On March 3, the Levine Jewish Community Center will host a special collaboration with Porch Productions, a Charlotte-based company that creates staged theater for youths.
The two organizations are coming together at Shalom Park for “An Evening of Survival Stories.”
The idea, initiated by Porch Productions owner Monica I. Pettiford, 38, is to bring the community together to pay tribute to the African-American and Jewish communities and celebrate their histories and culture.
“All too often today, our groups are like islands, separated by color, religion or culture,” said Susan Cherin Gundersheim, 44, director of visual and performing arts at Levine JCC. “We forget how similar our experiences truly are. Through the arts, we are given a remarkable gift, to be able to come together and not only pay tribute to what our own group has overcome, but to also share and celebrate all we have in common.”
The event will run from 6-8:30 p.m. in Gorelick Hall at Shalom Park. The evening will include the sharing of stories from Irving Bienstock, 86, a Holocaust survivor, and Ruth Sloane, a descendant of slaves, in a panel discussion moderated by Rabbi Tracy Klirs of Temple Israel and Deborah Miller-Wilson, church administrator for St. Paul Baptist Church of Charlotte.
There also will be a preview of “Home on the Mornin’ Train,” by Kim Hines-March, with a cast meet-and-greet; and a tasting of several dishes from Jewish and traditional African-American cultures; and the painting of butterflies for the Butterfly Project.
The powerful stories Bienstock and Sloane will tell will tie into the themes of courage and bravery woven into “Home on the Mornin’ Train.”
“Train” is set in 1839 in Talladega, Ala., where slavery is alive and well; and in 1939 in Hamburg, Germany, where the Nazis are exterminating Jews.
In 1939 Germany, Jewish children are sent into hiding, where they read a book about young slaves. There are strong parallels between the two groups of children, as both are on quests for survival. The Jewish children are inspired by the courage of the runaway slaves as they hope to make their way to freedom.
Porch Production’s “Home on the Mornin’ Train” – directed by Crystal Little and choreographed by LaTanya Johnson, with music direction by Lance Hamright – also will be performed March 8 and 9 at the Booth Playhouse.
“The story delivers a message of hope and the evidence that those who long for freedom travel the same road,” said Pettiford.
Traditional Jewish foods will be served at “An Evening of Survival Stories,” including potato latkes, knishes and blintzes provided by Kosher caterer Rabbi Vorst. Latkes and blintzes are traditionally served on the Jewish holidays of Hanukkah and Shavuot, respectively.
Traditional African-American soul food will include collard greens, cornbread and yams.
“Some African-American slaves supplemented their meager diets by gardening small plots given to them for growing their own vegetable,” said Pettiford.
The evening will conclude with the Butterfly Project, which honors the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust through the painting of ceramic butterflies – one for each child. The butterflies painted during this event will be incorporated into the Children’s Holocaust Memorial Sculpture in the Margaret & Lou Schwartz Butterfly Garden in Shalom Park.
“Porch Productions will be donating a portion of their ticket sales to the Butterfly Project, as well as any donations collected on March 3,” said Gundersheim.
Bringing different cultures together to educate, appreciate, inspire, and build community are the main goals of the evening.
Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marissa? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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