"… but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." – Isaiah 41:30 (KJV)
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A Surprise Announcement
and Awards Galore

I’ve been dangling a promise of good news for the last two newsletters. Now I can let the cat out of the bag. It is with great anticipation that I announce the upcoming live performance of Saving Sara, a one-act play based on The Little Lion: A Hero in the Holocaust.

I wrote The Little Lion, a young adult historical novel, as my MFA thesis in Children’s Literature for Hollins University in 2015. My tuition at Hollins was underwritten by Neil November, one of the most generous supporters any writer has ever known. Neil never once asked what I was working on while I attended the university, and he was actually quite surprised when I handed him a copy of the book, dedicating it to him. Swift Creek Mill Theatre subsequently optioned the book and had it adapted for the stage by Irene Ziegler, a noted local playwright. The world premiere was held in 2016, during the Mill’s 50th anniversary. Mill Mountain Theatre picked up the play in 2017.

Later, I asked Una Harrison, a well-known local actress and playwright, to join me in writing the stage script for Saving Sara, which is based on a portion of The Little Lion. Matt Hackman, a seasoned local actor who gave a commanding performance as one of the actors in The Little Lion when it debuted at Swift Creek Mill Theatre, will perform all eight male parts, which range from a teenager to a German officer to an aged physician. The entire play revolves around the life events of the Gillmans, a Jewish family, after they were forced into Kovno Ghetto, located in Kaunas, Lithuania, during the Holocaust. Showcasing his multiple talents, Matt changes costumes, accents, and physical characterizations without leaving the stage, until the culmination of the 25-minute play.

The public is invited to attend the free performance, which was contracted by the Chesterfield County Public Library and will be staged at the North Courthouse Road Library (315 Courthouse Road, Richmond, Va., 23236) at
2 p.m. on Saturday, July 30. After the play, there will be a talk back with the audience and a book signing. I suggest that children be accompanied by an adult and be at least 11 years old to attend. While there is no outright brutality staged, it is implied, and gunshots will be heard.

Cover of The Little Lion and Matt Hackman changes costumes during Saving Sara

A full-length version of Saving Sara, which I produced and had videoed earlier at Westminster Canterbury in the Sara Belle November Theatre, is now being used as part of the Upstanders Project begun by Chutzpah and Courage and now taught in Chesterfield County Public Schools.

In other news, the Virginia Professional Communicators recently presented me with a first-place award for one of the newsletters I wrote for Chutzpah and Courage in 2021. “News from Nancy Wright Beasley: Turmoil and Triumph in 2021” was entered in the category of Web and Social Media - Electronic Newsletter - for Nonprofit, Government, or Educational Categories.

The annual state competition covers a wide variety of journalistic and photographic categories, with first-place winners going on to compete at the national level. The column garnered an honorable mention at the National Federation of Press Women’s conference in late June.

Michele Cook, president of Virginia Professional Communicators, presented Nancy with the award at the spring conference on April 30, 2022.

Awards seem to have been the order of the day recently. Pam Plahs, who chairs the social studies department and teaches at Swift Creek Middle School, was recently cited for her exceptional teaching ability.

Dr. Edward Maynes, principal of Swift Creek Middle School, had this to say about her: Mrs. Pam Plahs was recently recognized as the Patricia Behring Social Studies Teacher of the Year for the state of Virginia. Given what Mrs. Plahs accomplishes with her students in and out of the classroom, this was no surprise. She truly brings history alive for the students at Swift Creek Middle School. Her work with guest speakers like Ms. Elizabeth Johnson Rice of the Richmond 34 gives our students the opportunity to translate the topics they have learned about in class into an authentic, relatable experience. Another example would be Mrs. Plahs giving her students the opportunity to partner with a local family as they uncovered items from a family member's suitcase containing artifacts from World War II. This lesson was featured on a local news station in Richmond, Va.

We are so lucky to have Mrs. Plahs on the faculty at Swift Creek Middle School. Her dedication to teaching students history in a tangible and relatable way creates a classroom full of intrigue and engagement.

Pam Plahs, who chairs the social studies department and teaches at Swift Creek Middle School, was nominated as the Patricia Behring Social Studies Teacher of the Year for the state of Virginia.

This accolade came as no surprise to the folks who know of Pam and her dedication to her students’ work. She paused in her classroom recently for a photograph so I could publicize the nomination and to accept a $500 check presented by Mary Ellin Arch, secretary-treasurer of Chutzpah and Courage. The check was a grant to Chutzpah and Courage from Brandermill Rotary Club and was designated for Mrs. Plah’s Holocaust research work this summer as she travels in Europe. She has been one of the guiding lights of the Upstanders Project, established by Chutzpah and Courage, now going into its third year, to encourage students to be upstanders, rather than bystanders, in the face of evil.

(L-R) Campbell Pendleton, representing Brandermill Rotary Club, and Dr. Edward Maynes, principal of Swift Creek Middle School, look on as Pam Plahs accepts a check for Holocaust research work from Mary Ellin Arch, secretary-treasurer of Chutzpah and Courage.

As a member of Brandermill Rotary, I attended the annual Rotary International Convention in Houston in early June. Carol Taylor, our president-elect for next year, also attended. It was a wonderful reunion for me as I was able to reconnect with Vytenis Kirvelaitis, past president of the Chicagoland Rotary Club of Lithuanians. That club has been very supportive of the two projects that I’ve helped orchestrate, along with assistance from several other Rotary clubs in other countries, that placed state-of-the-art physical therapy equipment into the Lopselis Children’s Hospital in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Vytenis set up the meeting that allowed me to introduce Carol to Sandra Scedrina, their president elect, and Aiste Velde, another club member. We were joined by Aloyce Urassra, the founding president of the Rotaract Club of Kili (short for Kilimanjaro) and first-time attendee, whom I happened to meet the first day of the conference.

