spark to become a burning flame of intense exuberance.
Thank you for the satisfied exhaustion that was on the faces of our women, when returning home late after yet another crazy practice, with the tiredness that only comes from doing something so fulfilling.
Thank you for giving them the opportunity to glow, to shine, to sing, to act, to dance, to radiate joy and happiness, to release all their tensions on stage as they gave their all, and to become the parts that they played with all that entails.
Thank you for giving expression to the confident, radiant smile that my wife only wears when she is in dance mode. One is only really in full flower when one is expressing their creative essence, and you gave them this chance to do so.
Thank you for caring about each other.
Thank you for building a kehilla, which by nature of its existence and the shared values that its members embody, brings forth a greater meaning and a more permanent sense of connectivity: you will never forget this, in essence.
Thank you for giving the religious women, who yearn for the opportunity to do the dances and sing the songs that maybe they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in front of men, that opportunity to do so.
Thank you for returning our women to us, each invigorated and inspired in her own way.
Our one complaint? We just wish we could have been there to see you…and in that, I definitely speak on behalf of all the men.
May Hashem grant you all the strength to continue and to perform again and again,
We love you all, and welcome you back with open arms,
It was such a beautiful letter that I felt the need to share it with the world, here in this space. It is not too many men that
could or would write such a letter.
Which proves the point I’m trying to make.
We did something special here with this show. Something that is difficult to put into words. Something that I feel could only have happened in the Holy City between Jewish sisters.
And we should definitely keep it going somehow, do more shows, create more magic, make the bible come to life on the stage, make it enjoyable, and do it all with a whole heart, in happiness and love and sisterhood.
We made something real here.
And it took a real man to see that.
Bless you, Betsalel Steinhart, for seeing us.