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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘dance’

Rachel Factor’s ‘Not Even Normal’

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

        When Rachel Factor was searching for a title for her new show, the words “not even normal” kept popping into her head. It’s a phrase she heard used frequently by the young seminary students who were guests in her home. If the girls thought the food was especially delicious or they found something indescribably good they enthusiastically proclaimed, “It’s not even normal!” These words resonated deeply within her.


 

         “All my life I didn’t want normal and so I was always searching,” she explained, and therefore it seemed like the perfect description for her extraordinary journey. But unlike her first one-woman show, “JAP”, which toured the U.S. and Canada for four months, this show will be limited to a two-week engagement because Rachel Factor now has a four-year-old son who attends cheder. When I asked the former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, Broadway actress and television performer if she ever thought she would have a child in cheder she answered with genuine wonder, “Did I ever think I would even know what the word cheder meant?”

 

         It definitely wasn’t part of her vocabulary when she was growing up in Hawaii and dreamt of becoming a star. The daughter of Japanese-Americans, she told the inspiring story of her storybook marriage to Todd Factor, her conversion to Orthodox Judaism and aliyah to Israel, in her critically acclaimed show, “JAP.” Less than two years after her successful fundraising tour, Rachel has fulfilled another dream, to build a center in Jerusalem that offers classes for women in the theater arts in accordance with Torah values.

 

Build It And They Will Come


 


         Located in the Bell Tower on King George Street, she named the center HaMachol Shel Bnos Miriam “in honor of the women who sang praises to Hashem when they crossed the Yam Suf.” Rachel is convinced, “There is a desire inside all of us to express ourselves in song and dance, and we should have the opportunity to express this desire in a way that is holy.”

 

         Bnos Miriam offers women and girls of all ages a dizzying schedule of classes, including ballet, drama, jazz, groove, vocal, strength, pre-natal and cardio. “We wanted to give women a place to take care of their bodies and their minds.” In order to achieve this, the center also provides young mothers with daycare. The feedback coming from kollel men whose wives come to class has been extremely positive because it has given the women an opportunity to reconnect with themselves and others.

 

         Another remarkable aspect of the center has been the positive message girls receive from their teachers. When the students meet women like former rock star Moran Rotman, who turned down a record deal which she had pursued most of her life, and professional ballerina, Leah Faigel Hyman, they can’t help but be inspired. “These Ba’alot Teshuvah, who made a conscious choice to give up a successful secular lifestyle because they found a life of Yiddishkeit and Torah more rewarding, provide very positive role models for our students.”

 

         Rachel also experienced the daunting challenge of giving up her career, but she sensed that “Hashem wanted something from me, and I knew that if I just committed to it fully then he would take care of me.” Today she feels blessed because “Now I dance every day and use what I know to help other people through movement and song.”

 

Not Even Normal, The Sequel


 


         Rachel’s new show takes up where “JAP” left off and was written from what she describes as a much more spiritual place. “I’ve really searched for guidance in doing the second show, and so I read it for Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller who gave it a high recommendation and gave me new inspiration to go forward with it.” Her goal in this show was “not only to provide kosher entertainment for women but also to leave them with a message so that they would walk away having gained something in their lives.” The show also features “two extraordinary performers, Aharona Gans and Raquella Siegel, who dance and play characters in the show.”

 

         Rachel has written all of the songs herself and is especially proud of the song about her son, Ariel, whom she credits with bringing her to Israel. “We feel a strong sense of purpose and meaning living here and it’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown.”

 

         Rachel’s husband Tovia, who attends Midrash Shmuel, will be accompanying her on the tour along with sons Ariel and Shalom and the newest member of the family, eight-week-old Avigail.

 

         For show locations, dates and times and to order tickets go to www.Rachelfactor.com or call 646-201-9636.

Bringing Up The Next Generation To Care

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006


Communication is both verbal and nonverbal. We tell our children how to behave. We talk to them about midos (good character) and try to inspire them with stories of everyday heroes. We hope inspiration to act appropriately will come from examples of the behavior of our gedolim, as we surround our house with their pictures and fill our bookshelves with their teachings. All of this does have a profound impact on our children. But it is very important to remember whose example will influence our children more than any other and how that influence works.


 


Nonverbal communication (what we do instead of what we say) seems to have a much more powerful influence on those around us than verbal communication. This is not to negate anything mentioned above. Our children need many influences, verbal and nonverbal, from many sources. But it is vital to remember that a parent is perhaps the biggest influence in a child’s life at any age, and, parents’ behavior carries tremendous power. What they see us do influences them to a much greater degree than what we say.


 


This poem arrived on my computer from a friend. Once again, it was by that famous author, “Anonymous” whose works are so often sent from one computer to another. It so reflected what I feel, that I framed it and have it hanging in my kitchen and in my children’s homes.


