CBDB Productions, Community, Guest post, Yom Hashoa

The Candlesticks

“It’s my turn to give back to the community. I give you “The Candlesticks.”
Helene Weintraub

I am overwhelmed with gratitude, excited, and honored to bring my play, The Candlesticks, to the stage for the first time, with such a warm and talented cast and team, and in Israel!

It is a privilege to have written this play and to be making my directorial debut by bringing it to the stage for the first time, and in Israel! As a young veteran of the Jerusalem English Theater Community, my second family who have been a part of my life since I made Aliyah in 2012, I am honored to take on the key-note event in what has become a longstanding tradition (interrupted by the pandemic) in the English-speaking theater community: outstanding Holocaust-themed productions. Community theater trained me, taught me that theater must be done with love and cannot be done well without teamwork and a sense of community. It’s one big team of excited people, working to their personal best. Therefore, I am very excited to be making my directorial debut with the community by bringing to the stage a play inspired by my
family’s story.

I have always been fascinated by my grandmother’s candlesticks. Knowing that I am named after the two women the ‘miracle candlesticks’ belonged to, has only intrigued me more. The Candlesticks is inspired by the history of a set of candlesticks that survived one of the strongest earthquakes to ever hit Mexico City. In 1985, an 8.1-magnitude earthquake demolished more than 3,000 buildings there, killing more than 10,000 people and leaving thousands more left homeless. My great great grandmother and her family, who fled from Poland during World War II, were forced to flee once again, after losing everything in the earthquake. Traveling back to Mexico City years later to visit the site of the damaged apartment, the family found a precious heirloom that miraculously was still there, unharmed, and untouched after so many years: their Shabbat candlesticks. Today, the candlesticks are well cared for and lit every Friday night by my
grandmother in Israel.

The Candlesticks play follows a similar miracle but a different story that is more relevant to what we know of the Shoah and the difficulties which came with finding families and
reconnecting with Jewish roots after the Holocaust. While Europe is engulfed in the Second World War, a Jewish baby girl is found in Mexico City, on the doorstep of a young married, Christian couple. The girl comes with nothing but a perplexing note and a set of candlesticks. Raised in the Christian home; the candlesticks are put away and forgotten. Until one day a stranger, Samuel Katz, shows up looking for answers. When a terrible earthquake strikes Mexico City, they are all faced with difficult questions and answers. Although the characters in the play are fictional, they will feel real because they represent real people. Children who were sent away, never knowing they were Jewish. People who risked their lives to save others, and of course, those who survived the worst of it, only to begin the search for the missing, if not a future of trauma and loss. Although the story and the timeline has been revised (The earthquake struck Mexico in 1985 while the play is set in the 1940-50s), it remains a story of miracles in a time when they didn’t seem possible, a story of light in a time of darkness. The candlesticks are the
light at the end of the tunnel for all the characters just as they are in my family history.

The play idea was encouraged by my playwriting professor, Robert Montgomery, at The New School (NY), where I currently study and will be attending, in person, this Fall. He had given me some interesting advice when I was only exploring ideas. He said that I needed to come out of the cold ocean, shake off the water, lie in the sun and see what enters my well-lighted mind. Confusing as it was, somehow, I began to think of light, my name, Helene, which means light after my great grandmother, then I thought of The Candlesticks! I only handed in thirty pages by the end of the semester but became so engaged in the story and the research; I set my mind on completing it. Soon after it was finished, Gabriela Mischel Figdor (Assistant Director of The Candlesticks), advised me to send it out to as many people as possible. C.B Davies (Producer of The Candlesticks and co-founder and co-artistic director at CBDB Productions) was one to pick it up and boy, am I glad he did! Thank you, C.B and Dena B. Davies!

It was important to me, that the play be kept about light since light is what inspired the play and is what has kept the Jewish traditions alive in my home for as long as I can remember. Those who have spent the shabbat with my family know that our shabbat lighting rituals are very special. For as long as I can remember, it has been tradition for me, my sisters, my mother, and grandmother to gather by the candles after reciting the brachot to sing, say a few psalms, pray for each other, our loved ones and all the world, and this is a tradition I hope to continue.

It has been a pleasure to work with old and new Jerusalem English Theater Community
actors, Molly Cloutier, Pascal Roy, Andrea Katz, Eden Berg and Aviad Alfasi. I’m so grateful to the team who has put it all into action: C.B Davies, Gabriela Mischel Figdor, Candice Nemoff and to everyone else who took on the challenge of putting on this original play and bringing it to life!

I wish for this play to a be my gift to the community, to the passionate theater people who have made my home in Israel only brighter. Community theater has taught me so many lessons and has given me the self-confidence to embrace everything that I am, and to tackle the world ahead of me. I have discovered what it means to be an active member of a growing theater community and what a difference it has made in my life!

Looking forward to the premiere and to a SOLD-OUT house!

Helene Weintraub is a Performing Artist, Creative Writer, and new Playwright, who considers the Jerusalem English Theater Community her second home. A singer, dancer and actress who holds a degree in Dance from The Jerusalem Academy of Music & Dance. She teaches tap dancing and is also an Honors Creative Writing student at The New School in New York City, where she focuses on playwriting (Lookout New York! She’s coming!). Her written work has been read in worldwide competitions; awarded title prizes for poetry and fictional short stories. Through playwriting, she has discovered the joy of combining her two passions for theater arts and writing. During the summers she enjoys directing plays, musicals, and conducting playwriting workshops for youth at camp.

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