by Cameron Cox, dramaturg
In the second of BYU’s Illusionary Tales, Such A Time As This written by James Goldberg, the audience is introduced to Hadassah Loew, a woman born and raised in a community of faith who has since left it. Hadassah’s Hassidic faith community has striking parallels to aspects of our faith community here at Brigham Young University. Hadassah’s relationship to her faith community will undoubtedly sound familiar to some in our audience and her journey in Such A Time As This may seem familiar as well.
As a Mormon with strong Sikh and Jewish family roots, I feel strongly about the ways the stories we choose to cherish shape our world. I’m particularly aware of the power of religious storytelling. They’ve fueled movements for a better world.
– James Goldberg, Playwright of Such A Time As This
Hadassah explores her family’s Jewish heritage, looking to the story of The Golem of Prague as a source of comfort and protection. The ancient Jews viewed Rabbi Loew’s creation of the Golem and its protection of the Czech citizens as a signal of God’s love, and resultantly modern-day Prague is full of depictions of the Golem that saved its Jewish citizens. These take the form of statues, mosaics, shop names/signs, and tourist souvenirs.
Similarly, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we have a rich history of memorializing events where divine intervention was used to save our people.
From The ChurchofJesusChrist.org:
The first Latter-day Saints to enter the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1847 immediately set to work preparing the dry soil for a spring harvest. As the crops grew that spring, they looked thick and green, and farmers anticipated a rich yield. Tragically, however, swarms of crickets descended on the fields in late May 1848, threatening to destroy much of the pioneers’ potential food supply. Farmers watched as the crickets devoured acres of grain and vegetables. Many prayed that the Lord would deliver them from the infestation.
In early June large flocks of California gulls swept the valley, feasting on the crickets. The number of gulls at first frightened many of the farmers, who feared another calamity may have struck their vulnerable crops. But soon they watched the gulls gorge on crickets, drink water, regurgitate the indigestible parts, and return for more. Although the cricket infestation lingered for another few weeks, the gulls had consumed enough to mitigate the damage.
Commemorating the miraculous appearance of the seagulls saving the crops of the early pioneers have been dozens of paintings, and the seagull has become an important piece of contemporary Latter-Day Saint iconography. Somewhat ironically, the California seagull has even been named the Utah state bird.
While Hadassah’s Hassidic Jewish faith community and culture have a longer and perhaps richer history than ours as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are a plethora of ways in which we can see aspects of our experience in a faith community with a rich history in her story. Look out for these as you tune in to BYU’s Illusionary Tales running Oct. 29th-31st at 7:00 PM.