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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Monday evening U.S. performance of “Mikva the Musical: Music and Monologues from the Deep” treated the sold-out audience at the intimate Black Box Theater in Teaneck’s Plaza to an evening of inspiration through entertainment. Coming off a highly successful premiere season in Israel, “Mikva the Musical” was brought to the U.S. for a limited engagement from June 23-30.

Complementing their performances were two shabbatonim with the directors and cast in Crown Heights and one this Shabbat, June 29, in Passaic. During the course of Shabbat afternoon in Passaic, the crew and cast of Mikva will offer uplifting, healing and enlightening workshops at the home of Bina Zarkhin (see details below).

“Mikva the Musical: Music and Monologues from the Deep” operates under the non-profit aegis of Raise Your Spirits Theater, an educational women’s theater company under the direction of artistic director, co-founder and playwright Toby Greenwald, whose creative productions, which include Joseph, Ruth and Naomi, Esther, The Song of Deborah, In Search of Courage, Count the Stars and Sisters, play to sell-out audiences in Efrat.

“Mikva the Musical” is a theater project begun in 2006 when Myra Gutterman, visionary and co-author, approached Greenwald with the idea of recording the experiences of balaniyot, mikva attendants. In the words of Greenwald and Gutterman: “The monologues and parodied songs enable us to view the mikvah through the eyes of a new bride, a new mother, a convert, a woman who toivels though she is disabled, a woman who discovers her breast cancer while dunking, a woman who dips in the ocean while on a romantic vacation and more. Our mission is to give voice to these varied experiences and to develop sensitivity among the public to the joys and benefits of mikvah, and to the life challenges that many women face. Yet, they continue to perform this important and beautiful mitzvah.”

The four members of the cast merge four different personalities, chronological ages and worldviews. However, together they create a universal worldview of women’s approaches to the observance of mikvah.

Adina Feldman, a New York native who resides in Har Adar, is a well-known singer, songwriter, director and teacher of the arts. She has performed in the U.S. in Town Hall and in Israel at the Israel Festival. She has served as a faculty member at the Hebrew University and Rubin Academy and currently at the Ono Academic College where she runs the Vocal Performance Department at the School of Music.

Ariella Ganz, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, studied at Migdal Oz and Machon Herzog. From a young age she has performed on stage including playing the key role of Mahle in the Raise Your Spirits production of “SISTERS! The Daughters of Tzelofchad.” Ganz, who resides in Efrat, is a certified yoga instructor, life coach and kallah teacher, and is currently studying to become a yoga therapist.

Michele Gray Thaler, who performs from her wheelchair, is originally from Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and now resides in Neve Yaakov. After graduating from Temple University where she performed in many theater productions, she moved to Israel to study at Pardes and to work at the Livnot U’Lehibanot program in Tzfat. With the birth of her fifth child, she was left paralyzed from her waist down from a faulty epidural. She has given birth to two more children since that tragic event. Undaunted, she became an inspirational speaker and created a specialized dance troupe for women that pairs wheelchair-bound women with standing partners. Recently, she addressed a conference of 600 mikvah attendants, sponsored by the Eden Center, about the experience of going to the mikvah as a woman who is disabled.

Yael Valier, an English native who resides in Efrat, is a graduate of Stern College and earned an MA from Bryn Mawr College. In 2012 she completed Matan’s Ayanot Program with a concentration in Biblical studies. She began performing with Raise Your Spirits 16 years ago and in 2016 she founded the Jerusalem-based Theater and Theology Company. She has been a Think Tank Fellow at the David Cardozo Academy since 2009 and teaches drama at Midreshet Emuna V’Omanut.

In addition to the stellar cast is the excellent musical accompaniment of Riva Schertzman. A resident of Beitar Illit, Schertzman is a popular piano/keyboard accompanist and performer, having performed in the U.S., Canada and England in addition to Israel. Her women’s duo known as “Riva and Aviva” showcased throughout Israel, especially cheering up women and girls in the communities of Judea and Samaria after horrific terror attacks. She has performed in Raise Your Spirits productions as both an accompanist as well as a singer.

The Passaic shabbaton “Mikva” will take place on Shabbat, June 29, from 3-6 p.m., at the home of Bina Zarkhin, 61 The Circle. To reserve, contact Leslie Gold Ruder at 973-800-6243 or email [email protected]

By Pearl Markovitz