More Courage

May 6 – 16, 2017

Featuring stories by Jews and Muslims that illuminate our humanity, celebrate universal themes, and connect us all.




Adapted, curated & produced by Ronda Spinak

Directed by Eve Brandstein & Susan Morgenstern

Co produced by Aziza Hasan, Julie Bram, Maryam Saleemi, Sandy Savett, & Claudia Sobral

South Bay Producer Liz Altman  SF Bay Area Producer Carol Kirsh

Assistant Director/Tech Director Michelle Altman

Assistant Producer/Stage Manager Barbara Koletsky

Associate Producers Susie Yure & Rose Ziff

This a partnership with NewGround: Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change 

Written by Yasmin Magahed.  Performed by the ensemble.

Fresh Air and Miracles
Written by Suzanna Kaplan.  Performed by Tiffany Mualem, Mark Jacobson and Aneela Qureshi.

Negotiating Courage
Written by Mustafa Zeno.  Performed by Mark Jacobson.

One Foot in Front of the Next
Written by Bara Swain.  Performed by Ayelette Robinson and Tiffany Mualem

The Way Things Should
Written by Jelaluddin Rumi, 13th century mystic poet. Performed by Mark Jacobson.

The Space Between
Written by Maria Khani.  Performed by Aneela Qureshi and ensemble.

You Can’t Be Beautiful and Hate
Written by Barra Grant.  Performed by Tiffany Mualem and Ayelette Robinson.

Kosher Rebel
Story by Abby Stein.  Adapted from an interview by Julie Bram.  Performed by Ayelette Robinson.

Social Experiment — A Commission of Jewish Women’s Theatre
Written and performed by Travina Springer.  In Springer’s absence, performed by Aneela Qureshi.

Mothers – Adapted from Hadassah Magazine, April/May 2014 Issue.
Written by Leora Eren.  Adapted by Ronda Spinak.  Performed by Ayelette Robinson, Aneela Qureshi and Mark Jacobson.

Mi Shebeirlach
Music and Lyrics by Debbie Friedman.  Performed by Ensemble


LIZ ALTMAN (South Bay Producer) wrote “Almost a Sacrifice,” previously performed at the JWT salon Unknown Stories of Biblical Proportions.  Other credits include song lyrics for activities at the University of Michigan and the Dallas Bar Follies; co-directing, co-writing, and performing in the annual SMU law school follies.  JWT:  Advisory board member and South Bay producer.  Professional:  Vice president of a real estate company.  Hobbies:  tennis, art, and travel.  Special love to her muse, Louis.

MICHELLE ALTMAN (Assistant Director) grew up in the South Bay, then moved to the Midwest, and graduated from Drake University with a BFA in Theatre/Acting with a concentration in directing. She then moved to Chicago to pursue her career in theatre before coming back to LA to work with JWT. Directing credits include The Chocolate AffairSure ThingA Smell of Burnt FeathersImmature (co-writer), When Angels WeptEverybody Needs a Good Night OutThe Titus Andronicus Project (co-writer/producer), and Fishbowl: A Dramatic Improv. JWT credits include Fried Chicken & Latkes (Tech Director/Stage Manager), Temptation, Matzo Ball Diaries, and Exile: Kisses on Both Cheeks (Assistant Director).  Thank you to all who support the arts community!

EVE BRANDSTEIN (Director) has made contributions to every facet of the entertainment industry from studio executive, producer, director, writer/creator, talent manager, and author. Eve also has a notable career as a casting director. Credits include the feature This is Spinal Tap , television credits include Diff’rent Strokes, One Day At A Time, Facts of Life, Who’s The Boss, Beastmaster and Total Recall. Among her television production credits, she produced and developed  E/R the comedy series, and produced and directed the series John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You. She has directed over 75 theatrical productions, including most recent credits; the long running hit production of Not That Jewish, the NY Off-Broadway 2 year hit, Shut Up Sit Down & Eat, NY and LA premieres of Revisiting Wildfire, the NY premiere of Voices Of Swords, Ronnie Spector’s Beyond The BeehiveWaiting For Jack – A Beat Poetry ReunionClaiming Allen Ginsberg, and Suzanne Wang’s Cracked Open. Eve has also directed many Jewish Women’s Theater shows: Stories From the Fringe, Saffron and Rosewater, Hold Me, Heal Me, He Said, She Said, Past & Present: Russian Jewish American Stories and Beyond Jacob’s Ladder.  She also produces the bi-coastal spoken-word event Poetry In Motion since 1988.

