Play About Civil Rights Leader Rabbi Has Its English-Language Debut at Beth Am

Eric Berger as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at the Beth Am Synagogue performance of “Heschel’s Passover Eve” (Shiran Yahav)

Beth Am Synagogue recently hosted the first-ever English-language performance of the World Zionist Organization-produced play “Heschel’s Passover Eve.” The one-man show, performed on Thursday, Nov. 30, centers on historic Civil Rights Movement leader and theologian Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1968 as he prepares for a special Passover seder to be attended by his friend and fellow leader, Martin Luther King Jr.

The play was commissioned by the World Zionist Organization to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Heschel’s death in December 2022. In addition to a human rights activist and a scholar of Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah, Heschel was also a fervent Zionist. But his legacy remains largely obscure, especially outside of the U.S. Since its inception, “Heschel’s Passover Eve” has been performed in Israel several times, as well as the United Kingdom and Buenos Aires, in hopes of spreading awareness of Heschel’s legacy.

“Fifty-five years after King’s death, we at Beth Am work to be an effective anchor institution in our historically Jewish, majority-Black neighborhood,” said Beth Am Rabbi Daniel Burg of the play and its relevance to the synagogue. “I’m honored to host this powerful new play about relational justice and Jewish peoplehood for its American debut in our historic sanctuary space in Baltimore City.”

The Beth Am performance marks the first time that “Heschel’s Passover Eve” was performed in English, according to Shiran Yahav, World Zionist Organization project and program manager. The play was originally performed in Hebrew, with English subtitles projected onto the screen behind the actor playing Heschel. Later, the World Zionist Organization plans to stage a production in New York, with all proceeds going toward rehabilitation efforts in the Gaza envelope.

“This play was originally performed in Hebrew in Israel as a means of introducing Israelis to Diaspora Jewry through sharing the life story of one of its most towering figures,” said Yizhar Hess, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization. The original idea to create the play came from Hess himself. “Now, as it premieres outside of Israel, it’s an opportunity to celebrate Jewish life at a moment of immense challenges for our people, as well as highlight values embodied by Heschel like human dignity and freedom.”

Never miss a story.
Sign up for our newsletter.
Email Address


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here