April 21, 2024
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Meorot Enables NCSY’s Summer Programs to ‘Inspire and Empower’

An audience of almost 2,000 women—mothers, grandmothers, aunts, siblings and even a sprinkling of great-grandmothers—gathered to celebrate Meorot’s fifth annual production, “Redemption,” on February 11. At two performances in the Bergen County Academies, 240 exuberant girls, representing 20 schools throughout Bergen County, danced and sang, exhibiting the skills they learned from many months of weekly practice. The proceeds from these performances underwrite the more than 23 summer programs sponsored by NCSY in the U.S., Israel and Europe. Through these diverse summer programs, geared to the interests and needs of youngsters who may otherwise not be able to afford these once-in-a-lifetime experiences, NCSY is fulfilling its mission to “connect, inspire and empower” young Jews.

Practice for this year’s production commenced immediately following the outbreak of the war in Gaza. Thus this year’s theme of “Redemption” addresses our ongoing and fervent tefillot that Hashem will open up the gates of heaven to our prayers and provide our nation with geula shleima b’karov.

Miriam Pfeiffer, NCSY summer co-chair, together with Elizabeth Kurtz, producer of Meorot, opened the program with a dvar Torah encapsulating the theme. In sefer Shemot we read of Miriam’s watchful eye over her baby brother Moshe’s basket in the Nile. Having prophesied that a savior would be born who would redeem the Jewish nation, Miriam was on the lookout for signs of his arrival. She places herself at the banks of the river to see how the prophecy would unfold. The verb used to describe her stance is “va’titatzev,” “and she stationed herself.” Later in sefer Shemot, when Bnei Yisrael are positioned at the edge of Yam Suf with the Egyptians on their tail, the same verb is used when Moshe tells the people, “Hisyatzvu,” “Station yourselves and see the coming yeshua, salvation, from Hashem. In both cases, Miriam as an individual and the people as a nation faithfully await Hashem’s miraculous intervention on their behalf.

Miriam and her coterie of women celebrate the redemption on the sea with the “tupim,” cymbals, which they had prepared for this moment, even when they were living through bitter times in Egypt. Their dream of redemption was sustained through their song and dance. So, too, during our current crisis, when we are praying for a speedy geula, the song and dance of our Meorot performers is our spiritual expression of our belief in the coming Redemption iy”H.

Meorot is led by a team of gifted women and young women who have applied their talents to the enrichment and advancement of the skills of hundreds of girls from elementary through high school, culminating in an unforgettable experience on stage.

Sisters Naomi Schiff and Sorah Shaffren, serving as creative and music directors of Meorot since its inception, hail from a noted musical family including Jewish music superstar Mordechai Shapiro, who generously composes an original song yearly for Meorot. This year a new and moving rendition of “Acheinu” was sung by Schiff and Shaffren as part of the presentations. These inseparable sisters have been directing choirs and performing for decades and are dedicating this year’s performance to their families both at home and on stage.

Stacy Salkin debuted this year as the dance director of Meorot. Having trained in many impressive dance programs, Salkin includes ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, tap and hip-hop into her instruction to the delight of her students. She currently serves as a physical fitness instructor at RYNJ.

Choir Director Baila Farkash has been involved in many community and school productions over the years. She served as director of the Bruriah High School choir as well as director of her seminary choir at the annual Kedma choir competition. Farkash is especially moved by the message of achdut and empowerment so clearly promoted in the Meorot performances.

Tali Pfeiffer and Yakira Smilow, both seniors at Naaleh High School, serve as assistant dance directors of Meorot. Pfeiffer was one of the original participants in Meorot, having been dancing since age 3. Smilow joined Meorot in 2019. Both young ladies choreographed and taught classes and are excited to be able to enable their girls to progress, hone their talents and shine. Their talent and love of dance will no doubt accompany them in their next stages of life.

Sophie Klapper and Atara Rothstein serve as dance assistants for Meorot. Both juniors at Frisch, they have been dancing since early childhood and perform multiple roles as performer, assistant teacher and choreographer. Klapper joined Meorot at its inception and Rothstein joined in 2020. They both share their love of dance with their girls.

Joining Producer Miriam Pfeiffer in the production of “Redemption” is a team of talented women who give wholeheartedly of their skills to the successful implementation of the program. These include Mindy Daar, administrative director, who is responsible for the impressive and comprehensive program distributed at the performance. Rebecca Rothstein serves as the sales director and Rebecca Stein as the marketing director. Elana Smilow is the costume director, responsible for the many attractive and creative costumes worn by the performers. This year, Alyssa Colton has joined the team as backstage director.

The program consisted of 20 presentations, interspersed with choral and dance offerings. The choral ensemble and senior chorus presented 10 moving musical renditions of original and classic songs by well-known Jewish music artists including Mordechai Ben-David, Yaakov Shwekey and Ishai Ribo. The theme song “Redemption” was composed by Sorah Shaffren. A mesmerizing operatic performance of “Mi Sheberach, the Prayer for the IDF,” by Roberta Shapiro, mother of the creative and music directors Schiff and Shaffren, was particularly moving. The rendition of “Habayta,” so relevant to our current situation, performed by Schiff and Shaffren, accompanied by the entire Meorot Company, was emotionally stirring.

The multi-age dance troupes included girls from fifth grade to high school. Their coordination and obvious delight in performing, as evidenced by their bright smiles, was heartwarming. Their changing hairdos and costumes added greatly to their dance offerings.

The emotions of the attendees ranged from pure joy to tears as they watched 240 girls united in expressing their love for Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael through dance and song.

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