Rank and File: Bringing Savannah to Tel Aviv

Plus, a group of women Torah scholars are making the world of Responsa more accessible to women, and Benyamin Cohen’s new podcast offers an offbeat take on Israel

Musician-actor-puppeteer Savannah Zwi.
Cygal Pellach

SAVANNAH IN TEL AVIV: A special thing about story hour is how it can be a shared creative experience for both parents and children alike. Starting next Thursday, ESRA (the English-Speaking Residents Association) and Tel Aviv Municipality will host musician-actor-puppeteer Savannah Zwi, whose venture Savannah Kids “aims to provide a musical theatre experience the whole family can enjoy,” for a monthly story hour in Ramat Aviv, running through July. Next Thursday will be Marcus Pfister’s “The Rainbow Fish.” The Australian native told Haaretz that she works for the municipal department dealing with “cultural fun activities for English speakers.” The self-styled “professional fairy princess” makes all her own sets and costumes, and sings famous theater songs. She added her shows enlighten “both the spirit and the soul, aiming to bond and delight families; entrancing and entertaining, inspiring young minds.” For more information, contact Dafna Bottner at (03) 641-8262, ext. 4.

FIRST RESPONSAS: A group of women Torah scholars are making the world of Responsa – in which rabbis answer questions about Jewish law – more accessible to women through Beit Hillel’s Meshivat Nefesh project. “It’s easier for women to speak with women because you feel more comfortable,” Rabbanit Shira Sapir, one of the women responding to questions, told Haaretz, adding, “It’s a barrier when they can only go to a male rabbi.” Sapir, who was born in Durham, North Carolina, and is a fellow at the Institute for Halakhic Leadership at Lindenbaum, has helped develop a website to advance the project. Meshivat Nefesh just completed a successful crowdfunding campaign, so it will be able to operate the website and pay the women responding to questions. Among the English-speaking responders are rabbaniyot Yael Shimoni, Rachelle Fraenkel, Rachel Wachtfogel, Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld, Rachel Levmore and Surale Rosen. To support and learn more about the project, visit: https://www.causematch.com/en/projects/beit-hillel-2941-en/

INTRIGUING ISRAEL: If you are looking for an offbeat podcast about Israel for the New Year, journalist Benyamin Cohen’s new “Our Friend From Israel” may fit the bill. “In each weekly episode, I introduce our listeners to a different, intriguing Israeli,” he told Haaretz. “It could be an actor, an athlete, an archaeologist, an academic. I even interviewed an alien hunter one episode. I don’t do anything political or religious – there’s enough of that out there already.” The West Virginia resident recorded his first batch of podcasts in Israel, where his parents live, and has continued from his home studio, nabbing such immigrant guests as high-tech entrepreneur Jon Medved and Michael Pasikov, the one-handed classical pianist. Upcoming guests include professional matchmaker Daniella Rudoff and MLB pitcher Dean Kremer. “We’ve had more than 7,000 listens since launch,” he noted, with a steadily increasing audience. Catch it at Podcasts | From the Grapevine.

Rank and File was compiled by Steven Klein.

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