The Soul Center organized an online presentation Oct. 8 featuring inspiring stories from community members.
Titled “The Booth – Stories From the Sukkah,” the event opened with Rabbi Dana Saroken explaining how it is custom within Jewish tradition to “invite guests into our sukkot to share the specialness of the holiday.” Though community members might be unable to safely invite guests into their sukkot this year, Saroken hoped the evening could lead to “new stories, new friends and a new feeling of joyfulness.”
Speakers included Pearlstone Executive Director Jakir Manela and Shannon Wollman, a fundraiser for Gilchrist.
Manela spoke of an occasion, while working at a Jewish retreat center in Connecticut, in which he led a group of Jewish school children on an hour-long night hike up a small mountain with no flashlights. Upon arriving at the overlook, while surrounded by a brilliant night sky, Manela told his students that these “are not only our stars. These are the stars that our parents, our grandparents and our great-grandparents, and all our ancestors going back to the beginning of time, have looked up at.” He told them of how Abraham was lifted into the sky by God, who said to Abraham “Look! Look up at these stars. Your descendants will be like the sands of the sea and the stars of the sky.”
Wollman spoke of her early dreams as a young girl to find success and fame on the theatrical stage. “How could I not long for the stage and the stardom that was sure to follow?” she said. After performing at Oheb Shalom Congregation and becoming “addicted to applause,” she “watched every TV variety show, sang along to every Broadway album and accepted my hairbrush Tony Award in the mirror over and over again.”
Wollman graduated with a degree in theater and began traveling the country in search of her success as an actress, she said. While she found some work in acting, and one brief stint as an over-the-phone psychic named Aurora Borealis, she eventually moved back to Baltimore, began a new career as a fundraiser, found and married her wife and started raising a son. Since returning to Charm City, she has been in numerous community productions and has sung with the Baltimore Symphony.
“Perhaps the most meaningful theatrical moment that I’ve had in recent years was when I found myself back on that same Oheb Shalom stage I started out on, but this time as the headline act,” she said. “And sitting in the front row, of course, were my parents, just as proud as they would had it been on Broadway.”