A comedy about what happens when we begin to question miracles
by the playwright who brought you Off the Derech Dolorosa,
Miracle on South Division Street
by Tom Dudzick
direction by Yael Valier
production design: John Krug
A comedy about what happens when we begin to question our stories by the author who brought you Off the Derech Dolorosa...
Fresh from its off-Broadway run at St. Luke's Theatre, Miracle on South Division Street is the story of the Nowak family, living amidst the urban rubble of Buffalo, NY’s East Side. Maybe the neighborhood is depressed, but not Clara, the family matriarch. She happily runs her soup kitchen and tends to the family heirloom – a twenty-foot shrine to the Blessed Mother which adjoins the house. This neighborhood beacon of faith commemorates the day in 1942 when the Blessed Virgin Mary materialized in her father’s barber shop. When the play opens, a family meeting is in progress. Daughter Ruth divulges her plan to finally tell the world about the family miracle. But during the course of the meeting, the entire family’s faith is shaken when hitherto hidden information sheds a harsh light on the family legend. The results are thought-provoking, heartfelt, and hilarious. Will family members reject their faith as their beloved myth is called into question? Will they strive to grasp more tightly at the literal reading of the story that has shaped them? Or will they come up with a path that allows them to maintain faith with integrity?
We will be discussing these questions as they pertain to Judaism and to our own faith after each performance with the following scholars:
January 23rd, Rabbi Dr. Josh Yehoshua Berman, author of Ani Ma'amin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith
January 24th, Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber, fellow for Project TABS (Torah and Biblical Scholarship) and the editor of its website, TheTorah.com.
January 25th, matinee, Dr. Jerome Yehuda Gellman, author of This Was From God: A Contemporary Theology of Torah and History.
January 25th, evening, Yael Leibowitz, Bible scholar with a focus on biblical dichotomies and simultaneous truths.
January 27th, Dr. Tamar Ross, author of Expanding the Palace of Torah, and proponent of contemporary interpretation as part of a cumulative revelation.
I chose to produce Tom Dudzick's deceptively naive Miracle on South Division Street because, with
humor and mercy, it gently unearths issues that all religions and religious people have to deal with. What happens when science, or academia, or our own curiosity holds a magnifying glass to our beliefs and forces us to pay attention? Can we maintain both belief and intellectual honesty? If so, how?
CAST and CREW
Mordechai has been acting in the English-speaking community theater in Jerusalem since 2008, beginning with an appearance in Israel Musicals' 1776 and most recently as Nick in Rhinoceros Productions' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, guest directed by Yael Valier. He also appeared as the antagonistic, Dovid, in Theater and Theology's In a Stranger's Grave. Mordechai has played comic baritone roles in Encore's Gilbert & Sullivan productions of Ruddigore, The Sorcerer, Iolanthe and The Mikado. He also performed in the musicals Merrily We Roll Along, Ordinary Days and Free To Be... You and Me for J-Town Playhouse, and played Jaffar in Encore's Aladdin. Mordechai played the lead in the plays The Importance of Being Earnest and The Man From Earth for J-Town Playhouse and The Tenth Man with JEST. He also composed and performed original backing music for J-Town Playhouse's Kindertransport and composed original music for CBDB Productions' recent production of My Name is Asher Lev. Mordechai is married to the brilliant director of Pygmalion and Irena's Vow Yardena Buxner.
Devorah has trained for most of her life as a dancer and singer. She later went on to train in acting at the Aspaklaria School of Performing Arts, where she studied for two years. In 2017, Devorah directed Hannah Senesh with J-Town Playhouse. Previous roles include Chana in Theater and Theology's In a Stranger's Grave, Mary in Theater and Theology's Off the Derech Dolorosa, Mary in From Door to Door, Inga Johanson in Number the Stars and support roles in Raise Your Spirits productions of Noah! Ride the Wave, Ruth and Naomi in the Fields of Bethlehem and In Search of Courage.
Andy is a regular performer on the J-Town Playhouse stage and in Theater in the Rough's Shakespeare productions in the park. This summer (2023), she is appearing in Theater in the Rough's production of Julius Caesar as the title character. She is adept at such diverse roles as staid aunties (Pride and Prejudice) and bordello managers (Measure for Measure). Andy is in fact from Buffalo, NY.
Sarit Brown, a graduate of the Eidan Lipper Musical Theater Academy, is a veteran of the English-speaking theater community, both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Sarit has acted and sung many different roles, most recently Carla in Starcatcher's In the Heights and a lead in Israel Musicals' The Four. Though she primarily enjoys performing, she is also an accomplished hair and makeup artist. Her artistic flair has won her positions in costuming and set design, too.
Tom Dudzick is one of the few playwrights who makes a living at it. His first play, Greetings!, opened at New York’s John Houseman Theatre and starred Darren McGavin and Greg Edelman. It is now a holiday favorite across the country and has had well over one hundred productions. His next play, Over the Tavern, the first in a semi- autobiographical trilogy, has over three hundred productions under its belt, with many box office records broken throughout the U.S. Tavern has recently spawned a holiday musical as well, entitled Christmas Over the Tavern. The Irish adaptation, Over the Pub, also broke the box office record at Cork Arts Theatre in Ireland. Tom has written eight plays to date, most published by Playscripts, Inc. He was recently honored with a memorial plaque embedded in front of his boyhood home in Buffalo. And an even greater honor – he was once a question on Jeopardy!
