SJCF: A Shayna Maidel (staged reading)

Saratoga Jewish Cultural Festival presents, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York and sponsored by Temple Sinai, presents a staged reading, directed by Dianne O’Neill, of the 1984 powerful, poignant, and relevant play A Shayna Maidel, Sunday, June 18, at 3 and 7 p.m. at Temple Sinai at 509 Broadway.

The play is Barbara Lebow’s moving family drama about two sisters reunited after years of separation caused by the World War II Nazi Holocaust.

This play is as important today as it was when it was first performed in 1984, said Phyllis Wang, the Cultural Festival coordinator.

It makes connections between past and present, especially because it underscores how vital it is to better comprehend history to best inform our future, she said.

Even as conspiracy theories still linger about the truth of the Holocaust, a disturbing report revealed that 22 percent of American millennials haven’t heard of, or are not sure if they’ve heard of, the Holocaust. It also revealed that 58 percent of Americans believe that something like the Holocaust could happen again, and that 68 percent believe that anti-Semitism is present in America today (and growing). Fifty-one percent say there are many or a great deal of neo-Nazis or others with the same agenda in the U.S. today.

“With our current political climate, everyone should see this play and learn from it,” Wang said. “Focusing on the relationship between the characters, rather than going into graphic details about the horrors endured, means we fill in the blanks in our own heads.“

From another vantage point, A Shayna Maidel is an important piece of work because it highlights a piece of post WWII history that is easily forgotten and continues to impact those who experience war today, including a sizable proportion of our veterans.

As many of us falsely believe that once concentration camps were liberated and innumerable tragedies ceased, everything returned to prewar normal.

How difficult it is to be “normal” after experiencing the horrors of warfare and torture is not sorted out by our brains. We cannot accept that everything cannot return to how it was before for all those subjected to the horrors, Wang explained.

The two sisters, Luisa and Rose, meet in 1946 after a separation of almost 20 years, one who survived the concentration camps and the other brought up in America. Rose has lived in New York for so long she has no memory of her sister Luisa and certainly no understanding of what her sister experienced in those years. It is a deeply personalized study of sisterhood, family, and a crisis of faith.

The play will be performed at Temple Sinai, 509 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, on Sunday, June 18, at 3 and 7 p.m. A $10 donation is requested. Registration required. A hybrid performance may be available at 7 p.m. with sufficient registration.

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