9th Annual Matthew M. Neugroschel Jewish Storytelling Program

Saratoga Jewish Community Arts presents its ninth annual Matthew M. Neugroschel Jewish Storytelling Program, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern NY and the sponsorship of Temple Sinai, on February 12 at 6:30 PM at Falstaff on Skidmore College campus and also available on Zoom.

Remember the little song when you were a child: Tell me a story, tell me a story, tell me a story and then I’ll go to bed. You promised me, you said you would, you got to give in ‘cause I’ve been good. Tell me a story, then I’ll go to bed. Here’s your chance to relive that feeling! Everyone loves a story, not just the children but rather children of all ages.

For the Jewish people, storytelling has been a means of defining the Jewish identity, the ethnic distinctiveness as a Jew. To hear a Jewish story is to share the humor, wisdom and angst, earthiness, and spirituality of an ancient and thoroughly modern, diverse, and irrepressible group of people bearing an extraordinary history. Telling stories is the way Jews share historical happenings and create a cultural history.

In fact, almost every culture has storytelling in its long ago history. It was the way, long before books were available, that custom, culture, and morality passed from one generation to the next. Listening to stories connects us to our history, to each other, to deeper parts of ourselves, and to the vast possibilities that life can hold.

Today, with readily available books, movies, television, radio, internet, telephone, and more, storytelling is still a most popular genre. There are storytelling happenings all over the country geared to every age group, from the incredibly young to the most senior, whether in person, on Zoom or streamed.

Annually, Saratoga Jewish Community Arts brings together a group of talented storytellers who make us smile, stretch our minds, and touch our hearts. Not everyone is a storyteller. There is a captivating gift for storytelling. It is not just a reading or recitation of a story. It is an enthusiastic interpretation of a tale so that the listeners are transported through time and to places they have never been.
Their love for storytelling is what storytellers have in common. This year’s storytellers include some long-time favorites and some new voices: Shawn Banner, Jeanine Laverty, Beth Sabo Novik, Sandy Schuman, Dee Wind, Frank Wind, and Martina Zobel.

This popular Annual Storytelling program was renamed in 2021 in memory of Matthew M. Neugroschel, a frequent contributor to Saratoga Jewish Community Arts and the Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival, and a most creative and remarkable storyteller, whose life was cut short in 2020 at the age of 49. “Matthew was knowledgeable in so many areas,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of SJCA, “that even today, I will be working on a project and will say almost out loud, ‘Let me call Matthew and talk to him about this.’ However, it cannot be, as sadly, he departed from life almost three years ago.”

Matthew held degrees in literature, fine art, and law, and concentrated on the American Civil Rights Movement. He worked in the fields of Domestic Violence Advocacy and Family Law. He principally taught at SUNY Albany in the fields of American History and American Studies, and instructed in such fields as culture and diversity, literature, art, law, and business. Matthew loved to try new things and was a long-time follower of the SJCA Storytelling program.

In 2020, he was already quite ill, nonetheless committed to trying his hand in our annual staged storytelling program. He had been working on a story that came from his dad’s childhood in the Bronx and he genuinely wanted to present it. He chose a Bronx version of A Golem’s Tale. He was unsteady on his feet, so in place of a cane, he brought an old-fashioned walking stick, adding to the imagery of his \narration. His tale was witty, thoughtful, and extraordinarily well received. Audience members who grew up in the Bronx were thrilled with the fond memories of location, street names, and substance; experienced storytellers embraced their new fellow bard. “The offering of this story was very important to Matthew,” says Wang. “It was a way to honor his father whom he had tried to protect from his failing health. Matthew will always be sorely missed.”

Join us on February 12 at 6:30 PM for a dessert reception followed by the evening’s selection of stories to fill the mind, the heart, and the soul. Zoom access will also be available. Please let us know whether you will be onsite or on Zoom. A minimum $5.00 donation is requested for onsite attendees. Registration is required by emailing sjca.sjcf@gmail.com.

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