Tovah Feldshuh wants Jewish leaders to breathe


Tovah Feldshuh got off her trapeze last week to deliver some advice to the Jewish leadership: Breathe.

The four-time Tony Nominee (who broke my teenaged heart as Helena, the doomed Jewish resistance fighter, in “Holocaust“) in September assumed the role of Berthe in PIPPIN. Pippin’s grandmother spends time on a trapeze — at least in this production, I’ve never seen the show — and Feldshuh talked to JTA between on-stage appearances.

Impressively, considering the role’s physicality, she was not breathless. In fact, she seemed energized.

Which brings us back to her other mission: Getting the organized Jewish leadership to breathe.

Feldshuh is lending her voice to the endeavor of her friend, Bruce Wexler, a Yale University psychiatrist with experience in conflict dialogue.

Wexler, heeding U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s call on the Jewish grassroots in June to back his efforts to bring Israeli and Palestinian negotiators back to the table, has set up a website, The Time is Now for Peace, to encourage Jews to ask their leaders to give the talks the space to work.

Feldshuh told JTA she believes the leadership is dedicated to a peaceful outcome — but perhaps also needs to be nudged to hang back a bit.

“I would say to our leaders, you’re so brilliant, you’ve dedicated so much of your life to securing Israel, maybe the best route to survival is to let these peace talks take place without infecting the air with negative judgments,” she said.

Feldshuh didn’t name names, but a number of centrist pro-Israel groups earlier this month echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in blaming Palestinian recalcitrance for an impasse in the peace process after Palestinian negotiators resigned in the wake of new settlement start announcements. (Since then, Netanyahu pulled back some of the announcements and the talks appear to be back on track.)

Feldshuh’s contribution is her rendition of “Ki Va Mo’ed,” from Psalm 102:14 and which roughly can be translated as “The time is now.”

How does a song — even one in Hebrew, even one delivered by one of the greatest and most identifiably Jewish actresses of her generation — get folks to back making peace?

Feldshuh referred to her theatrical training. “The biggest thing a great teacher does is relax the throat and empty the breath,” she said. “‘Ki Va Mo’ed,’ it invites you to come into a peace process by giving your breath and your love and your sound in the cause of peace.”

Here’s the song:

And here’s Feldshuh, explaining her decision to back Wexler’s bid, and sneaking in a little Golda Meir. (Her other recurring appearance these days is in Golda’s Balcony.)

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