The Dybbukast

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What do poems, plays, and other creative texts from throughout history tell us about the times in which they were written? And what do they reveal about the forces still at play in our contemporary societies?  

 

Jewish communities, for a good deal of recorded time, have been spread across much of the globe, often existing as minority groups within a variety of dominant cultures. As such, the creative works generated, read, and listened to in these communities can provide glimpses into the ways in which people navigate challenging cultural waters.

 

Through a combination of performed readings and interviews with artists and scholars, The Dybbukast brings these creations and their historical contexts to life, all while revealing their relationships to issues still present today.

 

New episodes are released the second Friday of the month – look for them on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

episode 8: "In Defense of Women"

Written in Italy in the 16th century by Jewish dramatist Leone De' Sommi Portaleone, who also wrote what is considered to be the oldest extant Hebrew-language play, the poem "In Defense of Women" touches on the role of women in drama and reveals a great deal about the cultural considerations and power dynamics of this time when women were coming to the fore on the theatrical stages of Northern Italy, Rome, and Venice in the professional world of the commedia dell’arte.

Intercut with selections from the poem and other works of the era performed by theatre dybbuk actors, Dr. Erith Jaffe-Berg, Professor of theatre at the Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production, University of California at Riverside, guides us through the text's meaning and its relevance to both historical and contemporary issues of equity and belonging.

The live recording from which this episode was created was presented on May 20, 2021 in collaboration with San Diego Repertory’s Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival (JFEST), with scholar and student participation from the Department of Theatre, Film and Digital Production at the University of California, Riverside.

 

This episode is made possible in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Erith Jaffe-Berg, PhD

Translation of "Magen Nashem" and other featured texts by Erith Jaffe-Berg, PhD 

Italian translation assistance by Dylan Southard

Additional Italian and Hebrew provided by Erith Jaffe-Berg, PhD

Yiddish provided by Miri Koral of the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Julie A. LockhartClay Steakley, Diana Tanaka, and Jonathan C.K. Williams

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Additional assistance on the theatrical performance from which this episode was recorded provided by Lily Hart and theatre dybbuk’s producing director, Flori Schutzer

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE EIGHT TRANSCRIPTION

"In Defense of Women" Learning Resources

Learn more about:

 

Also referenced in the episode:

Exercises For Educators:

 

  youth learners

  adult and teen learners

Also From Our Artists

coming soon: Commedia in Costume

Check back to see sketches from theatre dybbuk's resident costume designer, Kathryn Poppen.

 

episode 7: "Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives"

In episode seven, presented in collaboration with Lilith Magazine, we share performed readings from and explore issues intersecting with a piece of writing published in Lilith in 2020 titled “Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives.” The work takes a liturgical poem which speaks about the nature of existence and is central to the Jewish High Holidays and builds upon it, reimagining it to speak about the killing of Black people in the U.S.

 

Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman, the founder and director of imani strategies and author of the piece, talks about the work itself while also discussing related historical and societal considerations.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by the work's author, Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Cassandra Blair, Joshua Wolf Coleman, Julie A. Lockhart, Rebecca RasmussenClay Steakley, Diana Tanaka, Jonathan C.K. Williams, and Mark McClain Wilson

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Additional thanks to Kellie Davis for her contributions to this episode.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE SEVEN TRANSCRIPTION

"Unetaneh Tokef for Black Lives" Learning Resources

Articles from Lilith Magazine:

 

Referenced in the episode:

Exercises For Educators:

 

  youth learners

  adult and teen learners

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Independent, Jewish & frankly feminist since 1976, Lilith’s mission is to be the feminist change-agent in and for the Jewish community: amplifying Jewish feminist voices, creating an inclusive and positive Judaism, spurring gender consciousness in the Jewish world and empowering women, girls and trans and nonbinary people of every background to envision and enact change in their own lives and the larger community.

Also From Our Artists

Litany - Who Shall Live?

To accompany the episode, we invite you to listen to an audio experience composed and created by Fahad Siadat, who composed the music for our 2019 production, hell prepared, and is also the composer for our upcoming production, breaking protocols. In this piece, Fahad brings together audio from the episode, new musical composition, and sounds taken from protests in the United States to reflect on the themes and issues discussed in the episode.