LEORA EREN (Writer) is a Canadian-born journalist who, together with her Israeli husband, have two children who were born in Russia. They live in Modi’in and are members of YOZMA, the city’s Reform congregation. Leora has won numerous awards for her feature articles and personal essays, which have been published in a variety of publications including Maclean’s Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Haaretz, The Jerusalem Post, and Hadassah Magazine. She particularly enjoys writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations—something she has had ample opportunity to do since moving to Israel. “Mothers” is based on an essay that first appeared in Hadassah Magazine

BARRA GRANT (Writer), the daughter of the first and only ever Jewish Miss America, was born and bred in New York City. Educated at Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and the Drama Centre, London, she started her career as an actor in London and Los Angeles and went on to become a screenwriter-director whose films include Slow Dancing in the Big City, Misunderstood, Life of the Party, and Love Hurts.  She has received a Writer’s Guild Award and was nominated for the Humanitas and the Director’s Guild Awards. Her play A Mother, a Daughter, and a Gun, starring Olympia Dukakis, was produced in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. Also a storyteller and story writer, she has performed her work at Spark Off Rose, Tasty Words, Tales by the Sea, and Beyond Baroque.  She is the proud mother of the first and only ever Samantha Kate Reilly, a Los Angeles artist.

MARK JACOBSON (Actor) is thrilled for his first chance to work with JWT. Touring: Kingsmen Shakespeare, Rogue Artists Ensemble. Regional: The Falcon, TheatreSquared, Phoenix Theatre, LA Opera, Shakespeare Center Los Angeles, Rogue Machine, Coeurage, The Blank, A Noise Within, The Antaeus Company, The Road, Playground-LA. He will be appearing next in the world premiere of Boni B. Alvarez’s Nicky with Coeurage Theatre Company. On-Camera: Mark is a series regular on Nickelodeon’s new series I Am Frankie. Other credits: LopezCriminal Minds: Beyond BordersHaven, BroadwayWorld’s Empty Space. An accomplished voice actor, he has been seen or heard in dozens of commercials. Mark teaches acting and improv for the US Army in Europe. Training: The Antaeus Company, Groundlings, UCB, BADA; B.A., USC. Thanks to this inspiring cast and production team, Susan and Ronda for the opportunity, and Victoria for always. Follow Mark: @SirMarkOfJ.

SUZANNA KAPLAN (Producer) was born in Mexico City, to an American mother and Mexican father, and grew up speaking English at home and Spanish everywhere else. As an actress and dancer, she performed in some of Mexico’s famous Vaudeville stages, as well as acted in commercials and films and on the stage.  Suzanna moved to the U.S. where she partnered with her best friend in a translation service and language school. Being young, they sold it as soon as it was making money and took off for Europe, eventually landing in Israel, which stretched out to 6 years, a husband, and a baby. Back in the U.S., Kaplan has been working in Hispanic advertising.

