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breaking protocols
breaking protocols

Originally programmed to open in the summer of 2020, the pandemic delayed and ultimately ended our completion of the project. The show had a number of performed reading engagements accompanied by discussions during and after the pandemic lockdown.


Why do conspiracy theories arise and in what ways do they show up at times of great crisis and upheaval in society? And what are the motivations and forces underpinning their proliferation?

In breaking protocols, we examine the quintessential antisemitic text, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," while exploring contemporary issues connected to racism, propaganda, and false narratives.

As with all of theatre dybbuk's works, breaking protocols will be rich in poetic text, choreographed movement, and original music.

breaking protocols is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project, co-commissioned by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and The Hive at Leichtag Commons.


Virtual events were presented in 2020 via Zoom in partnership with LACE (April 25), The Hive at Leichtag Commons (May 13), Oshman Family JCC Arts and Dialogues (June 18), and Musée du Montréal juif - Museum of Jewish Montreal (December 15) . All events included performed readings of in-process script selections and Q&As; the Hive, LACE, and Museum of Jewish Montreal events also included writing workshops exploring themes in the show.

The presentation with LACE was supported in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.


Written and Directed by Aaron Henne

Assistant Director (LACE and Hive events): Tova Katz

The Ensemble:

Solly – Joe Jordan

Essie – Julie A. Lockhart

Ruthie – Diana Tanaka


So...What Is/Are "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"?

Supposedly the record of secret meetings of Jewish leaders, "The Protocols" describes an alleged conspiracy to dominate the world. It has become a touchpoint and source of inspiration for antisemitic movements world-wide. The document – which has been proven fraudulent – does not indicate when or where the meetings took place, who attended, or its authorship.

An abbreviated version of "The Protocols" was first published in 1903 in the St. Petersburg newspaper Znamya (The Banner). The editor of Znamya, Pavel Krushevan, was an outspoken antisemite.

"The Protocols" were first published in full in 1905 as an appendix to the book The Great in the Small and the Antichrist as an Imminent Political Possibility by Sergei Nilus.

The Authorship Question

Steven J. Zipperstein in his book, Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History (2018), argues that Pavel Krushevan ("The Protocols" first publisher) is the probable author, either on his own or with others, of the fraudulent work. The antisemitic rhetoric that Krushevan published in his newspaper, Znamya, likely helped to fuel the Kishinev pogrom. Krushevan was also associated with the Black Hundreds, an ultra-nationalist movement in Russia in the early 20th century. The Black Hundreds opposed any retreat from the autocratic rule of the reigning monarch and was known to have used violence against those who were believed to be a threat to the Tsar.

Another theory – though one that is largely rejected in current scholarship – points the authorship of "The Protocols" to Matvei (a.k.a. Mathieu) Golovinski as a part of a monarchist scheme to persuade Tsar Nicholas II that the capitalist modernization of Russia was really a Jewish plot to control the world. Golovinski was said to be working in Paris under the direction of Pyotr Rachkovsky – the chief of the Russian imperial secret service (the Okhrana) who was based in Paris from 1884-1902.

Plagiarism within "The Protocols"

Sections of "The Protocols" were plagiarized from an earlier text by French attorney and political writer Maurice Joly. In 1864, Joly published the political satire Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu in protest against the regime of Napoleon III.

This plagiarism was brought to light by Irish journalist Philip Graves in a series of articles in The Times of London in 1921. These articles were the first to expose "The Protocols" as an antisemitic forgery.



The Dybbukast, Episode 5: "The Protocols, Henry Ford, and The International Jew"

Co-produced with the Association for Jewish Studies, episode five of our podcast explores Henry Ford’s publication of The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem, a four volume series containing newspaper articles which were originally published from 1920-1922. These writings were based on – and included elements of – the notorious, fraudulent text “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." The episode is co-hosted by Aaron Henne and Jeremy Shere and features scholarship from Dr. Pamela Nadell and Dr. Lisa Leff.

Primary Source, Episode 2: "The Protocols of The Elders of Zion"

Primary Source, a podcast from the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University, has an episode on "The Protocols" which asks, "What does the storming of the Capitol building, a Hungarian billionaire, mass shootings, and 4Chan have to do with a forged Russian text that’s more than 100 years old?" Primary Source's "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was also featured as a guest episode on our podcast, The Dybbukast.


"The Conspiracy Theory to Rule Them All" by Steven J. Zipperstein, published in The Atlantic

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