 

episode 6: "How to Hide"

In this episode, presented in collaboration with Lilith Magazine, we share excerpts from and explore issues intersecting with a creative non-fiction essay published in Lilith in 1994 titled “How to Hide: Instructions from a Daughter of Survivors.” The work describes how certain perspectives and life behaviors, influenced by their parents' experiences in the Holocaust, show up for the children of survivors. 

 

Karen Propp, the author of the essay, shares her experiences and points of inspiration for the piece, and Dr. Laura Levitt, a professor of religion, Jewish studies and gender at Temple University, takes us through the ways in which our public discourse around the Holocaust evolved while also discussing relationships to historical trauma.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Dr. Laura Levitt and the essay’s author, Karen Propp

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voice of Rebecca Rasmussen

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE SIX TRANSCRIPTION

"How to Hide" Learning Resources

Exercises For Educators:

 

  youth learners

  adult and teen learners

Lilith logo 19.png

Independent, Jewish & frankly feminist since 1976, Lilith’s mission is to be the feminist change-agent in and for the Jewish community: amplifying Jewish feminist voices, creating an inclusive and positive Judaism, spurring gender consciousness in the Jewish world and empowering women, girls and trans and nonbinary people of every background to envision and enact change in their own lives and the larger community.

Also From Our Artists

Hidden

To accompany the episode, we invite you to experience a piece of shadow art created by theatre dybbuk artist Leslie K. Gray. “Hidden” is a response to Karen Propp’s “How to Hide: Instructions from a Daughter of Survivors,” and it reflects the themes explored in the essay as well as the experiences of Leslie's own family with the Japanese American Internment. The hands in the artwork are maneuverable; you can see them photographed in three different positions in the gallery below.

Artist's Statement

 

episode 5: "The Protocols, Henry Ford, and The International Jew"

This special podcast episode, co-produced with the Association for Jewish Studies, 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.”

 

Dr. Pamela Nadell, professor of Jewish history and director of the Jewish Studies Program at American University, and Dr. Lisa Leff, professor of European and Jewish history at American University, join co-hosts Aaron Henne and Jeremy Shere to examine the ways in which The International Jew intersected with historical antisemitism and the political forces of the time, and how its legacy is still having an impact today.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Jeremy Shere, PhD and Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Pamela Nadell, PhD and Lisa Leff, PhD

Edited by Jeremy Shere with additional editing by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Joshua Wolf Coleman, Joe Jordan, Julie A. Lockhart, Clay Steakley, and Diana Tanaka

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE FIVE TRANSCRIPTION

"The Protocols, Henry Ford, and The International Jew" Learning Resources

Exercises For Educators:

 

  youth learners

  adult and teen learners

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The Association for Jewish Studies is a learned society and professional organization whose mission is to advance research and teaching in Jewish Studies at colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning, and to foster greater understanding of Jewish Studies scholarship among the wider public.

 

Launched in 2018, the Adventures in Jewish Studies series produces seven episodes annually. Each episode features the voices of AJS members as they share their expertise and research with listeners.

Also From Our Artists: "A Fine Ford Vehicle"

Bonus Episode

In Episode 5, we examined Henry Ford’s publication, The International Jew, and its relationship to “The Protocols.” In this bonus episode, we’re sharing a scene that explores elements of Ford’s publication from our latest theatrical work – still in development – breaking protocols. Set in the 1940s, breaking protocols explores the history behind "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" by presenting it in the context of a vaudevillian entertainment.

 

In this sequence, you can hear two members of the vaudeville troupe take on the roles of Henry Ford and a spokesmodel as they present the ideas from The International Jew as though demonstrating a new Ford automobile in a 1920s advertisement.

EPISODE FIVE BONUS TRANSCRIPTION

 

episode 4: "The Murdered Jewess"

Episode four, presented in collaboration with The Contemporary Jewish Museum, explores two murder pamphlets, "The Murdered Jewess Sara Alexander: Life, Trial and Conviction of Rubenstein the Polish Jew" and "Rubenstein, or The Murdered Jewess: Being a Full and Reliable History of This Terrible Mystery of Blood.” Published in 1876, both pamphlets tell the tale of Pesach Rubenstein, a Jewish immigrant who was convicted of killing his cousin, Sara Alexander, and disposing of her body in a cornfield. The case was a sensation in the press and took hold of the popular imagination.

