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Torah Tales

by Deb Miller

January 10, 2002 | 7:00 pm

Full of drama, ancient wisdom and suspense, "Storahtelling" is live revival bibliodrama, and it's coming to a synagogue in Beverly Hills.

This Shabbat, Amichai Lau-Lavie -- Jewish educator, descendant of 35 generations of rabbis, and Jewish visionary -- will employ a revolutionary approach to celebrate Judaism: Lau-Lavie and his group of traveling Jewish thespians, will take to the Jewish stage (the bimah, really), to perform Jewish revival theater.

This week, the Storahtellers enact "Go Down Moses," a Jewish gospel special. "A mission is given, a prophet begins his task, witness Moses making his entrance, as told through sacred chant, nontraditional English translation, and old-time gospel music," the program description reads.

A regular performer at B'nai Jeshurun in his hometown of New York City, Lau-Lavie is becoming known around the globe: Last year, there were Storahtelling performances in Washington, D.C., Copenhagen and Tel Aviv, as well as in New York City.

He came up with the concept as an intern directing adult education at B'nai Jeshurun, when the Reform synagogue asked if he might infuse energy into Shabbat morning services, and in particular the Torah reading.

Lau-Lavie traces the inspiration for Storahtelling to the ancient model of Torah reading, he says. Back then, a sideshow of simultaneous translation into a language the common people could understand and appreciate accompanied the reading.

The Storahteller grasped that the same strategy might be undertaken with equal effectiveness, even (especially) in our time. For Lau-Lavie, the answer was simple: make the production meaningful, draw the audience in, add percussions, costume, and a healthy dose of creativity, and voila , the Storah comes to life.

On Jan. 12, Lau-Lavie will step into the sandals of Moses, as he retells the tale of the man who reluctantly accepted the yoke of leader.

"The tale from Exodus is timeless," Lau-Lavie explains. "Moses is told to go against all odds, and so he does. He leaves the familiar and the traditional and goes bravely to a new reality where none have gone before. That's what we're doing, and that's what I believe is a message that is still very relevant today."

Storahtelling is an incubator project of United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Education Service of North America, based in New York City.

Join Storahtelling for "Go Down Moses" at Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way, Beverly Hills. Services begin at 10 a.m., with Storahtelling at 11. A veggie potluck lunch follows. For more information call (310) 288-3742.

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