A Different Story

Celebrating Writing and Community

A Storied Affair has been Bet Ha’am’s major fundraiser and gala for the past few years, bringing together many generations of congregants and friends for an evening of storytelling and delicious food. In May 2020, we presented a virtual experience called A Different Story.

We were honored to welcome three stellar Maine-influenced writers:
  • Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s esteemed poet laureate and the man behind Maine Public Radio’s Poems From Here.
  • Steve Steinbock, author and beloved former Bet Ha’am member, now living in Washington state, who read a new story inspired by translating Hebrew into Japanese.
  • Lisa Mayer, the ever-entertaining “Maine Rebbitzin,” and creator of the Maine-ly Jewish Storytelling Festival.
The evening began with a short havdalah service (see below for a description of havdalah), then each author presented with a question-and-answer session after each reading. Please watch our video of the evening below.
Tickets were offered on a sliding scale so that all in our community–and their friends–were able to join us.
Lisa Mayer is also known as “The Maine Rebbetzin.” She and her husband, Rabbi Sruli Dresdener, are the spiritual leaders of Temple Shalom, Auburn, where they infuse worship with music, dancing, creativity, and joy. Together, as Sruli and Lisa, they have performed their Klezmer music all over the world from Kraków to Jerusalem, from Montréal to Dallas. Lisa is the Yiddish singer, violinist, and dance leader in their duo.
When she’s not making music, enlivening worship, caring for her young twins (Charlie and Johnny), being director of development at the Public Theatre in Lewiston, or creating the Maine-ly Jewish Story Telling Festival, she is writing funny, bite-sized memoirs about her five kids, four careers, three pets, two husbands, and one unusually happy orthodox childhood in Queens, NY. Her stories have been published in the Huffington Post, the National Jewish Forward, and other newspapers. She tells her stories aloud with exuberance and hilarity to adoring crowds around the country. Lisa’s works are favorite features at the annual Maine Conference for Jewish life in Waterville and the Maine Jewish Film Festival’s Yiddish Film Festival.
Stuart Kestenbaum is Maine’s Poet Laureate and host of “Poems From Here” on Maine Public Radio/Maine Public Classical. He is also the author of five books including “Prayers and Run-on Sentences” (Deerbrook Editions). His poems and writing have appeared in small press publications and magazines including Tikkun, the Sun, the Beloit Poetry Journal, and the New York Times Magazine. He was director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle for twenty-seven years; there, he integrated literary arts into the crafts-making summer institute. As a visiting artist at Bet Ha’am, Stu has led a well-attended and much appreciated poetry workshop. Stu lives in Deer Isle with his wife, artist Susan Webster. They are spending their corona virus quarantine time gardening together.
Former US poet laureate Ted Kooser has described Stu’s poems as “heartfelt responses to the privilege of having been given a life. No hidden agendas here, no theories to espouse, nothing but life, pure life, set down with craft and love.”
Steve Steinbock is a multifaceted person with a wry sense of humor. As a Doctor of Hebrew Religious Education, he has written a number of texts and teachers’ guides. He is a freelance author, journalist, and book reviewer. He reviews audiobooks for AudioFile Magazine. He is chief reviewer of mysteries for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and president of the International Association of Crime Writers.
When Steve and his family–wife and doctor Sue Mandell, and sons Nathaniel and Sam–lived in Maine, they were active members of Bet Ha’am. Steve taught youth and adult classes in subjects ranging from modern Hebrew to Kabbalah, calligraphy and Sephardic baking. Upon following Sue back to his home state of Washington, with his sons grown, he found himself temporarily in a cultural desert with no Jews for miles. So what’s a language-loving guy to do but start studying Japanese and eventually Chinese? Recently he has been doing calligraphy, which in Asian languages is accomplished with brushes. He has been integrating brush writing into Hebrew as well. His interest in bridging cultures has led to his piece “Found in Translation” which will be debuted at A Different Story.

A Different Story began with Havdalah, the brief service that marks the separation as Shabbat (the sabbath) ends and we return to the regular week. We celebrate havdalah with candlelight, song, and prayer.  Having this service handy helped people recite the prayers.

We encouraged participants to have a havdalah set ready to go. But if you didn’t have a set, that wasn’t a problem. There are three ritual objects typically used:  a kiddush cup, a spice box, and a braided candle. Any cup of wine or grape juice (or even water, in a pinch!) will work for the kiddush cup. Cinnamon, cloves, star anise, or any other fragrant spice will work for the spice box. For the havdalah candle, check out these tips from the Bible Belt Balabusta.

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