MARIA KHANI (Writer), a Syrian-American, was born in England, has lived in France, India, Syria, and Holland, and since 1988 has resided in California with her husband and three children. She earned her bachelor of arts in French literature from the Damascus University of Syria and speaks Arabic, French, and English. Interfaith has always been a key component in her life: a board member of the Orange County Interfaith Network (OCIN), she is also an active member in three interfaith groups—the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council, the Garden Grove/Stanton/Westminster Council, and the Newport/Costa Mesa/Irvine Council. Since 2010 she has also been a part of the West Coast Muslim Catholic Dialogue with the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs-United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Alongside these activities, Khani has been a member of the interfaith Walking Together Program,  geared at educating families with children in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam through fun and interactive sessions. In 2012, Khani and her daughter founded the “A Country Called Syria” exhibit, dedicated to educating the public on Syria’s rich history and culture and contributions to the world.

CAROL KIRSH (SF Bay Producer) produces Jewish Women’s Theater in the Bay Area, where she hosted its first “at home” salon in San Francisco in 2012. A native Floridian with family roots in Alabama, Carol has continued the diaspora, living much of her adult life outside of the continental United States, including Bali, Guam and Hawaii. She and her husband, Tom Gottlieb, have two grown sons.

BARBARA KOLETSKY (Associate Producer) has most recently worked on the production side of Jewish Women’s Theatre. Prior to that, for three seasons she was responsible for catering.  Now Barbara is thrilled to be moving into stage management for JWT at The Braid.  Barbara is also the owner of RSVP Party Planning, where as an experienced party planner she has produced many events, specializing in charitable organizations but with many corporate and private clients as well. Barbara was born in New York and moved to California for a career in marketing and promotions for Polygram Records and Elektra Atlantic Corp. She regularly volunteers at the Grossman Burn Center with her service dog, Rodney.

MILIA ISLAM-MAJEED (Writer) has served as the executive director of the South Coast Interfaith Council, the largest and oldest interfaith council in California, for the past eight years. She holds an MA in theology and anthropology from Harvard University and is currently one of 11 individuals from around the world chosen to be a research fellow at the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, where her research work focuses on Islam and ethics. A sought-after speaker, she has been invited to speak nationally and internationally about religion and society in America, Italy, Indonesia, South Africa, Germany, France, and the Middle East. Most recently, Milia was selected as one of the Future-50 Emerging Leaders under the age of 35 who are shaping the landscape of faith in Los Angeles by the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture & Interreligious Council of Los Angeles.

YASMIN MOGAHED (Writer), an instructor for AlMaghrib Institute, is also a writer for the Huffington Post, an international speaker, and an invited lecturer at Oxford, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and other universities around the world. Her best-selling book, Reclaim Your Heart, has received international acclaim and is available worldwide. Yasmin received her BS in psychology and her masters in journalism and mass communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After completing her graduate work, she taught Islamic studies and got heavily involved in community youth work. She later served as a writing instructor at Cardinal Stritch University and a staff columnist for the Islam section of InFocus News. Visit her website,, where you can find a collection of her articles, poetry, and lectures.

SUSAN MORGENSTERN (Director) began directing in college by staging musical theatre concert readings while co-teaching American Musical Comedy with Tom Lehrer at UC Santa Cruz. She went on to teach and direct at the renowned Stage Door Manor performing arts camp in upstate New York.  In Los Angeles, for Theatre West, Susan has directed selections from David Ives’ All in the Timing; the musicals Just Too Cool, book by Mary Garripoli, music by Phil Orem; and Saturday Night at Grossinger’s, book by Stephen Cole, music by Claibe Richardson; and Barbara Nell Beery’s play, The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro.  At the Falcon Theatre she directed Leap, by Arnold Margolin, Surviving Sex, by David Landsberg, and the hit comedy, The Psychic, by Sam Bobrick. Susan directed Happy Days, a New Musical, book by Garry Marshall, music/lyrics by Paul Williams, at Cabrillo Music Theatre.  She directed an extended-run production of Meryl Cohn’s comedy Reasons to Live at the Skylight Theatre.  In 2014, Susan began working as a consultant show director at Disneyland Parks and Resorts, Anaheim.  She has directed numerous JWT salon shows, and now happily holds a position as JWT’s Producing Director.

