The director is a resident of Pico-Robertson.
Miriam Aronowitch (Abby Shapiro) and Miss Agatha Grimshaw (Judy Winegard), who has just seized Miriam’s Shabbos candlesticks that belonged to her beloved mother
Earlier this month, lines of girls in dark, sober dresses shuffled into the auditorium of the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn for a screening of A Light for Greytowers, a film produced by Kol Neshama, an all-female performing arts conservatory in Los Angeles. As soon as the crowd settled into their seats, Robin Garbose, the founder of Kol Neshama, walked onto the stage and took the mic. “Raise your hand if there’s an empty space by you!” She called. “We need more chairs!” Garbose, who directed, wrote, and produced the film, is a petite woman with a large, flashy smile and a brown wig falling just past her shoulders.
“I am absolutely thrilled that you all could make it today. The girls of Kol Neshama and I put our heart and soul into this film and I know you’re going to love it!” Garbose enthused before taking her seat in the theater. The lights dimmed. For the following ninety minutes, the three hundred girls in the audience—and their mothers—sat rapt before the screen. A Light for Greytowers is a kind of Annie for the Orthodox set, complete with a plucky heroine, a scratchy-voiced headmistress, and a series of catchy dance numbers that are less about dancing than about picturesque orphans scrubbing and sweeping to the command of a whistle.
Anya Aronowitch (played by Rivka Siegel) and her baby Miriam fleeing Czarist Russia
Another face-off between Miss Grimshaw and Miriam
Garbose’s faith was also a liability to her career, with the Head of the Class crew—like most of the television world—working well into Shabbat hours. Unfazed, Garbose quit and took a job with America’s Most Wanted, which had a more flexible production schedule. She spent her Friday nights attending Shabbat dinners in Los Angeles’s Hasidic community, where she met young girls whose eyes would brighten when she waxed nostalgic about her theater days. In early 2000, Garbose applied to the Los Angeles Jewish Community Foundation for funds to start Kol Neshama, and in the summer of 2001 the conservatory opened its doors in a rented studio space in the heart of Los Angeles’s Orthodox community, between the Hancock Park and Pico Robertson neighborhoods.
Robin Garbose with four young actresses from ‘A Light for Greytowers’ at the LA premiere. Left to right: Nili Gross, Tirza Gross, Robin Garbose, Sara Malka Kravitz, Elisheva Marquis