May 26, 2024
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May 26, 2024
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NCSY’s ‘Meorot’ Dazzles Capacity Crowd at Bergen County Academies

On January 30, a packed Bergen County Academies auditorium played host to NCSY’s third annual production of music, dance and song, “Meorot/Eternity.” The energy in the auditorium was palpable, building to a crescendo over the course of a high-momentum 90-minute performance. Many of the performances were so charged with ruach that the enthusiastic audience was whooping and cheering throughout many of the dance and vocal numbers.

Sisters Naomi Schiff and Sorah Shaffren, creative and music co-directors of “Meorot,” are well known for their many years of stage performance and choir production. Shaffren described NCSY’s “Meorot” as a production set apart by an important tenet: chinuch. “Every detail of the production is guided by the chinuch principles of providing a meaningful, growth-oriented experience for each girl. Tryouts, rehearsal and final preparation are given equal importance to the show. The girls grow in skills, confidence, friendships, teamwork and commitment; all in an environment of modesty that promotes a sense of belonging and of community.”

Meorot and NCSY summer programs share a mission: to provide a warm, inviting atmosphere in a wholesome environment where girls have a creative outlet in maintaining their Torah values.

“A testament to the success of the process,” said Shaffren, is “the chinuch goals of Meorot (being) aligned with those of NCSY, which has been setting the standard of informal education for youth for decades.”

Many teachers from the area attended the performance to support their talmidot. “The feedback since the show has been so positive,” Shaffren said. “Mothers have expressed their gratitude, with several saying that Meorot has been a turning point in their daughter’s life … and their confidence has grown in Meorot. Many audience members said they were moved to tears during the show.”

Miriam Pfeiffer, NCSY summer co-chair and Meorot executive producer, beamed from the podium in her pre-performance remarks. “The name ‘Meorot’ references the original celestial luminaries whose function was to shed light onto the world and its inhabitants. This year, our 130 shining stars were radiant on stage!”

Planning began about a year ago to determine the theme, tryout and rehearsal dates, and the performance date. The production committee consisted of the co-directors, Shaffren and Schiff; Elie Rubin; and Laya Kaufman. Miriam Pfeiffer, NCSY summer co-chair, heads the Meorot Performance committee, a group of women who manage marketing, fundraising, ticketing, costume design and parent communication. The committee includes Mindy Daar, Rebecca Rothstien, Rebecca Stein, and Elana Smilow.

Daar said: “In my role of managing communication with parents, it was gratifying to see how diverse our group has become, with participants coming from almost every school in Bergen County. The girls connected and made new friends in the program. Many moms sent beautiful messages of thanks after the show and shared how much it meant to them and to their daughters to be a part of Meorot.”

Shaffren explained that they also collaborated with musical artists Hachaverim M’Shaar Yafo, Itzik Dadya, and her brother, Mordechai Shapiro; all of whom contributed to the high level of the music and production. Meorot used music that was either created or specially adjusted for their show, including two original pieces, “We Are Eternity” and “L’Olam Va’ed.” The music producers were Hillel Kapnick and Yehudah Pinsker.

The production itself is also chinuch driven. The theme of the show was “L’Olam Va’ed,” or eternity. Each song and dance shown in the playbill was accompanied by a Torah explanation, giving the production a Torah framework, and sending the message that everything is connected to living a Torah life.

Serving in an advisory role was the ‘Rebbetzin Committee’ of Rebbetzins Peshi Neuberger, Chaviva Rothwachs, Efrat Sobolofsky, Adina Weiner and Michal Zahtz. The rebbetzins are a part of Meorot’s chinuch-oriented experience, providing support in maintaining standards of modesty and appropriateness of performance and helping to promote the show.

Elie Rubin, dance director, noted: “I have witnessed the girls’ talent, self-esteem and character development reach new heights. Meorot is an opportunity like no other. It is a privilege to curate choreography not just for the dance aspect of our production, but for the new steps each girl takes as she flourishes in her personal growth.”

Laya Kaufman, choir director said: “It was awe inspiring to see how much the choir girls have accomplished throughout Meorot. Working with the soloists and helping each one find her voice and her confidence was very gratifying.”

Shaffren described balancing her role as a morah and as a frum performer. “The halachos of modesty for Orthodox girls and women can seem like they set limits on us, but Meorot proves that creative expression and performing arts for women-only audiences are seeing a tremendous amount of growth. The Meorot performers
and audience know that they need not feel limited or have to compromise their level of observance to express their talents in front of a large, captive audience.”

Her sister Naomi Schiff, creative and music co-director, said: “It was a huge honor to be three generations of performers in Meorot. My mother, Mrs. Roberta Shapiro, was featured as a guest star. My sister Sorah and I wrote an original song with our brother Mordechai, and we had a blast performing it. Our daughters Dassi Schiff and Menucha Shaffren were part of different dance troupes. My husband Kenny helped manage the rehearsals for the past five months, and [my sister] Sorah’s husband Eliezer was one of the sound engineers. One audience member called the production “a labor of love of epic proportions.”

Roberta Shapiro, the proud mother, exclaimed: “I wish you could have seen and heard all the girls backstage: Their excitement, their caring for each other, their pride, and their reverence for their directors. The curling irons, blush, glitter, and hairspray set the scene for the energy backstage, which was contagious.” She said that watching these precious young girls brought tears to her eyes. And of course, “I am so proud of my daughters Naomi and Sorah. They were fantastic. What an amazing show!”

With Meorot’s third production now behind them, they look forward to seeking opportunities for growth, including the possibility of multiple shows.

By Ellie Wolf


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