In June of this past year, my parents invited me to join them in seeing a new musical on Broadway, Come From Away. The show is set in the week following the September 11 attacks on our city and nation and tells the true story of what transpired when thirty-eight airplanes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the tiny, remote town of Gander, New-foundland. The characters in the musical are based on real Gander residents as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travelers – “come-from-aways” – they housed and fed during those frightening days.
I spoke that following Shabbat about how moved I was by the show and you may remember that I shared some further thoughts this past Rosh Hashanah as well. A review of the show described the award-winning musical as “a cathartic reminder of the capacity for human kindness in even the darkest of times… and the tri-umph of humanity over hate.” Perhaps that’s why there was not a dry eye in the house throughout the show – we were all so moved and inspired by the inherent goodness of these Canadian hosts. And, those of us who lived in NYC in 2001 were transport-ed back to those dark days as well. My Rosh Hashanah com-ments, based on the show, focused on the importance in the Jew-ish tradition of welcoming outsiders, following the example of the hosts from Gander. A rabbi was portrayed in Come From Away, forging a connection with the lone Jewish resident of the town. He also provided kosher food to the stranded Halal-observant, Hindu and vegetarian guests.
This past Sunday, I am proud to say, over one hundred JCCH members and friends went together to see Come From Away. I know that many others have seen the performance as well. We were fortunate on our visit, to engage in a “Talk-Back” dialogue with members of the cast; many of us joined together before the show for a kosher lunch at Ben’s Delicatessen. Special thanks to Terry Gary, Eric Nussbaum, Eve Spence and Deanna Mancuso for all of their work in arranging this experience for us. And, most importantly, thanks to Anna Hollander for first suggesting that we take a trip to the theatre!
A final comment: Why should a synagogue organize a Broadway theatre excursion? My response – that our job as a congregation is to open as many doors as possible to building community and Jewish connections. Some connect best to our congregation through the spiritual pathway, others, through education or recreation. Culture is another path into Jewish life. I hope – and we could use your help, please! – that we can organize additional such opportunities in the near future.