 

Dr. Eddy Portnoy, Academic Advisor and Director of Exhibitions at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and author of Bad Rabbi and Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press (Stanford University Press 2017), discusses the story behind the pamphlets as the first significant intersection of Jews, the local and national press, and the American judicial system.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Eddy Portnoy, PhD

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Julie A. Lockhart, Clay Steakley, Rebecca RasmussenDiana Tanaka, and Mark McClain Wilson

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE FOUR TRANSCRIPTION

"The Murdered Jewess" Learning Resources

Selections from the pamphlets:

"The Murdered Jewess Sara Alexander:

Life, Trial and Conviction of

Rubenstein the Polish Jew"

"Rubenstein, or The Murdered Jewess:

Being a Full and Reliable History of

This Terrible Mystery of Blood.”

Exercises For Educators:

 

youth learners

 

 

adult and teen learners

Presented in collaboration with The Contemporary Jewish Museum.

The CJM makes the diversity of the Jewish experience relevant for a twenty-first century audience and aims to be an engaging forum for diverse audiences where new perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas thrive.

This episode is a companion piece to Predicting the Past: Zohar Studios, The Lost Years (now on view at The CJM). In the exhibit, Los Angeles-based artist Stephen Berkman’s immersive photography installation is a tribute to Shimmel Zohar, a mythical nineteenth-century Jewish immigrant photographer and founder of Zohar Studios. The exhibition includes over thirty photographs, several large installations, a cabinet of curiosities, and a large format artist book about the Zohar project.

Also From Our Artists

Dressing the Story

To accompany the episode, theatre dybbuk's resident costume designer, Kathryn Poppen, has created designs for two of the characters in the tale as they might be played by our two main readers in the episode. In the gallery below you can see costume designs for Sara Alexander, as she might be played by Julie A. Lockhart, and for Detective Zundt, as he might be played by Clay Steakley.

Sara Alexander

This mood board for Sara Alexander compiles photos of women from the time with dresses, shawls, colors, and textures. This board serves as both research and inspiration for the final design.

Sara Alexander

Final costume concept rendering for Sara Alexander

Detective Zundt

This mood board for Detective George Zundt collages images of men from the time in both casual and professional dress and with a variety of facial hair styles that may be incorporated into the design.

Detective George Zundt

Final costume concept rendering for Detective George Zundt

 

episode 3: "The Death of My Aunt"

Episode three, presented in collaboration with the Yiddish Book Center, investigates "The Death of My Aunt," a short story written in Yiddish by Blume Lempel and published in 1975. The story moves through time and space as a woman whose aunt has died deals with mourning the loss of this figure whose past came to life as her present grew dim.

 

Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, whose book Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories includes their English translations of this and many other of Lempel's stories, reveal the intricacies contained within the narrative and discuss the ways in which it touches on immigrant experiences, emotional dislocation, and familial connection.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Julie A. Lockhart, Clay SteakleyDiana Tanaka, and Mark McClain Wilson, with Yiddish from the original text read by Miri Koral of the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE THREE TRANSCRIPTION

"The Death of My Aunt" Learning Resources

“The Death of My Aunt” is featured in its English translation in the book, Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories, published by Mandel Vilar Press and Dryad Press. The book is available, with free shipping to anywhere in the United States, from either of these publishers. More information can be found at www.dryadpress.com or www.mvpublishers.org.

Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub discuss their translation of Blume Lempel's work at the Library of Congress.

Exercises For Educators:

 

youth learners

 

 

adult and teen learners

The Yiddish Book Center is a nonprofit organization working to recover, celebrate, and regenerate Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture. The million books recovered by the Yiddish Book Center represent Jews’ first sustained literary and cultural encounter with the modern world.

 

Since its founding in 1980 the Center has launched a wide range of bibliographic, educational, and cultural programs to share these treasures with the wider world.

"Translation and The Death of My Aunt"

bonus episode

In episode 3, we featured selections from the English translation of Blume Lempel's short story, "The Death of My Aunt," intercut with an exploration of the narrative's meanings and implications. In this bonus episode, you will hear both Ellen Cassedy's and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub's reflections on the experience of translating the story and the reading of "The Death of My Aunt" in its entirety.

EPISODE THREE BONUS TRANSCRIPTION

Also From Our Artists

Reflections on My Aunt

To accompany the episode, we invite you to enjoy a piece of music composed and performed by theatre dybbuk artist Michael Skloff. You will hear what Michael created in response to the emotional landscape of the English translation of Blume Lempel's “The Death of My Aunt,” as read by Diana Tanaka.

