Drawing Inspiration from a Jewish Superhero

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Last weekend I met a couple in an elevator who noticed the Jewish star on my necklace and asked me, “aren’t you afraid to wear that right now?” The couple were Israelis living in America who shared that they were terrified to reveal their Jewish and Israeli identities to strangers. We commiserated together, sharing our sadness and fear.

I always wear my Jewish star on my necklace with pride, and after the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel less than two weeks ago, I now also wear it with defiance.

I like to think that I would not hide in fear of those who hate Jews. And yet today this question is top of mind for so many of us as we watch public opinion so rapidly sway from sympathy, to condemnation of Israel, to growing antisemitism. It is a frightening time. A time we need to be in Jewish community more than ever, and to have productive outlets for our fear, our grief, and our outrage.

This week at the Edlavitch DCJCC, I was reminded about the cathartic experience of art as one such outlet.

Theater J opened its season this week with the world premiere of The Chameleon, a new play by Jenny Rachel Weiner. The play is both laugh-out-loud funny and brought tears to my eyes as the characters explored questions about how, when and why we reveal or hide our Jewish identity, and what it takes to find our voices to stand up for what’s right.

At its heart, this play is the story of a Jewish superhero who must discover her power. Riz is an aspiring actress who gets her big break – the starring role in a new superhero franchise, The Chameleon. But when news leaks that could threaten her new role and her career, she must decide to hide or fight for what’s right. Ignited by the fast-paced frenzy of social media, the play rampages through questions of identity, representation and the complications of assimilation, all playing out within an intergenerational context around the family dinner table.

The show references the Jewish origins of superhero comic books:

“They spun tales of men like themselves, who were different, who the world would never accept unless they were cloaked in something else. Who, when catastrophe called for it, showed the world just how extraordinary they were by revealing special powers … This is the story of the Jews.”

We all need superheroes right now – both real and imaginary ones – to inspire us and motivate us to channel our superpowers to be proudly Jewish, to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people, and to care for so many innocent people in harm’s way.

I invite you to join us at the Edlavitch DCJCC’s Theater J for an upcoming performance of The Chameleon – playing now through Nov. 5. Tickets can be purchased at theaterj.org or by calling 202-777-3210.

We need to draw strength from one another and our community right now. The Edlavitch DCJCC is here for you.

I look forward to seeing you at the Center.

By Jennifer Zwilling, CEO, Edlavitch DCJCC

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