Karen Feldman is an artist well-known in the Jerusalem English-speaking theater community for her stunning theater makeup and her astonishing and creative photography. Her artistic eye is in demand by all the JET companies. Pore over some of Karen's quirky, surprising, deceptive, humorous, and impactful art photography here.
Rabbi Dr. John Krug was the Assistant Producer of the world’s longest-running musical, The Fantasticks, from 1974 until its closing in January 2002. Dr. Krug wrote his post-doctoral thesis on “The Use Of Drama And Theatrical Technique in Informal Jewish Education,” an often-cited work. For a more complete bio, see the About page.
Yael has been involved in the Israeli English-speaking acting scene for eighteen years as a writer, actor, voice actor, and director. You can read her paper on the challenges of mixing theater with theology, published in the theological journal Perichoresis, here. For a more complete bio, see the About page.
RABBI DR. JOSHUA BERMAN
Rabbi Dr. Joshua Berman is a professor of Tanakh at Bar-Ilan University. A graduate of Princeton University and of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rabbi Berman is the author of many books including, Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought (Oxford, 2008), which was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist in Scholarship, and Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth and the Thirteen Principles of Faith (Maggid). Most recently he has published a commentary on the book of Lamentations for Cambridge University Press. His articles on biblical theology and contemporary society have appeared in the pages of Mosaic Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Rabbi Dr. Berman served as a member of the International Advisory Board for the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
Rabbi Berman observes, "A lot of good people believe that If we say the Tanach isn’t 100% factual, then we’re saying it’s fake news. And a lot of good people maintain that if we don’t believe the Tanach is 100% factual, then we’re fake Jews. But our sources paint a much more nuanced picture."
DR. RABBI ZEV FARBER
Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber is a research fellow at the Kogod Center of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and the Senior Editor of thetorah.com at Project TABS. He received a PhD in Jewish Studies and Hebrew Bible from Emory University and an MA from Hebrew University in Jewish History. He also received ordination, Yoreh Yoreh, and advanced ordination, Yadin Yadin from YCT Rabbinical School.
Farber is the author of Images of Joshua in the Bible and their Reception (De Gruyter, 2016) and the editor of Halakhic Realities: Collected Studies on Brain Death (Maggid, 2015) and Halakhic Realities: Collected Studies on Organ Donation (Maggid, 2017). He coedited Archaeology and History of Eighth-Century Judah (with Jacob Wright, SBL 2018) and The Making of Moses (with Mark Leuchter, pub. in HUCA 90 2019).
DR. YEHUDA GELLMAN
November 16th, matinée
Dr. Yehuda Gellman is Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Ben-Gurion University. He specializes in the philosophy of religion and is the author of the entry on mysticism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Gellman was a fellow at the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions and was the Alvin Plantinga Fellow at the Center for the Philosophy of Religion, Notre Dame University. He is a past senior fellow at the Hartman Institute, Jerusalem. Gellman edits a series in Philosophy of Religion and World Religions for Brill.
Gellman is the author of numerous books, including, Abraham! Abraham! Kierkegaard and the Hasidim on the Binding of Isaac (Ashgate Publishers, London), God's Kindness Has Overwhelmed Us, A Contemporary Doctrine of the Jews as God’s Chosen People (Academic Studies Press), and This Was from God, A Contemporary Theology of Torah and History (Academic Studies Press).
November 16th, evening
Yael Leibowitz is currently a fellow of the Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Learning's kitvuni program, with a forthcoming book on Ezra-Nehemiah. She also teaches at Matan and is a frequent lecturer in North America and Europe. Yael has her Master’s degree in Judaic Studies from Columbia University. Prior to making Aliyah, Yael taught Tanakh at the Upper School of Ramaz, and then went on to join the Judaic Studies faculty at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women. She has taught at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and served as a resident scholar at the Jewish Center of Manhattan.
Leibowitz believes that the more we understand about the historical, cultural and religious realities of the world that produced the Bible, the more we can begin to appreciate the timeless truths embedded in its books. One of her areas of interest is in researching and expanding the acceptance of divergent stories as simultaneously valid interpretations of history. For more of Yael’s writing visit: yaelleibowitz.com
DR. TAMAR ROSS
Dr. Tamar Ross is Professor Emerita of Jewish Philosophy at Bar Ilan University. She has scholarly expertise in the thought of Abraham Isaac Kook, the modern Musar movement and the ideology of Mitnaggedism, and Judaism and gender. She is the author of books and articles on Jewish ethics and theology, contemporary issues in traditional Jewish thought, philosophy of halakha, and Orthodox Jewish feminism.
As a Modern Orthodox Jewish feminist, Ross develops the idea of cumulative revelation, that is, that we learn more as history evolves and societies develop and mature. She argues against the concept of Yeridat ha-dorot, the idea that knowledge of Torah diminishes with time. She also argues against approaches of more liberal movements which address perceived flaws by challenging the divinity and religious validity of sacred texts and traditions, arguing that such an approach only undermined the foundations of faith. In her book, Expanding the Palace of Torah, Dr. Ross develops the metaphor, originally an idea of Abraham Isaac Kook, for an approach seeking to address contemporary concerns by expanding rather than undermining religious tradition.
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