Letters from the Lingerie Drawer: A Daughter’s Journey with Eleanor Reissa and Yehuda Hyman

What if you could suddenly see your parents’ lives before you were born? And they were Holocaust survivors, who had suffered greatly but still somehow found each other. This is what happened to Tony-nominated director and Broadway/television actor Eleanor Reissa when her mother passed away, leaving behind 56 letters she’d received from Reissa’s father in the years after he survived a death march. It took Reissa 30 years to have them translated from German and discover her parents’ story. She discusses what she learned and her recently released memoir, The Letters Project: A Daughter’s Journey, in conversation with playwright and artistic director Yehuda Hyman. Reissa also reads several selections from her book.

This program is in commemoration of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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Suzanne Singer saying words to kids

From the Archives | An Inheritance of Words

This article was originally published in the August 2006 issue of Moment.    Lately, I've been thinking about words—my words—those that may be a piece of me worth leaving behind for my family. It's a reflection that leads me backward and forward—backward to the challenge of gathering and sorting; forward to the decision about what to do with what I find. It connects me to a piece I wrote about my plans for the future on the day after my 70th birthday, just one year ago. Included in the list was writing an ethical will. From medieval times, Jews wrote such documents to "transmit values, ideas and personal reflections to family and loved ones," according to 'Ethical Wills: A Modern Jewish Treasury' by Nathaniel Stampfer and Jack Riemer. The impulse to offer unsolicited advice to those younger may...

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David's Palace

From the Archives | Digging Deep for David’s Palace

This article was originally published in the October 2005 issue of Moment.    It was Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. The Shabbat rush filled the aisles at my supermarket. We were less than a week from the deadline for all Jews to leave Gaza and four communities in northern Samaria two days from Tisha B'Av, the fast day in remembrance of the destruction of the two Temples, and many other more recent tragedies that fell on this day. My shopping cart filled by rote while I spoke to two friends about what might happen and how we came to this perilous moment for the unity of the nation. We did not speak about the dangers that may lie in wait from Hamas, now declaring triumphantly that it is they who forced the Zionists from their homes. Our immediate...

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From the Archives | The Price of Contentment

This article was originally published in the October 2006 issue of Moment.    My mother-in-law, Jeanne Singer, died in Jerusalem this summer, just four days after her 98th birthday. I've been going through everything she left behind, especially the drawings and paintings of her later years. Among the canvases, I was startled to find a hand-drawn map—about five feet long—stapled on two pieces of plywood hinged with a rough strip of fabric. The map, bearing landmarks in southern Lebanon, was our son Alex's improvised briefing tool for instructing his soldiers while he served in the Israel Defense Forces in 1987. It was two years after a small IDF force, along with its Christian allies, the South Lebanese Army, had established control over a 12-mile swath of Lebanon north of Israel's border. This occurred in the aftermath of...

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Water in Israel

From the Archives | The Pleasures of the Promised Land

This article was originally published in the February 2006 issue of Moment.    I'm astounded that 65 percent of American Jews have never visited Israel. Compare that to 22 percent of Jews in the United Kingdom and 30 percent from Mexico and South Africa. Maybe I'm astounded because I never return to what is now my home most of the year without discovering new pleasures and new mysteries. For too many Jews, Israel is a "should go place" but not a "really excites me" destination. Here's my advice: Tune out Zionist entreaties. Apply the measures to Israel that you use for any travel destination. Come because Israel is a microcosm of extraordinary people and places with all sorts of opportunities to fit your special fascinations. Are you a birder? Come to one of the world's great migration flyways...

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Israel flag

From the Archives | Testing Ground

This article was originally published in the December 2004 issue of Moment.    A crowing rooster in a play yard and a curious granddaughter led us to Chelev Haaretz, "Fat of the Land." Inside the converted army storage depot left over from the Yom Kippur War we found another world, just a couple of blocks from our home in Jerusalem. Rabbi Yair Ben David opened Chelev Haaretz more than 20 years ago in order to do something for kids in the crime ridden slums of Baka. Today those slums, with tree-draped lanes, restored stone houses and an acceptance of religious and ethnic diversity, make up one of Jerusalem's most desirable neighborhoods. The high crime rate is gone, but poverty in the workers' housing blocks—intensified during the economically punishing years since September 2000—remains. And so do Rabbi Ben David...

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