Oseh Shalom fund-raiser gets a surprise

February 14, 2003

Oseh Shalom took a chance recently and got a surprise.

The Laurel synagogue, which had never sponsored a big arts event, was seeking a fund-raiser with a twist. On Sunday, the synagogue presented "Tops in Tap," with performances by Tappers with Attitude youth ensemble and Step Aside Tap Company, at Howard Community College's Smith Theatre.

The teen and adult tap groups are based at Knock on Wood Tap Studio in Silver Spring.

"The costuming is new, and they were just brilliant," said Ellicott City resident Tanya Rayford-Nixon, whose daughters Lauren, 15, and Morgan, 12, are Tappers who have been dancing since they were 5.

But the surprise was yet to come.

"My daughter [Lauren] said some girl came and sat next to her and she turned around and it was Mya," Nixon said. "I think all of Centennial High School knows that Mya was there."

Tappers' founder Renee Kreithen, who persuaded the synagogue to sponsor the performance, was thrilled by this turn of events.

"She just popped into the concert, and she ended up dancing. And when the kids in the audience realized who she was, they started screaming," Kreithen said.

Singer Mya Harrison, who uses only her first name professionally, began her career as a founding member of the Tappers.

Kreithen, who grew up in Silver Spring and lives in Ellicott City, was teaching dance in Baltimore and Laurel.

"That's where I found Baakari [Wilder, who also performed in Sunday's concert,] and Mya," she said. "The local rec center is where I met these incredibly talented young kids."

Kreithen has been a member of Oseh Shalom for at least 15 years. Most of the synagogue's membership comes from Howard County, she said.

"It's a Reconstructionist synagogue, which is both traditional and contemporary at the same time, and it's a very warm, inviting and open congregation," she said. "It's a lot like Columbia, where diversity is important to people, and tolerance and social action, and things like that. Plus, the rabbi is quite a gentle and wise teacher, which is what rabbis are supposed to be."

The money raised exceeded expectations. It will help support the synagogue's youth and community service programs.

Information about Oseh Shalom: 301-498-5151.

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