A New Play about the Yiddish Theater’s Most Famous Scandal

When Sholem Asch wrote his play God of Vengeance in 1907, he was not yet established as one of the major figures of 20th-century Yiddish literature. The play became famous, in part, because of a scene in which two women kiss. (In 1923, after the play was performed in English on Broadway, the entire cast was arrested for obscenity.) The scandal that surrounded the play is the topic of a new play, Indecent, now at the Yale Repertory Theater. Josh Lambert writes in his review:

Indecent insists on itself as artifice, confection, . . . which is fitting, because what remains fascinating about God of Vengeance is that it was a work of pure fiction, the product of Asch’s imagination, which had profound effects in the real world. One of the most striking moments in Indecent is a brilliant bit of staging as [the] actors perform the final, heart-wrenching lines of God of Vengeance—in which the brothel-owning father heaves his daughter, and the Torah scroll he has bought for her, down into the cellar—four times, rotating them 90 degrees each time.

It’s as if we’re watching it first from the wings and backstage, and only finally seeing the conventional perspective the fourth time. This turns Asch’s moment of high drama into comedy—funny because it grants us a palpable sense of the uncanniness that theater companies must experience as they perform an intensely emotional crescendo night after night.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Broadway, Homosexuality, Jewish literature, Sholem Asch, Yiddish theater


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7