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Saratoga Jewish Community Arts and Sinai Temple to Host Storytelling Event

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Long before television and radio provided entertainment, people spent evenings telling stories. They can be fun, anecdotal, personal, or even biblical. This centuries-old tradition is not lost. On Sunday February 21 at 7 p.m., the Saratoga Jewish Community Arts in partnership with Saratoga Springs Temple Sinai will be holding its seventh night of storytelling via Zoom. There is no cost to see.

Tell stories. . .is not just reading or reciting a story. It is an enthusiastic interpretation of a tale. . .for stories to open the listener to new worlds and new understandings, said Phyllis Wang, Saratoga Jewish Community Arts Program Coordinator. And the stories don’t have to be Jewish. It could be ethics, scenes, traditional sources, Adirondack or current events, or issues such as bullying.

While other venues offer storytelling sessions, such as at the monthly Caffe Lenas gatherings, this event often has a Jewish accent. And it is the only one that Wang knows of that is sponsored by a temple.

About eight or nine years ago, I noticed that in the summer there were so many visitors and we had nothing to attract them, she says. A light bulb went out and I thought of proposing an evening of storytelling. For centuries, it was a way to preserve our culture and traditions.

At first, she approached Beth Sabo Novik, who found the tellers. The resulting show was a great success. Novik, who will also say this at this event, also became the co-organizer of the event.

When I was growing up, our family moved to Maine where we saw artist and storyteller Jackson Gillman, she says. He was so good and I thought Wow! I want to be a cashier when I grow up.

The experience of theater and dance and of taking storytelling lessons ten years ago from Jeannine Laverty, who will also be narrating at this event, gave Novik confidence to try it out for herself.

I have a talent for it, she said. It is very funny.

In recent years, the event has taken place at Skidmore College and included a sit-down dinner. But the virus changed all that along with the renaming of the program. At the reunion last year, Matthew Neugroschel, a 49-year-old lawyer, tried to relate and amazed his listeners.

I thought, oh well, we’ve got another great storyteller, Novik said.

They didn’t know Neugroschel had cancer and died in June. Thus, the program was renamed in his honor.

For seasoned storytellers, there are several points that need to be verified to be successful.

You have to tell the story like it’s your own memory and tell it from your heart, Laverty said. You can use your body, your face, change your voice, but the narration and the dialogue have to be different.

Interacting with your audience is also very important, so doing it virtually will require some tweaking.

I will miss it, she said. The stories are so incredibly healing and beneficial to the health of both the storyteller and the audience. Telling is precious work and I’m always nervous.

For Shawn Banner, who likes to stick with Jewish folk tales or traditional events over the seven years he tells, stories that have a humorous side are his preference.

I like that the stories are character-driven, appeal to all ages, and have a moral compass, he said. I like to use facial expressions and make accents. I’m playing.

While he can find stories in children’s books, Hell rearranges them with Jewish characters to have an underlying message of Jewish sensibility, Banner said.

Some of the stories from this event will have a Jewish connection, but not all.

Stories are the most powerful forces in the world, Novik said. Good or bad, they are who we are. They are a way of teaching. . . the way we think, that a recipe has a conflict and its resolution. This is what makes a good story to open a door to another world and how they fit into everyday life and how they change our lives.

To register: email [email protected] gmail.com and Wang will send the code via email. See www.saratogajewishculturalfestival.org or www.saratogasinai.org.

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