The Blessing of a Broken Heart
based on the book by
in cooperation with
For cast, speaker, and crew bios, click here.
Sherri Mandell wrote a heartrending and hope-giving book in the year after her son Koby's murder. Todd Salovey's play brings that year searingly to life.
When Rabbi Seth Mandell approached me with the proposal that I direct Blessing, I was honored and intimidated in equal measure. Honored because it is important that this story be told; in its particular Israeli and Jewish context, and in its universal context of tragedy, bereavement, and resilience, this play is rich and deep. Intimidated because in order to honor and be faithful to the horror and the beauty of this personal history, entrusted to me by real people who courageously put their intimate grief and wounded hearts on display, I knew that I better get it right.
The play was written for one actor but we have added an ensemble of four skilled performers who limn the experience and emotions of the character of Sherri by creating scenes, and even set pieces and obstacles, with their bodies and voices in a powerful augmentation of the text.
I hope my audiences will leave the theater as saddened by the tragedy and as awed and inspired by the strength of Sherri Mandell's response as I am.
~ Yael Valier, Creative Director, Theater and Theology, Jerusalem
With John Krug's extensive experience in production and lighting design and Shari Greenspan's creative props and stage management, Blessing is set to open for audiences on January 11th in Jerusalem and then go on to Modi'in, Ra'anana, Beit Shemesh and Gush Etzion. Performances will be followed by discussions on grief, faith, and doubt with Sherri Mandell, Rabbi Seth Mandell, Rabbi Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rabbi David Lapin, and Tanya White. Click here for dates and tickets. Scroll down or click here for cast, speaker, and crew bios.
The entire Blessing production process is being followed by a film crew from Holy Land Productions who are creating a documentary about the Mandells through the lens of the play. Stills from the production process below. Photos of the auditions are by Holy Land Productions. Photos of rehearsals are by Karen Feldman. (Photos that are obviously amateur snapshots are Yael's responsibility.)
For more information about Sherri Mandell and the Koby Mandell Foundation, including programs for bereaved families, camps for children bereaved by terror, support services, and the hugely successful annual Comedy for Koby event, click here.
A fashion designer by trade, Dena has designed costumes for over ten English- language Jerusalem community theater productions. She also joined the cast in a number of productions, including In The Heights, West Side Story, Cinderella, Singing in the Rain, Hairspray, and Second Star to the Left. Dena performed a monologue in Second Labor Live in both of its runs. She and her husband are the founders of CBDB productions. They are working on producing an original musical, Song of Solomon, which was already produced in the Philippines to great success.
Gillian is a regular in the Theater in the Rough Shakespeare troupe. Her roles have included Banquo/The Porter in Macbeth; Gremio in Taming of the Shrew; Gildenstern/The Gravedigger in Hamlet; and Worcester in Henry IV. She also played the title role in J-Town Playhouse's production of Irena's Vow, when she had to get used to acting indoors, in one place and not in iambic pentameter. She is excited and honoured to be part of The Blessings of a Broken Heart production, an opportunity to do something completely different.
Ensemble, Original Composition and Arrangements
Shifra was invested in acting and musical theater before she made aliyah in 2015. Since then, she has focused on music and film. Shifra is a singer-songwriter-musician who plays piano and ukulele. She composed original music for Tefilat Haderech (the traveler's prayer), Psalm 6, Psalm 19, Psalm 77, and Isaiah 45 for this production. Her latest collaborations include The Light That Lives On, with Sherri Mandell and Rena Ish Ran, and If I Found Grace with Yerachmiel Ziegler. Shifra currently releases music on independent platforms while studying film at Maale Film School.
Howard trained at Circle in the Square Theatre School in NY and has been acting for decades in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Recent credits include Rabbi Schmidt in Theater and Theology's In a Stranger's Grave, Joe in Theater and Theology's Off the Derech Dolorosa, and Pablo in Theater and Theology’s Divine Right. Howard also recently appeared in Assassins, Avenue Q, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Rebecca is a Jerusalem-based actor and educator. Past performances include singing with L'Opera Français de New York in Lakmé, The Three Penny Opera (Mrs.Peachum), The Sound of Music (Baroness), Company (Joanne), Man of La Mancha (Aldonza), and Pippin (Leading Player). She created and performed the one-woman cabaret show The Antique Show based on her extravagant collection of vintage sheet music. Rebecca is also a founding member of Dal Vivo Theater Ensemble, Chicago’s maniacal red-nose clown troupe. She offers dynamic workshops rooted in yoga, theater, and text-study that build experience in values-based learning.
R' Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo
January 18, Modi'in
Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, is the founder and dean of the David Cardozo Academy and Bet Midrash of Avraham Avinu in Jerusalem. A native of the Spanish-Portuguese Jewish community of Holland, Rabbi Cardozo holds a doctorate in philosophy and received rabbinic ordination from the Gateshead Talmudic College, subsequently studying at the Institute for Higher Rabbinical Studies and at the Mir Yeshiva.
A sought-after lecturer on the international stage for both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences, Cardozo is known for his original and often fearlessly controversial insights into Judaism. His ideas are widely debated in social media, blogs, books and other forums.
Rabbi Cardozo is the author of thirteen books and numerous articles in both English and Hebrew. He heads a Think Tank focused on finding new Halachic and philosophical approaches to religious issues facing the Jewish People and the State of Israel.
