Havdalah: New Ben Engel Play

November 7, 2021, 7:00 PM

Add to iCal | Add to Google Calendar


The Emanuel Players will return to the stage Sunday, November 7, with a staged reading of Ben Engel’s latest play, “Havdalah,” directed by Adrian A. Durlester.

The play looks at the pressures, conflicts and opportunities Jews faced when they encountered modern life in Nineteenth Century Berlin. Engel tells the story by focusing on the large and prominent Mendelssohn family.

“Jews won more freedom as they emerged into the modern era, but handled it in different ways,” Engel said. “Some sought to change the religion. Others converted. Still others remained traditional. This set brother against brother, partner against partner, Orthodox versus Reform.

“You see all this in the Mendelssohns and their friends. But also, the pressures they faced are mirrored by challenges we face today,” Engel said.

Leading the cast will be Rabbi Steve Chatinover as Joseph Mendelssohn, Pat Kazakoff as his wife Hinni, Mike Isko as Felix Mendelssohn, Mel Simon as the violinist Ferdinand David, and Elizabeth Ehrlich as Felix’s wife Cecile. The cast also includes Esther Aronson as Joseph’s brother Abraham; Fred Spaeth as Joseph’s son Alexander, Eric Hoffman as the writer Joseph Lehmann, and Moshe Pinchover as the lawyer Konrad Schleinitz. Also performing will be Mark Wolfberg as reformer Aaron Bernstein, Lesley Weiner as publisher Moritz Veit, Rabbi David Small as Rabbi Michael Sachs, and Carolyn Topol as the Narrator.

In the run-up to the November production, we invite you to the following events:

  • Sunday, October 10, 4 pm: Emanuel will host Yale Professor of History David Sorkin, a scholar of the period. Sorkin’s presentation: “Faith Divided: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Life,” will be free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Emanuel Synagogue Adult Education Committee, the University of Connecticut Department of Jewish Studies, the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies of the University of Hartford and Rabbi Gerald B. Zelermyer Lecture Fund.
  • Wednesday, October 20 (Time TBA): Daniella Risman, Emanuel’s incoming Cantor, will headline a concert at the Synagogue including music of Felix Mendelssohn and exploring “What is Jewish Music” through other musicians of the time.  This concert will be free and open to the public.

Part of the “Havdalah,” story involves creation of the great Violin Concerto in E Minor by Felix Mendelssohn. The play suggests that the Jewish-born composer, who was converted to Lutheranism by his father at age seven, was conflicted as an adult about his religion, and that the conflict surfaced during composition of the Concerto. Engel noted that while that is speculative, overall the play is based on historical events. Engel inserted snippets from the Violin Concerto, and some of the composer’s short piano works, into the play.

General Admission tickets: $18.00 or $25.00. Tickets will go on sale Oct. 1.
Contact: Lisa Lenkiewicz / (860) 236-1275, ext. 110