Ros was nervous. The night had arrived to tell her story at “The Emoth Hour”—Temple Emeth’s version of a “Moth”-style coffee house with members telling personal stories. As people were setting up the social hall she confessed to me, “I’m not sure I can do this.”

I encouraged Ros to try a run-through for the small group of storytellers who had arrived early. Supported and assured that her story was moving and worthy, she mustered her courage and went on as planned. Ros has known most of the people in this close-knit congregation in Chestnut Hill for decades. One day many years ago, Ros explained, she was teaching at the temple Hebrew school when “there was a small child standing before me, clutching her throat, unable to speak.”

The audience listened, holding their collective breath until Ros described: “I performed the Heimlich maneuver and a small piece of candy flew out of the little girl’s mouth. She ran off to play because recess wasn’t over yet.” Ros concluded with a well-known Jewish teaching: “When you save one life, it is as if you saved the whole world.”

Temple Emeth was one of two congregations that invited me this past year to offer a series of storytelling workshop for adults. The resulting story slams were popular and had people clamoring for more. Samara Katz, Temple Emeth’s education director, said: “Cindy Rivka Marshall’s inherent sense of community-building through storytelling made the evening a remarkable experience. Her inclusive style made it clear that everyone has a story to tell, and with encouragement and gentle guidance, these stories become part of the legacy of the community. What a wonderful way to bring people together to share and celebrate!”

At the end of the evening, Ros was beaming. “This was a very big deal for me,” she said. “I have never been comfortable speaking in front of groups, and this has held me back in my life. I am 85 years old and now I have done it!”

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