TIFFANY MUALEM (Actor) Though Jersey at heart, Tiffany fell in love with LA right away and couldn’t be happier to be living in the City of Angels! She began her performing career training classically as a singer and performing in musicals in New Jersey. Later she trained at the William Esper Studio in NYC, where she graduated from their two-year intensive Meisner program. She’s currently training at UCB and performing with her beloved indie comedy improv team. Credits include local and regional commercials, features, and short films. Tiffany stars as the leading lady Sam in The Frame, a mind-bending feature film written and directed by mastermind Jamin Winans, released worldwide and available on Amazon Prime. Tiffany is grateful and beyond elated to be a part of this production and work with Jewish Women’s Theatre!

ANEELA QURESHI (Actor) Acting credits on stage include Kate in Taming of the Shrew, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Dora in Night Must Fall, Jean McCormack in Plaza Suite, Karen Daniels in Rehearsal for Murder, Toinette in Flea in Her Ear, and Hermance Marjave in TheThreesome. Some of her films credits include Anxiety of the Serpent, The Demo, Foster Care, Merrily, 869, and Grey Matter. Aneela also does voiceover and stand-up comedy and has her own comedy You tube channel, Coffee and Crumpets. Classically trained on the piano, she composes her own songs/music, and her creative writing has been published. She dances salsa/merengue/swing and modern and is fluent in French, Spanish, Farsi ,and Italian. Half Persian and half Punjabi. she was born and raised in the UK, where she graduated with a BA in economics and foreign languages, followed by a postgraduate degree in education and teaching practice. While pursuing her acting career she also teaches piano, French and Spanish, ESL, and study skills.

AYELETTE ROBINSON (Actor) is a Meisner-trained actor who strives to bring depth, intelligence, and compassion to every role. She has appeared in short and feature-length films as well as on TV and onstage. Current producing projects include The Couch, a dramedy web series in which she plays a psychology graduate student going through her own therapy, and Trigger, a suspense feature in which she plays a woman who has lost her memory and must discover who she is. In addition to acting and producing, Ayelette is an experienced competitive ballroom dancer who has won the national championship title in International Latin. She is also a (real) attorney and legal technologist as well as an avid animal lover. Ayelette is grateful to have the opportunity to participate in More Courage, and as with all her projects, she hopes she can inspire you to feel more connected and empowered in your own life.

RONDA SPINAK (Producer) created and produces JWT’s At-Homes Salon Theatre Series, now in its eighth season. She has curated more than 24 original Jewish-themed salon shows for JWT, as well as adapted many of the pieces performed. She graduated from Stanford University, and holds degrees from UCLA (MBA) and USC (Masters in professional writing). Ronda’s plays include Stories from the Fringe and festival-winner Oscar Wilde’s Wife, a favorite at the Ashland New Play Festival and Dayton’s FutureFest. She has written for the Emmy Award-winning children’s show Rugrats and authored the critically acclaimed nonfiction book ProBodX: Proper Body Exercise (HarperCollins, publisher). Ronda is on the board of the Association for Jewish Theatres and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. She feels blessed to be working with the many talented and inspiring women who give so generously to Jewish Women’s Theatre.

JALALUD’DIN RUMI (b. 1207) is one of the world’s most revered mystical poets. During his lifetime he produced a prolific range of inspiring and devotional poetry, which encapsulates the Sufi experience of union with the divine. Although Rumi was a Sufi and a great scholar of the Qu’ran, his appeal reaches across religious and social divisions. Even during his lifetime he was noted for his cosmopolitan outlook. His funeral, which lasted 40 days, was attended by Muslims, Jews, Persians, Christians, and Greeks.

