Daniel Wolpe
Daniel Wolpe

What Is Jewish Theater?

Long before I decided to become a rabbi, I decided to become a playwright and actor. I’ve been lucky. I have been able to chase all of my dreams with some success, and even combine them by spending much of my theater career in Jewish Theater. But how, exactly, do we define Jewish theater?

As with everything else in our culture, there are many different definitions. Some people believe that Jewish theater must be a piece that is written by a Jew, with Jewish characters and reflect the Jewish experience. Others feel that it can be any play that can be seen through a Jewish lens, as long as it is written by a Jewish writer. And some believe that as long as the piece can be seen through a Jewish perspective, it is a piece of Jewish theater.

This leaves a lot of room for debate. Does any play that deals with Nazism and World War II fit into the realm of Jewish theater? Does a play written by a Jew but is an utter and complete condemnation of Judaism fit into Jewish theater? Would a play like The Crucible, written by a Jew (Arthur Miller), but without a single Jewish character, yet a parable for a historical event that deeply affected Jews (the McCarthy blacklist), count as Jewish theater?

This blog will explore all of these questions and also analyze various Jewish plays, TV shows and films. We will also explore various issues that confront Jews and Judaism in the entertainment industry, and how some of these issues and some of these projects also reflect the attitudes of American Jews to Judaism.

I hope you will join me for this journey.

About the Author
Rabbi Dan Wolpe is the rabbi of the Flushing Fresh Meadows Jewish Center, a noted educator, and a produced and published playwright. In addition to having served as a rabbi for 25 years, Wolpe has had plays of his produced in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Orlando, Philadelphia, Jerusalem, Latham and Westhampton Beach,. Wolpe is a proud member of both the Rabbinical Assembly and the Dramatist's Guild.
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