(L-R) Aiste Velde,Vytenis Kirvelaitis, Sandra Scedrina (Chicagoland Rotary Club of Lithuanians) and Aloyce Urassra (Rotary Club of Kili) share a photograph with Carol Taylor and me (Brandermill Rotary) to memorialize our new friendships at the Rotary International Conference in Houston.

It was a time of rejoicing of all the good that Rotary does worldwide and gave us an opportunity to discuss upcoming international projects that our clubs want to work on together. In a special surprise, I learned that Aiste had previously worked on diplomatic projects in Lithuania (which Hillary Clinton attended) and had worked in the same area with Anne Derse, the former U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania who arranged my first book tour there — proving, once again, it really is a small world.

The conference was chock-full of activities. One of the main programs planned for the week was a visit to the Holocaust Museum Houston, the nation’s fourth largest Holocaust museum. The event, which included a tour and dinner, was sold out. Aloyce and I took an Uber to the museum and arrived just in time to join an incredibly informative tour, which included a replica of a Danish boat used to hide Danish Jews and smuggle them to safety. This was one of the ways that Denmark saved approximately 90% of their Jews from extermination. Imagine my shock to see one of the photos I had obtained from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and used in Izzy’s Fire spread across an entire wall duplicating the deportation of Jews from ghettos.

The museum’s display about propaganda and hate speech was inspiring, though heartbreaking. One wall had an open invitation for visitors to write words of encouragement on sticky notes and leave them for others to read. Aloyce wrote, “There is never a small change. Do your best to change what you can.” I wrote, “Love is contagious.” I almost cried when Aloyce attached our notes to a wall just beneath a quote from our own Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Aloyce Urassa, founding president of the Rotaract Club of Kili (short for Kilimanjaro), gets ready to post a message at the Holocaust Museum Houston

Our guide, John Sharemet, and his father, Eyal, another volunteer (when he’s not in Israel where he lives), invited me to join them for tea and a long conversation following the tour. I promised to send them copies of my books, which they said would be welcome in their library, as well as in their gift shop. They are highly involved in schools and were interested in and very encouraging about our Upstanders Project.

John Sharemet, a wonderful guide of the Holocaust Museum Houston, agreed to a photo with me following his detailed tour of the museum.

I have visited a lot of Holocaust museums, but none has impressed me as this one did. Their major commitment to Holocaust studies and education is second to none. They provide an Educator in Motion program, which is a free school and community outreach program that provides educational programming on the Holocaust, genocide, social justice and active citizenship in school and community settings.

Posters on display at the Holocaust Museum Houston

Back at the convention, I made the rounds of the multitudes of booths showcased at the “House of Friendship.” Too numerous to name, the displays depicted countless Rotary projects and humanitarian work going on around the world.

While the war rages on in Ukraine and human beings continue to kill each other in utter madness, I thank God for the small group of Ukrainian Rotarians who made it to the convention in Texas, and especially for Dr. Olha Paliiychuk , a practicing obstetrician-gynecologist specializing in cancer who lives near Chernobyl. When asked if the travel wasn’t a struggle for their group, she replied, “To see a friend, no road is too long.” Her poignant words brought thousands of attendees to their feet in thunderous applause.

I was so proud to learn that, thus far, Rotarians have collected and donated more than $15 million to the Ukrainian humanitarian effort. When I heard that, I cried with pride over being one of the Rotarians who helped with that effort, as well as for those who have suffered and continue to suffer. I also rejoiced in the hope I felt for the goodness in the hearts of my fellow Rotarians and vowed anew to continue to do what I can to make a difference in this world.

I finished the month out by offering a presentation at the Western Henrico Rotary Club, my first such public appearance since my exposure to poisonous chemicals last August. It was truly a time of rejoicing for me. I want to thank so many of you for praying for me and encouraging me to get back on my feet and keep going. If you’d like to help with that effort, please consider donating at www.chutzpahandcourage.org. I remain grateful for those who give on a monthly basis. Every donation is deeply appreciated and meaningful, no matter the amount.

Recommended Reading
I usually suggest a book that I have appreciated reading, but I’m suggesting two this time, written by the same author. Dr. Edith Eva Eger, a Holocaust survivor aged 90+, continues to wow countless audiences with her testimony in personal presentations, which she always finishes with a high, over-her-head dancer kick.

Dr. Eger has written numerous books, but The Gift:12 Lessons to Save Your Life helped pull me from months of deep depression, which was brought on by an accidental chemical exposure in August 2021 that almost claimed my life. I cannot overemphasize the effect this book had on me, and I recommend it highly. I also recommend another of her books, The Choice: Embrace the Possible. Still a practicing psychologist, Dr. Eger describes how, as a 16-year-old ballerina, she was forced to dance for Dr. Josef Mengele just moments after he had sent her mother to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Dr. Eger and one of her sisters survived the ordeal. Their father and another sister did not. Dr. Eger’s courage simply cannot be described in words and stands as a towering monument to human dignity.
Upcoming Events
The public is invited to attend a live stage performance of Saving Sara, which is based on The Little Lion: A Hero in the Holocaust, written by Nancy Wright Beasley. The play will be performed at North Courthouse Public Library, 315 Courthouse Road, Richmond, Va., 23236, at 2 p.m. on July 30. Since the topic is the Holocaust, children should be accompanied by an adult and be at least 11 years old to attend. Please feel free to call/e-mail me if you have any questions: (804) 276-0716 or nancy@nancywrightbeasley.com.
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see www.nancywrightbeasley.com.
July 1, 2022
Copyright © 2022 Nancy Wright Beasley, All rights reserved.

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