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EDITORIAL - Exploring a different culture

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The cast, crew and parents that made the journey to Appleton.
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On the road with the DHS musical cast

By Jacob Heiser

Last Friday evening, I had the chance to take part in a truly unique experience. That night, I, along with over two dozen cast, crew and parents of this fall's upcoming production of Fiddle on the Roof at DHS had the opportunity to visit the Moses Montefiore Congregation at their synagogue in Appleton to take part in their Friday night Shabbat services. This was all done in an attempt to give the students involved with the production a richer and more in-depth look into the rich and complex culture they will be portraying.

I will admit, when Director Jen Treu first poised the idea of taking a cast trip to a Jewish service, I had more than my fair share of doubts. These were teenagers after all and voluntarily bringing them into a solemn and sensitive situation seemed like asking for trouble. However, after working closely with these students over the last year and seeing first-hand how respectful and thoughtful they could be, I no longer had any fears and I am happy to say they did not let me down in any way whatsoever.

After a day filled with choreography rehearsal and a character-building workshop, we all changed into appropriate attire and boarded an awaiting school bus. Following dinner at Culvers in Grand Chute, we made our way to Moses Montefiore Synagogue in Appleton where we were greeted by friendly members of the congregation. The members kindly reminded us of there dress code and rules which included the prohibition of recording devices and the donning of provided yarmulkes for the males. We then gathered in the sanctuary where we were greeted by Rabbi Hannah Wallick who presided over the evening's ceremonies while also providing very helpful explanations and insights into their practices.

As the Shabbat services processes, we attempted to follow along with the Hebrew and its translations in our provided prayer books. Rabbi Hannah and the congregation recited psalms, sang hymns and read and explained scripture as well as recognized the sick and deceased in their lives. Following the service, we were invited to join in the Oneg Shabbat or community supper. While we ate, we visited with the congregation members who were extremely helpful and eager to answer all of our questions. After some time, we departed back for Denmark with a richer and deeper understanding of a seemingly different culture.

While observing the Jewish Shabbat, I was struck by just how familiar it all felt. As a life-long Catholic, Jewish culture and practices always felt other-worldly but, after seeing it all first-hand, I see a great many similarities and connections. The experience was a wonderful glimpse into a different world and I have no doubt our cast and crew will use it to craft an even more impressive performance this November.

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