An original musical play for women only was performed this week to sold-out audiences at the Emunah College of Arts and Technology in Jerusalem. Called “Today is the Birth of the World,” an expression taken from the prayers recited on the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah, the musical takes place in the obstetrics ward of a hospital whose patients are mainly observant women.
This setting is the vehicle for the chance meeting of younger and older characters representing the many variants of the religious woman’s world. They include hareidi women who head the hospital’s volunteers and a Sephardi do gooder; the daughter of one of them who is undergoing fertility treatments and tries to do good deeds to merit a child; a newly religious woman who is faced with a choice of aborting a child with possible birth defects; and her career woman neo-Orthodox sister.
The cast also includes a hareidi lawyer who runs her life by cell phone while under pre-natal care, a Chabad emissary’s wife, an unmarried doctor who has to find a path between the scientific and her patients’ spiritual approach to problems, a Russian cleaning woman and a medical clown.
All of the women deal with the roles of daughter, wife and mother, finding a mutual language over a period of two days in the hospital ward, where the emotions of childbirth, motherly love, ongoing family relationships and, above all, the yearning for a child, are daily experiences.
Stories of the Baal Shem Tov and other Chassidic tales on these topics are woven into the fabric of the play, subconsciously influencing the women’s lives as part of their heritage.
The Emunah College of Arts and Technology for Women is an Academic Teachers College for Women in Jerusalem. It includes a Drama Department, the first in religious Jewish higher education for women, where young women are trained to teach and use drama to enrich the teaching of other subjects such as Bible, as well as studying the many professional skills used in dramatic productions.
The College is a project of Emunah of America, founded in the early 1970s and also includes prize-winning Graphic and Fine Arts among its departments.
The script was written by director and playwright Iris Shavit and the music by composer and singer Michal Lotan. Rabbi Chaim Fogel and Rabbi Yehoshua Vider were the Halakhic consultants for the production.