Dancing Through the Tears
“My husband abused me for years,” relates Avia, “but I tried to make things work for my family – we have ten children together. When he left to go to the United States, it was a relief, but I was devastated by his refusal to grant a get – it was just another way for him to continue his control and abuse.
“I came to Yad La’isha full of desperation,” she continues. “They promised to help me, and they did – in every way. When my social worker suggested I participate in the Playback Theater group, I was hesitant. But I went. After all of the violence I suffered, it was hard for me to touch my children, to give them a hug or a kiss. Today, thanks to the process of healing I experienced in Playback, I am finally able to hug them,” Avia says. “Playback helped me be a better mother.”
“How can we allow this?”
Clients of Yad Laisha: The Monica Dennis Goldberg Legal Aid Center receive legal counsel and representation in the rabbinical courts in order to attain their get. But they are also provided with the support of staff social workers and personal coaches, out of the understanding that the difficulties faced by women being denied a divorce do not begin and end in the courtroom.
Yad La’isha’s Playback Theater Support Group is one of the powerful healing initiatives on offer for both current and former agunot. The theater brings together 10-12 women of all ages and backgrounds for a series of workshops to learn how to re-frame their stories through drama so they feel empowered – capable of earning a living, caring for their children and moving on with their lives. Participants understand one another and support one other implicitly; together they cry, they laugh and they celebrate.
The group is led by trained drama therapist Ayelet Ben Ari who came across Yad La’isha’s activities on behalf of agunot by chance.
“A few years ago, a friend and I decided we wanted to go hiking in the desert – we found an event for women online and signed up,” relates Ben Ari. “We got on the bus and saw women wearing stickers with the words ‘Yad La’isha’ written on them. Well,
It turns out we had signed up for an event to raise awareness and funds for this organization.
“Over the course of the day, as we hiked, I began speaking with some of the other women and they shared their stories. I was shocked. Agunot? How could it be that there were agunot today in Israel? How can we allow this? I knew that I absolutely had to do something to help,” she says, “and that is how the Playback Theater Support Group was born.”
Even through Our Pain, We Can Grow
During a recent evening to raise awareness, Playback participants shared their stories. They were moving, heartbreaking, empowering. Women who have been agunot sang and danced together, hugged and smiled through their tears.
“He hit me until I believed it was my fault,” revealed Orit. “He told me, ‘Only I know who you really are’. I gave birth to five children and continued working full time after each birth. I took the kids camping, by myself, for a week. I love to sing and dance. I AM a good mother. I had to remind myself that I have worth, while hiding my black and blue marks.”
Another participant, Odeya, wept in anguish, “Who will save me? I don’t want to cry anymore at night. I want to laugh. I want to love, and be loved.”
“Growing up, I knew I was good at lots of things,” said Sarit. “I was a good cook, a good student, a good friend. But then I got married. ‘You don’t know how to take care of the children,’ he would tell me. ‘You don’t know how to handle money. You can’t even cook a good, hot meal for me. You’re a terrible mother.’
“One day, I was sharing with a friend my fear about leaving my husband and breaking up my family. My friend told me, ‘Your family is already broken, and it’s not your fault.'”
There wasn’t a dry eye in the packed room.
And between each powerful monologue, Playback participants danced together to joyful music. Avia says, “Even through our pain, we can grow.”