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A musical about The Book of Ruth still resonates

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Your People Are Mine - A Pop Musical Based on the Book of Ruth - Original Israeli Cast Recording (Image: amazon.com)

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People often have memories of Shavuot—a special ceremony, an event, blintzes, or other things.

A book by Rabbi Benjie Segal, a Jerusalem friend and member of my synagogue, recently was published by Gefen Publishing (available on Amazon, Barnes& Noble and through the publisher.) 

As I wrote in my review, “The Book of Ruth is one of the most appealing to modern biblical interpreters, touching as it does on so many subjects of current concern: the emergence of female equality, the significance of legal evolution, the acceptance of the outsider, to name a few.  In his work, Rabbi Segal undertakes the difficult and controversial task of deciphering the original literary import of this exciting engaging book. Following a verse- by- verse commentary, this volume offers a new overview of the Book of Ruth, framed as: a series of revolutionary changes described via a once-upon-a-time ideal: a former time when all seemed perfect, if only for a moment.”

For me, personally, as I read through the original Biblical words, and thought about Rabbi Segal’s commentaries, each passage generated a different image for me.

In my autobiographical work, Witness to History, Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel, in the 1976 chapter, I wrote a series of articles beginning with “The Bible May Be Headed For Broadway.”

This was by far one of the most enjoyable experiences I had, related to the pop musical based on the Book of Ruth, “Your People Are Mine.” 

The original musical was written in 1972, but its authors, Gladys Gewitz Hedaya (z”l) and her brother, Shimon Gewirtz (z”l), noted Jewish songwriters, felt it lacked commercial possibilities. Gladys went back to work on the script, and beginning that year, it was appearing regularly at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Hilton hotels under sponsorship of the Ministry of Tourism.

After seeing it twice (and wishing I could see it more), I was completely enthralled with the lively and catchy tunes and lyrics. When the audience, on one occasion, while clapping at the end of the performance stood and sang the chorus—Your people are mine, your people are mine, I’ll go with you and I’ll stay with you, till the end of time, till the end of time,” I knew it was a winner.

Just as Rabbi Segal’s meticulous commentaries analyze every word of the original text, Ms. Hedaya was faithful in her lyrics to the events of the Biblical story, which resonate within me every time I read the Biblical story (e.g., Mother Sweet Naomi when she is left with the widowed daughters-in-law; Naomi’s decision–I’m Going Back to Bethlehem;  Ruth’s reply to her mother-in-law — Don’t ask Me to Leave You; when Ruth is working with Boaz — Gleaning Song; the plan of Naomi’s for Ruth — Go To Him This Evening; Naomi’s advice to Boaz — Marry a Woman; Boaz’s discussion with a relative who must relinquish responsibility for Ruth– It’s a Simple Proposition).   

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More than 20 years later, in the 1980s, I still remembered the lyrics and music, so I tracked down Gladys Hedaya in New York, who had just produced the show off-Broadway. After seeing that video, I was motivated to raise the funds to acquire world rights for the Midwest. I contacted a woman who had extensive experience directing, and we began looking for synagogue members who  could sing.

I acted as producer at my Overland Park, Kansas synagogue, Kehilath Israel.  In performances on Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening, we brought out an audience of more than 1,000 people–to see a musical by an American they had never heard of which had appeared in Israel for tourists.

And the words to the songs and the story, which we read on Shavuot, remain a vivid memory (with no disrespect intended) reading Rabbi Segal’s analysis and the Book of Ruth.

Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, food writer and author (Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel), nine cookbooks (including What’s Cooking at Hadassah College.) She lived in Israel from 1970-1980; she and her late husband, Barry, came to live in Jerusalem in 2008, where she works as a foreign correspondent for North American Jewish publications, lectures to senior citizen residences, walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market. She has been book reviewing for 40 years. 

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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