 


When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw my first painting on the refrigerator and I wanted to paint another one.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat and I thought it was good to be kind.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my favorite cake, just for me, and I knew that little things are special things.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a prayer and I believed in a G-d I could always talk to.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I felt you kiss me goodnight and I felt loved.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw a tear come to your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s alright to cry.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I wanted to be.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked…and I wanted to say thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.


 


     I’d like to change the poem to perhaps make some points about what, unfortunately, is common when raising children in our communities and what they are teaching our children.


 


Things That Would Horrify Us, If We Only Realized Their Effect


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you keep the change that was too much instead of returning it and I knew it was all right to keep what wasn’t yours.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you tell the man asking for tzedakah that you had no money, and I knew it was all right to lie and not give charity.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you ask the carpenter what price it would be if you paid him cash, and I knew it was all right to cheat the government.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you buy a TV at the store so we could see the World Series and then return it right after and I knew it was all right to “rent at Walmart.”


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you transfer the macaroni with the hechsher we didn’t use into a package with the hechsher Daddy likes, and I knew it was all right to fool around with kashrus and lie to your spouse.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you talking badly about our neighbor and I knew it was all right to speak lashon harah and gossip.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you pass by the blind man at the corner without offering to help and I knew that it was all right to ignore those that need us.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you ignore the needs of our sick neighbor and I knew bikur cholim (helping the sick) wasn’t important.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you didn’t dance with Yanky, my friend whose father was in a wheelchair and couldn’t dance with him, on Simchat Torah and I knew not to be sensitive to another’s needs.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you not help Bubby and Zaidy on Yom Tov when we visited and I knew how to treat you when you get old.


 


     When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw our neighbor sitting alone every Shabbos and Yom Tov and I knew that inviting guests was only for whom we like and not who needed the invitation.


 


     We teach mostly by example. Our young children copy everything from how we walk, sigh and even cough, to how we speak to another (words, tone and all). If we want to raise children who care, we must show them by our example of caring for others to teach how it is done. Otherwise it’s just “do as I say and not how I do”. In that case, it may never get done.


 


You can contact me at annnovick@hotmail.com or by snail mail c/o the Jewish Press.

Evelyn’s Story

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Last week I relayed Evelyn’s story. She is a well spouse who was making a simcha. She chose not to invite people who hadn’t visited or called her husband since he became a resident in a nursing home. Included in her invitation boycott was anyone who hadn’t called her or invited her for a Shabbos or Yom Tov meal or even a cup of tea during the same period. Evelyn related to me how some people realized exactly why they were excluded from the simcha and even apologized or tried to make up for their neglect. But what of the people who chose not to “get it” – the people who just got angry and felt slighted? I asked Evelyn how she felt now, months after the simcha. Was she sorry she hadn’t invited everyone in her community as she had in the past?

Evelyn told me that not only was she still comfortable with her decision, but she felt it was the most freeing decision she had made in a long, long time. The people she had invited to her simcha were people who had stood by her during the past two years, and though she understood that no one intended to deliberately hurt her, that is exactly what had happened. She told me she meant no ill will toward anyone, but simchas make us all vulnerable and filled with emotion.

She felt that having people present at her simcha who had ignored them through their crises of these past years would have made the day uncomfortable for her and her husband. She knew she would have to fight the negative feelings that would rise within her heart when she saw them.

This way, she felt surrounded by people she wanted there – people whose actions mirrored their sentiments. She felt that at the simcha, the room was full of warmth and caring, and that was what she wanted. She told me she had no regrets for having shortened her guest list to almost half. And anyone who chose to remain angry with her and not even bother to ask aloud (or in their heart, for that matter) why they were excluded could just stay excluded. No, she had no regrets.

Evelyn concluded our interview by telling me that the best part of the shortened guest list was the feeling it gave her when (maybe for the first time in her life) she refused to respond to what others expected her to do. Instead, she felt that she had taken control of her life and did what was right for her, and it was a wonderful feeling.

Bracha had always gone to, helped out and supported community functions. Since she didn’t live in a large Jewish community, she always felt it was important to support all the Jewish functions and help whenever she could. This year, however, had been a year filled with crisis after crisis for Bracha and her chronically ill husband. She too had had the misfortune of having to juggle a simcha and a crisis all at the same time.

Since then, she found herself feeling alone and depressed much of the time. She feared for the future as her husband’s condition worsened. Her physical and mental energy were sapped.

As Chanukah approached, Bracha thought about the annual dinner she always attended. She thought about all the children running around and the tumult she used to love. She knew that this year it would take all her energy to be there. She would have to field questions about her husband over and over again. She anticipated walking away more depressed than she was now, if that was possible. Yet the desire to support the event made her unsure of whether or not she’d attend.

