KKBE Women’s Seder, Story Slam: “Liberation”

The microphone might as well be a sword, as petrified as I stand trembling before it. In my mind’s eye, its bulbous mass looms so large I can see every black mesh dimple and dent — yet not so large that it obscures the 250 expectant faces looking up at me from beyond. 250 faces constituting the most terrifying audience for a terrified teen: My peers.

How on earth did I get here??

Here is MoVFTY Spring Conclave (as we called such events then) for my NFTY regional youth group. Our temple is hosting, and I — a high school sophomore — am a co-chair for the event. Everyone is gathered in the basement of our synagogue, the temple youth lounge that, over the past year, has become my home away from home. I’m incredibly excited for the event, have been planning for it for months. There’s just one problem: I’ve never been to a regional conclave and have absolutely no idea what to expect.

How did I come to be co-chair then you ask? Well, it went something like this… The president of my youth group takes me aside during a Super Bowl Party, seconds left in the game, the losing team about to attempt what would be a winning field goal, and asks: “Hey, Stephanie, what do you think about co-chairing Spring Conclave?” And I respond — not with fact-gathering inquiries about the nature of a conclave or the responsibilities of a co-chair — but instead ask the all-important question: “If I say yes, will you let me go back to watch the game??”

And so here I am. But now that I’m here, there’s apparently a second problem: My president has matter-of-factly handed me the microphone and said: “We need to make announcements about the plan and schedule for the evening.” A simple enough task, for most people perhaps —but not for me. I’m terrified of public speaking. I can still vividly remember lip-syncing through my junior high choir performance, absolutely petrified that if I tried to eek out any sound, I would throw up all over my shoes.

But now everyone is staring at me; I can’t hide in a chorus. So I squeeze the microphone… ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”… take a deep breath… and start to talk.

And of course the worst things that I imagine happening, don’t happen… what does happen is even worse. When I squeak out the words, “I have some announcements to share,” everyone starts singing!… “Announcements, Announcements, Announcements! A, double-N, O, U, N, C, E, M, E, N, T S…”

I’m mortified. I’m humiliated. … But then I realize: “Hey — I’m not dead.” Even more importantly: “I didn’t throw up!” Yes, they’re singing — loudly, obnoxiously — and clearly I missed some important memo along the way — but they’re smiling and laughing… and the world didn’t end.

Eventually that interminable song does end. And, when it does, I hold the microphone a little more comfortably. And with a smile on my face, I start again. Liberated.