Torah

“Dance of the Bear”

Legend of The Shpoler Zeide

Experience laughter, drama and intrigue!

 

Go back in time. Immerse yourself in a world that is normally shrouded in mystery. Learn about authentic Judaism while having a blast with your friends or family.

Your journey through this room begins in a nondescript Ellis Island office, complete with the now-famous suitcases. But the documents, photographs and inscriptions scattered throughout the room conceal centuries of history.

Decipher the clues to learn the story of the Polonsky family’s journey from Europe to America as you reconstruct their REAL family tree.

But wait! The journey isn’t over yet.

Put the last piece in the tree and a door swings open, leading you farther back into Dr. Paull’s ancestry - to the world of the legendary mystic, the Shpoler Zeide.

 

Touch his dusty tomes on the shelves and play a part in redeeming an innocent captive, right here! (Yes, there is dancing involved!)

Will you figure out the clues in time to save the poor Jewish prisoner?

We really had to use our noggins to figure this one out and just in the nick of time with seconds left on the clock. [We] really felt as if we were back in time and part of the experience. We also learned a few lessons during our journey. [What] a memorable, fun and exciting experience.

- Stanley Jacobs

Backstory: The Legend of the Dancing Bear

The Shpola Zeide was legendary for his love for the fellow Jews. One day he heard that a Jew was thrown to a dungeon by a local poretz  (noble landowner) for not being able to pay his rent.

This particular poretz  was known to starve his prisoners and then force them into a dance competition with a Cossack soldier while wearing a heavy bearskin. If the Jew collapsed first, it meant he was guilty and would be whipped to death. If the Cossack fell first, the Jew would go free.

Of course, no Jew stood a chance. The Cossacks were well-trained, powerful horsemen and athletic dancers with tremendous energy.

The next morning, the guards arrived to bring the prisoner to the dance-off. They threw a bearskin into the dungeon, waited for the prisoner to don the skin and hauled him up with a rope. But they did not know that the Shpoler Zeide had secretly switched places with the prisoner.

The “prisoner” was led to the Great House of the nobles, where a drinking party was in full swing. Everyone hooted and jeered when he came in. The band started to play and the Cossack danced.

And the Jew danced.

People were surprised to see that they were evenly matched. The Cossack danced again, and the Jew in the bear suit danced as well. Hours passed as the band played song after song. Never had a Jew danced so hard and so excellently. Never before had a Cossack met his match.

By now the guests had stopped laughing and sat there stunned.

Finally the musicians got tired, and even the Cossack dancer was willing to stop. Not so the Jew - who was really the Shpoler Zeide - under the bear skin, singing the niggun (Chassidic melody) he had been taught ('Hop Cozzack'), and dancing as he had never danced before!

The band picked up with renewed vigor, and the tune accelerated rapidly.

"Hop Cozzack" the Shpola Zeide cried ('Jump, Cossack!)', swinging his arms and kicking his feet, as he continued to dance with astonishing ease. Suddenly the Cossack dancer's cruel heart gave out and he fell to the ground, dead. This is how the Shpola Zeide won "The Bear Dance," and his fellow Jew was freed from prison.

Backstory: Dr. Jeffrey Paull’s Family Tree

The escape room dramatizes the genealogical discoveries made by Dr. Jeffrey Mark Paull in his quest to reconnect with his family’s long-lost noble heritage. Paull captured his experiences in a volume called "A Noble Heritage." The stranger-than-fiction, but true, plot weaves genealogy, Jewish history, sacrifices and miracles.