On Purim, as I hung clown masks on the gates of the Temple in Tel Aviv, an Israeli woman from the neighbourhood snarled as she used our passageway, ” It’s disgusting back there. People throw garbage when they pass and there’s graffiti all over the walls. Where’s the respect? I’m not religious, but this is a Bet Knesset! You should do something about it,” she hissed. Stunned I mumbled, “You’re right, “I’ll look into it.”
I mentioned it Shabbat morning at the Kiddush Club. One guy snickered and called her a bitter old woman; but Jay Shultz said it bothered him too and took me out back. Sure enough the walls were filled with graffiti. It was embarrassing, but there was also something else on the back wall I had never saw before. A beautiful broken mirror mosaic.
“Have you seen The Wall?” Jay started telling me about the girl next door who made aliyah from Boston. Mia didn’t go to shul, but as an artist, she said it was an eyesore and wanted to make a difference. Jay envisioned the Shema in the archway, in honor of Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis a”h. What a mitzvah moment. I had been very close to the Rebbitzen, and created many programs with her at Hineni in New York. I wondered what I could do to help. Just then Mia Schon walks by and Jay jumps at the hashgacha pratis of the whole thing.
I recalled how Shaindy, the Rebbitzen’s granddaughter had spoken about the women’s mirrors in the Midbar and the building of the Mishkan at the Great Challah Bake during the Shabbat Project. I even remembered her mosaic looking shirt with mirrors on it. This must be a sign I reflected when I realised what Parsha was coming up.
I parsha Vayakhel, the week we planned the women’s event it reads:
“Take from yourselves an offering for Hashem; every generous hearted person shall bring it, Gold, Silver & Copper” – Shemot 35:5
“…And its base of copper from the mirrors of the women who had gathered at the entrance of the tent of meetings….” – Shemot 38:8
I imagined a Rosh Chodesh in which women reflected on their gifts and helped transform the shul. I posted on so many Facebook groups I annoyed myself.
When Monday March 29 arrived, a diverse group of women met to make a difference. “Roll up your sleeves, wash hands and get back in the kitchen ladies. Nothing gets done around here without you” I said as I handed each girl a different ingredient. Leah Goldman led the women in singing Rosh Chodesh songs. I taught kosher tricks for making soup and mosaic inspired salads to get rid of your chumitz. Each guest brought a different flavour to the table.
Rebbitzen Devorah Eisenbach shared mindful ideas about Peseach and the role of women in the Exodus experience. Many women related her Torah teachings with happenings in the world today. Mia spoke about her concept with the art instillation, and I reflected on how much potential Rebbitzen Jungreis always said she saw in us. Many girls shared their memories of how The Rebbitzen move them every time she’s come speak in Tel Aviv. I asked if anyone wanted to take from themselves an offering of gold, silver, copper or mirrors to put into The Temple Wall. One girl offered her mirror menorah. She said it was worthless as a Chanukkia because it was broken, but hearer it would be a big treasure. I offered the crown I wore for Purim when I was Queen of Sheba.
The girls had a great get together where we not only reflected and transformed ourselves, this Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we created a permanent art instillation of the living Torah on the Temple Wall in Tel Aviv where there once was a chillul Hashem.
It was getting late and several guests needed to get back to Jerusalem. Mia stayed after to help me clean up. She had never actually been in the synagogue even though she lived next door and did all this work to beautify it. I unlocked the gate and walked her up the arc where the Torahs were kept. I pressed my kepi against the velvet curtain and Mia did the same. Quietly I started whispering the Shema and heard my neighboor next to me saying it too. I hurried off the bima so Mia could have a moment to herself. As I was slipping out the door she turned around. “It’s okay, you can stay. He’s been waiting a long time to see you,” Mia turned around and faced the arc again. “Thank you for helping us do this,” I told her, ” Please put in a good word for me with The Boss because right now you are getting so many mitzvah points” she giggled.
Mind, Body and Soul is a Rosh Chodesh series geared for women in their 20’s and 30’s. It is run entirely by volunteers and is grateful for any contribution made to help foster Jewish life in Tel Aviv. To make a tax deductible donation click the following link http://amyisraelfoundation.org/donate/
For more information please email Info@hineni.org.il