TRAVINA SPRINGER (Writer/Actor) is a funny gal with a natural desire to hug everyone she meets. Recently she performed in the 2017 CBS Diversity Sketch Comedy Showcase. Her credits include Life in PiecesUnfair & UglyValentine’s Day, and Buzz Feed. She has been seen onstage in Booty Candy (Best Comedy Ensemble, Stage Raw Theater Awards), Shel Stories (Deaf West Theater, regional tour) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Orlando Repertory Theater, regional). Travina is a stand-up comedienne as well, and was featured on BET’s Comic View. She’s fluent in American Sign Language, loves American football, and is a proud graduate of the Florida State University (go Noles!) You can see her perform regularly at UCB on her Maude team, Old Flame. Follow her on Instagram/Twitter: @travinaspringer | YouTube: | Website:

ABBY STEIN (Writer), a Jewish educator, writer, speaker, and activist, was born and raised in a Hasidic family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and is a descendent of Rabbi Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic Judaism. In that world, Abby attended yeshiva and became a rabbi in 2011. She left the Hasidic world the following year and came out as a trans-woman in 2015. Since then, Abby has been working to raise support and awareness for trans rights and those leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy. Her story has been covered in publications such as the New York Times, New York Post, WSJ, New York Magazine, Jewish Daily Forward, Daily Mail, The Daily Dot, Haaretz, and Refinery29. She also appeared on NBC, Fox News, CNN, Huffington Post Live, ShowTime, and more. In 2016 Abby was named by The Jewish Week as one of their “36 Under 36” emerging Jewish leaders. She is currently studying gender studies and political science at Columbia University.

BARA SWAIN (Writer) has written plays that have been performed in more than 100 venues in 19 states. NYC theaters include the Barrow Group, Abingdon, Urban Stages, Symphony Space, Articulate, Sam French OOB Festival, Artistic New Directions, Project Y, Rising Sun, Ego Actus, Kaufmann Theatre, Gallery Players, and Turnip Theatre. Give and TakeBeyond a Reasonable DoubtCritical Care, and Prized Begonias are published in the Smith & Kraus Best Ten-Minute Plays anthologies. Her work is also published by Art Age Press, Applause Books, Original Works, Meriwether, and JAC Publications. Critical Care, produced on stage and in film, is reprinted in the college textbook Serious Daring: Creative Writing in Four Genres (by Oxford U. Press) and serves as a key reading for the craft of playwriting. Honors include Heideman Award Finalist, City Theatre National Award Finalist, and, by special invitation from Burt Reynolds, An Evening with Bara Swain, BRIFT, directed by the Bandit!

SUSIE YURÉ (Associate Producer) has volunteered for 30 years in non-profit organizations, in which she has held leadership roles in fundraising, event planning, facilities coordinating, programming, membership, marketing, and administration. Susie has produced musical theatre productions, classical concerts, and cabaret performances and has been intensely involved in the world of theatre for over 20 years. She holds a BA and MA in elementary education from USC, along with her California lifetime teaching credential. Her favorite role is as mom to her two talented (grown) children, who are both professional (and working) musicians.

MUSTAFA RONY ZENO (Writer) is a filmmaker and educator born in Los Angeles and raised in his parents’ hometown of Aleppo, Syria. Mustafa is particularly interested in identity, fringes, and the spaces between, especially in culture and religion. He recently co-produced the documentary Dalya’s Other Country, which follows his sister through her years as the only Muslim at a Los Angeles Catholic high school, after fleeing the Syrian civil war at age 13. Mustafa was formerly director of the Arab Film Festival in Los Angeles and is a NewGround Muslim-Jewish Fellowship alum. Mustafa also teaches Levantine Arabic at an LA Orthodox Jewish high school.

ROSE ZIFF (Associate Producer) came out of retirement to work for JWT after working at UCLA Medical Center for 33 years, where she functioned as “den mother” to more than 1000 interns, residents, and clinical fellows at UCLA, the VA, and Olive View-UCLA Medical Centers, providing resources and support. Rose is currently serving on the Board of Directors for Lev Eisha, a Jewish women’s non-profit religious organization and spiritual community. Her hobbies include gardening, dog training and hosting a monthly book club.