Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The 14th day of Easter: Reconstruction. Reconciliation. Restoration.


Girl of Diamond Mountain crew: Caterina Bertolotto, video; Carman Moore and Lotte Arnsbjerg, creators; Kiori and Cara, choreograaphy and dance performance

I am working in my office. Hear the front door open and swing shut. Then I hear this voice from inside the sanctuary: Help! Help! I look I and see an old woman wandering around. 
Can I help you? I ask.
You find me hotel. For girls. Not like you boys. For girls. Her voice has a heavy, Eastern European sound.
There’s a hotel ring around the corner, on 87th. Called the Belnord.
For girls? Hotel for girls? She is wearing thick bottlelens glasses with the kind of stick usually used by people with visual impairment.
Look I’m not going to find a hotel just for women.
You call. Find out how much cost.
I look up their number, meanwhile checking to see if the YWCA still has rooms for women. Or the 92nd Street Y?  Starts around $70, I say. And she just looks at me.
I Jewish. I blind. I Israeli. I US citizen.
That doesn’t sound quite right to me. I’m trying to figure out her story.
Need special operation. For eyes.
Where have you been staying?
With friend. Jewish friend. But must get out. Find hotel. For girls.
I feel stumped. When I have a thought. It’s Saturday. Shabbat. People will be leaving services at the Orthodox Jewish Center soon.
Look, I say, there’s a synagogue just down the street, would you like to go?
Yes. Jewish. I go.
So I lead the little woman through the sanctuary. Out the 86th street door. Down 86th through the ever flowing stream of shul goers on their way home. Men in kippot, women in hats. And then we reach the Jewish Center. This is the Jewish Center, I say. Would you like  me to take you in?
No. I Jewish. Thank you. Thanks God. Thank you.
I walk back to the church alone.

Cara shows up shortly after. Digs in to help us get ready for tonight’s performance of Girl of Diamond Mountain.


I’m over at Columbus at Goddard-Riverside, our best partner for homeless work. Their annual Neighbor to Neighbor awards dinner. This year, the Interfaith Assembly is being honored for its Panim al Panim (Face to Face) program which works with homeless people for job readiness and has a mentor for each participant. We remain the only program in the city I know of  that actually helps people move out of homelessness and engages in policy change  advocacy as well.  I’m proud to continue to be part of what West-Park helped birth over 25 years ago. And I get a phone call.  Carman’s publicist has not shown up. There’s no one at the door. No one who knows the lights. So I take off down the street in the rain to help out.

Though not large, there’s an anxiously waiting audience in the sanctuary. Tonight Carman and Lotte have decided not to talk about the subject matter before. To just let it unfold. As I watch this performance, it feels different.  Still painful, but lighter somehow. Carman and Lotte interweaving, her voice softer in unexpected places. And it feels tighter. At the conclusion, the choreography has been changed. Kiori and Cara in a tableaux. Less pieta, more a sense of peaceful resolution. The child finally home. I feel that peace inside.

Two very different dancers.  Cara with her physical Graham rooted embodiment. Kiori with her almost zen like, ethereal deliberate, measured movement. The final scene stays with me.

My friends Beppe and Liljana have come. She was anxious about the subject matter, but the performance won her over.

Tonight's conversation
We gather for anther conversation.   Petah guides us again.  Tonight there are men who have lived through this experience. We explore the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation again. I quote my old colleague Milton, No hay reconciliacion sin reconstruccion: there is no reconciliation without reconstruction. And reconstruction begins with acknowledging, speaking, the truth.

This is not easy. Attendance has not been what we hoped for. There is a realization that for the average person, spending  a Saturday night exploring child sexual abuse may not be a first choice. This is not entertainment, it’s engagement. And for victims, most may not be ready to embrace or face this moment.Still, this is important work. About healing. Reconstruction. Restoration. 
Lotte, Bob, Carman

I want to talk with my friend Shannon. Our PCUSA national reconciliation catalyst (love that job title) when she gets back form Thailand and the Philippines and her work on child trafficking. This is important work. It will find its way.

Feels good to have a part in its development.

I stay around as Ben the sound guy breaks down his equipment, lugs Jeremy's amp back up to his 4th floor studio. Then he stops in. talk for awhile. There is something about sound guys....
It's late. Time to go home. 

Partners in collaboration

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