R' David Lapin
January 20, Ra'anana
After spearheading a religious movement in South Africa known for its vitality and its normality, and leading a community there, Rabbi Lapin moved to the USA and eventually made aliya. He is now the spiritual leader of Kehilat Bnei Aharon in Ra’anana, where he supports an ethos of open dialogue, continual learning and growth. Key to Rabbi Lapin's success has been the high credibility he enjoys and the respect he commands across the religious spectrum from Hareidi to non-Orthodox and non-Jewish.
During his time in South Africa, in collaboration with Nelson Mandela’s government, Rabbi Lapin drafted one of the world’s first formal codes of corporate ethics. Known as the Code of Ethics for the King Commission on Corporate Governance, it is still in practice today.
Rabbi Lapin went on to interact at a senior level with the SA government in matters concerning the intersection of economics and ethics.
To read more of Rabbi Lapin's thoughts on faith, tragedy, and God, you can go to rabbilapin.com and kbaraanana.com.
R' Seth Mandell
January 12, Jerusalem and January 27, Gush Etzion
Rabbi Seth Mandell has been involved in Jewish education programs since 1982. He served as Director of the Hillel Foundation at the University of Maryland, and during that time, the Hillel program became one of the largest and most active Jewish college educational programs in North America.
Seth and his wife Sherri moved to Israel from the USA in 1996 because they loved Israel and wanted to put Judaism in the center of their lives and their children's lives. Their lives were devastated on May 8, 2001, when their 13 year old son Koby was murdered by terrorists. In Koby's memory, they created the Koby Mandell Foundation which provides healing programs for families struck by terrorism. Seth believes that the Jewish response to suffering is to live a fuller and more engaged life. The Koby Mandell Foundation helps others who have suffered the trauma of loss overcome the isolation that keeps them from returning to life.
January 11, Jerusalem and January 27, Gush Etzion
Sherri Mandell is the author of Reaching for Comfort: What I Saw, What I Learned, and How I Blew It Training as a Pastoral Counselor (Ben Yehuda Press, 2021) which describes how she sought to heal from the pain of her sons' murder by volunteering on the cancer ward of a Jerusalem hospital. She won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004 for her spiritual memoir, The Blessing of a Broken Heart (Toby Press, 2003). Her book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press, 2015) details the spiritual stages of resilience. She's also published two children's picture books—The Upside Down Boy and the Israeli Prime Minister (Kar-Ben Copies) and The Elephant in the Sukkah (Kar-Ben Copies).
For the past twenty years, she and her husband have directed the Koby Mandell Foundation in Israel, named in honor of their son who was murdered by terrorists in 2001 when he was 13. She speaks around the world on grief and healing.
January 19, Ra'anana
Tanya White is an international lecturer, writer and educator with a focus on Tanach and contemporary Jewish thought. She is a graduate of the Matan Ayanot Scholars program and holds an MA in Jewish studies and philosophy from LSJS and SOAS London. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Jewish Philosophy at Bar Ilan University. Tanya is driven by a passion to exchange insights on the most pressing topics facing the modern Jewish world. She has published numerous articles in books and on social media on these topics (see Tanya White, at The Blogs (timesofisrael.com).
Tanya has lectured in various settings on tragedy, grief, and the problem of evil. Notably, she believes that theodicy (trying to explain/justify evil) “may help us to live with the dissonance between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be…but ultimately it doesn’t heal our bleeding soul…” We will be discussing the nuances of this view.
Stage and Props Management
Shari is a multi-talented visual artist and craftsperson who serves as the editor and art director of Flashlight Press, where she creates award-winning picture books. Her BA is in art and drama and she has created sets, props, and/or playbills for amateur productions of Dracula, Mame, The Sound of Music, The Miracle Worker, The Wizard of Oz, Esther and the Secrets in the King's Court, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Aladdin among others. She also writes, directs, and creates sets and props for the annual Efrat Purim Spiel. They haven't won any Tonys yet, but they shoulda.
Production and Lighting Design
Rabbi Dr. John Krug was the assistant producer of the world’s longest running musical, The Fantasticks, from 1974 until its closing in January 2002. He served, for ten additional years, as the Production Consultant/Assistant Director for The Fantasticks' revival, until its closing in June 2017. In addition to more than 250 production credits in the past 49 years, as Director, Production Consultant, Set Designer or Lighting Designer, he has directed an award winning show for NBC and consulted for multiple Broadway productions and national touring companies. Johnny wrote his post-doctoral thesis on “The Use Of Drama And Theatrical Technique in Informal Jewish Education,” an often cited work.
Sheva is a drama student at Emunah V’omanut in Jerusalem, where she studies Torah in the mornings and the arts in the afternoons. She showed an early flair for theater, directing her high school production in 2021. Sheva's courage, performance instincts, willingness to jump in in whatever capacity she is needed, and organizational skills make her an excellent production assistant.
Yael has been involved in the Israeli English-speaking acting scene for eighteen years as a writer, actor, voice actor, and director. She is a graduate of Matan's Ayanot program and of the Ruti Tamir Physical Theater Workshop. Yael teaches drama to young adults at Midreshet Emuna V'Omanut, and to adults with special needs at Yachad and Midreshet Darkaynu. She runs Bibliodrama workshops for Jewish and non-Jewish groups and has taught the Bibliodrama method in various settings. Yael also works for several production companies in dubbing and narration, including the Fox Network's BabyTV Channel. You can hear her voice (though you may not recognize it) in five current animated BabyTV series.