Heroes, Stars, and Candlelight

By: miri granik  |  December 3, 2023

By Miri Granik, Social Media Manager

While our family and friends are on the front lines of war in Israel, it is easy to feel helpless. However, with the rise of antisemitism on college campuses, we have a different kind of battle to fight. Although we are not soldiers on the ground, we are in a unique and important position as Yeshiva University students to demonstrate Jewish excellence to the world. Being in a Jewish environment that maintains halakhic standards gives us an opportunity that no other university can provide: the ability to use our unique talents and creativity in any way we choose without fear of antisemitism. In a time of pain and crisis, the entire Jewish world is fighting for our very survival. In the safe and comfortable walls of our university, we have the distinctive ability to not only survive, but thrive as Jewish students. By taking advantage of these opportunities, we can both stand in solidarity with Israel and show the world all that we can accomplish using each of our unique skills. We have the obligation to demonstrate what thriving Jewish life looks like.

The Stern College Dramatics Society (SCDS) is a perfect example of this. In the past few months, while many of us have felt paralyzed and helpless, the cast and crew of The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women spent countless hours working to put on a beautiful play for our community. These women worked together, each bringing her own unique talents, to create a production that would uplift and inspire others. SCDS is the only university drama program that provides students with the opportunity to perform in a women’s only, halachic environment, a fact that should not be taken for granted. The cast and crew, along with the pivotal support of the audience, created something beautiful in the darkest of times, exemplifying the blossoming Jewish life at Yeshiva University.

The Anastasia Trials in the Court of Women follows the hilarious yet tragic trial of the Grand Duchess of Russia, Anastasia Romanov. In a riveting court case, Anastasia’s story unfolds through the testimony of the accused. The case brings up themes that are tragically relevant today, such as kidnapping, murder, and rape. These topics are taken very seriously despite the predominantly lighthearted tone of the show. This can be a difficult balance to strike, yet the cast and crew handle it with such grace and talent. In the current climate, it is crucial for each of us to take time for ourselves to unwind and have fun. This way, we can restore our energy and be even better activists on campus. Watching SCDS’s comedic production is a great way to sit back, relax, and have a good laugh. The audience even gets to participate in the trial, making it even more entertaining. The audience is both the judge and the jury, so you get to decide the trial, the process, and the verdict. The show is fun and witty yet deeply relevant and powerful.

When discussing art and joy in a time of war, the story of Chanukah is particularly fitting. The Maccabim represent the search for light in the darkest of times when our Jewish identity is being threatened. There are two miracles of Chanukah: one occurred on the battlefield and one in the cultural arena. Just like the Maccabim, we are fighting for thriving Jewish life in both of these spheres. Our soldiers are risking their lives so that we can live safely and happily in our homeland and so that we can all return there bimheira b’yameinu (speedily in our days). Along with their fight, we are engaged in a culture war here in America against antisemitism. Both of these battles are not only a fight for survival but for our very values and ideal way of life. The Maccabim found a glimmer of hope in a single jar of oil that represented the resilience of Jewish identity, even in our Temple, which was ransacked by paganism. That oil, only enough for one candle, seemed small, but it miraculously burned for eight days and represented a strong message: Jewish identity lives and thrives.

Yeshiva University is our light in the darkness. We must not take for granted the opportunities that we have here and the ways in which our fellow students are fighting antisemitism by strengthening Jewish identity. The Stern College Dramatics Society’s message to YU students is clear: we may not all be heroes, but we can all be stars. We can use our unique talents and creativity to be leaders of the Jewish community. Joining a club, watching a play, or playing a sport may seem insignificant, but just like the Maccabim’s single candle, being involved on campus can have a huge impact on our own sense of hope and on the entire Jewish community.