While debating what to do, the chairperson of the event called Bracha to ask if she was coming. Bracha felt immediately better. How nice that there was concern about her being alone. She felt the support that comes when someone thinks of you. She thanked the caller for her thoughtfulness and concern and said she just wasn’t sure if she’d attend this year given all she was dealing with. She was sure they’d have an extra “latke” or two should she decide to come without a reservation.

The chairperson responded, without even a hint of embarrassment, that she was really calling because they needed more help and was hoping that Bracha could take a cooking, serving and/or clean up shift.

The call helped Bracha decide. She knew that this year she needed to, and should look after, her own needs. She decided to follow her heart, care for herself, and not go to the community event. Instead, she called a close, supportive friend and asked her to accompany her to a restaurant for dinner.

She knew that her absence at the shul would be noticed and felt that maybe that was a good thing. If anyone asked why she hadn’t attended, she’d tell the truth. She’d say that she just wasn’t up to it this year because she was depressed and hoped that by changing her routine, her “dance,” perhaps what she was dealing with might be noticed.

If not, at least, she, like Evelyn, spent the evening in the way she wanted, and not doing what was routine and expected. She had recharged her batteries, placed herself in a positive situation, and had no regrets about changing the “dance.”

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall

Friday, October 1st, 2004

(Names and situations have been changed)

How we see ourselves and what we think we are capable of doing are very powerful forces. If we feel we can accomplish something, we are motivated to pursue it. Motivation can move mountains. Motivation has been known to reverse negative medical predictions and enable people to do what was thought impossible.

How a person perceives his abilities and disabilities strongly influences how a person acts, what he participates in, and what he accomplishes. How a person thinks he is seen as opposed to how we actually see him can make all the difference in what he strives for. His perception of himself has a strong influence on his future.

Simon was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Before this diagnosis, he swam, cycled in a seniors’ cycling group and loved to hike. He had noticed that he had slowed down, began to gravitate to the back of the hikers’ group, and often found that he could no longer keep up at the front of the cyclists. Still, he saw himself as capable of participating. He felt part of the group, and this was part of his identity before the diagnosis.

One day, a member of the hiking group who had not been there for months returned. When he saw Simon and noticed his deterioration he yelled, “What happened to you? Did you have a stroke while I was gone?” Simon was not only embarrassed, but suddenly realized that people
were seeing him in a very different light than he thought they were. That day, he went home and asked his wife if he looked as if he had a stroke? Was he as disabled as the fellow had indicated?

At that moment, Simon saw himself differently. He saw himself as a sick man who could no longer enjoy the activities he had enjoyed until the moment of the comment. He stopped participating in these groups. With his withdrawal came a loss of social interaction and physical participation. He decided that the disease would not let him be the man he had been before. At that moment, Simon lost his motivation to do anything and decided he was just a sick man. At that moment the disease won.

Louis liked to dance. He may not have been the best dancer, but he could certainly hold his own on the dance floor at weddings. He too had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. While adjusting to the diagnosis, he decided not to share the bad news with anyone just yet. At a recent wedding, while he thought he was dancing up a storm, a friend yelled across the room, “Hey Louis, can’t you dance anymore? Pick up the pace man!”

At that moment, Louis stopped dancing, walked off the dance floor, began questioning his abilities, and started taking stock of his losses. At that moment, Louis began to see himself differently. He now saw himself as a person who can’t as opposed to a person who can. At that moment, the disease won and Louis’ life changed forever.

Marvin’s chronic illness had taken him on a sudden downhill spiral. He had been confined to bed for months, and as a result his muscles had weakened from inactivity. Because of the long hospital stay and the nature of the illness, Marvin received notice that his driver’s license was revoked pending passing a driving test.

The doctor’s told Marvin’s wife that the chances of his regaining his muscle strength was highly unlikely. Marvin’s wife asked the doctors not to share this news with Marvin. She felt that he was very suggestible and that the information would devastate him and force him to lose his motivation to get better. She constantly agreed with Marvin about his recovery, encouraging him to exercise and do whatever he could for himself. Today, Marvin is driving once again.

Bella was told she should get her affairs in order as she had little time left on this earth. When pressed by Bella, the doctors told her she had three months to live. Bella died exactly three months later.

Morris was told he had three months to live. Marvin had a fighting personality. He told the doctors they were fools and that he had no intention of passing away in three months. Ten years later, Morris is still alive, and the doctors don’t understand it.

Your perception of yourself defines the boundaries you live with. How you see yourself is influenced by many factors. Not the least of these factors is how others perceive you and the message they give you about yourself. More importantly, though, is what we choose to tell ourselves, what we choose to believe about ourselves, and what we challenge. Motivation and a realistic belief in ourselves and our abilities have been known to move mountains. Letting someone outside yourself define your limitations moves nothing, least of all yourself.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/mirror-mirror-on-the-wall/2004/10/01/

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