 

episode 2: "The Book of Enoch"

Episode two, presented in collaboration with the Philosophical Research Society (PRS), explores The Book of Enoch, an ancient text composed during the Hellenistic period that contains tales of barbarous giants, visions of redemption, and much more.

 

Dr. Greg Salyer, President of PRS, takes us on a journey through the book’s structure, helping us investigate the spiritual and emotional value of apocalyptic literature as well as the recycling of mythological narratives.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Greg Salyer, PhD

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Rachel Leah Cohen, Joe Jordan, Julie A. Lockhart, Clay SteakleyDiana Tanaka, Jonathan C.K. Williams, and Mark McClain Wilson

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE TWO TRANSCRIPTION

"The Book of Enoch" Learning Resources

Learn more about:

 

Also referenced in the episode:

A Jewish Theatrical Work from the Hellenistic Era:

The Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian

(Translation by Will Dilbeck,

commissioned by theatre dybbuk)

 

 

Exercises For Educators:

learners in grades 3-8

 

 

teen and young adult learners

 

 

adult and teen learners

Founded in 1934 by sage and scholar Manly P. Hall, the Philosophical Research Society (PRS) continues Mr. Hall’s mission to provide resources for seekers of practical and profound wisdom.

Also From Our Artists

Observe Ye

To accompany the episode, we invite you to enjoy a piece of video art by theatre dybbuk's resident lighting designer, Brandon Baruch. In the video, you can see the lighting scheme that Brandon designed to accompany the text of chapter 5 of The Book of Enoch as read by Joe Jordan. A portion of the chapter was featured in the episode; in this video you can experience it illuminated in full.

 

episode 1: "I-Tell-You"

This first episode, presented in collaboration with Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), features selections from a children's play found in I-Tell-You, a 1926 religious school journal from Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. The episode also includes essays from the publication written by both students and clergy.

 

Dr. Miriam Heller Stern, National Director, School of Education and Associate Professor of HUC-JIR, helps us unpack the journal’s meaning and what it has to say about education, assimilation, cultural expression of identity, and the complications of community.

THE TEAM

Hosted by Aaron Henne

Scholarship provided by Miriam Heller Stern, PhD

Edited by Mark McClain Wilson

Featuring the voices of Perry Daniel, Joe Jordan, Julie A. Lockhart, Clay SteakleyDiana Tanaka, Jonathan C.K. Williams, and Mark McClain Wilson

Theme music composed by Michael Skloff and produced by Sam K.S.

Transcription by Dylan Southard

EPISODE ONE TRANSCRIPTION

"I-Tell-You" Learning Resources

Selections from the 1926 journal I-Tell-You:

 

The Little Hasmoneans

 

 

The Rabbi's Introduction

Student Writings

Exercises For Educators:

 

learners in grades K-2

 

 

learners in grades 3-8

 

 

teen and young adult learners

 

 

adult and teen learners

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Hebrew Union College is North America’s premier institution of Jewish higher education and the center for professional leadership development of Reform Judaism. 

 

HUC-JIR’s School of Education is at the vanguard of progressive Jewish educator preparation, guided by rigorous research and field-shaping thought leadership. 

"I-Tell-You...More"

bonus episode

In episode 1, we featured portions of essays from the 1926 religious school journal I-Tell-You as well as the short play The Little Hasmoneans (also found in the journal) intercut with commentary by Dr. Miriam Heller Stern. We thought you might like to hear a continuous performance of the play and one of the student essays in full. Please enjoy the essay "How I Got My Name" by Henrietta B. Stein (grade 12)  and The Little Hasmoneans, a seven page play in three acts.

EPISODE ONE BONUS TRANSCRIPTION

Also From Our Artists

Living Lights

Once you’ve listened to The Little Hasmoneans in “I-Tell-You,” we invite you to enjoy another theatrical interpretation of the Hanukkah story from theatre dybbuk artist Leslie K. Gray.  Leslie’s Living Lights – which she created, designed, and directed for her company Triumvirate Pi Theatre – is an all ages shadow puppet production set to music without dialogue. You can see clips of its 2011 presentation at the Skirball Cultural Center in the video below.

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Thank you to the Covenant Foundation for its support of The Dybbukast and related educational resources.