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The centennial of the most widely-produced play in the history of Jewish theater, The Dybbuk, written by S. An-sky, will be celebrated in Santa Fe from March - November 2020. The play exists in 15 languages and has influenced works by Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Aaron Copland, Ofer Ben-Amots, and the Coen Brothers, among others.

The Dybbuk at 100 features talks by experts on S. An-sky, his play and his groundbreaking ethnographic expeditions into Jewish Russia; the highly acclaimed, fully restored 1937 film of The Dybbuk, a chamber music concert of music inspired by The Dybbuk; and the New York performance Ofer Ben-Amots’ opera The Dybbuk—Between Two Worlds.

dybbuk (n.)  - a wandering soul believed in Jewish folklore to enter and control a living body until exorcised by a religious rite

what is the story?

Romeo and Juliet meets The Exorcist” 


In this play of star-crossed lovers and spirit possession, the heroine and hero, Leah and Hannan, are betrothed before they are born by two religious scholars who part ways. Hannan’s father dies during his childhood, but Hannan finds a surrogate in Leah’s wealthy father. Leah’s father, however, betroths his daughter to the son of the wealthiest man in his shtetl.


When Leah rebels and invites her now deceased lover to her wedding, he takes possession of her. She chooses death over marriage and patriarchy, promising her lover they will ascend to heaven and live together in eternity.

why has the play

appealed to so many?

At a 1910 dinner in St. Petersburg, given in his honor, An-sky, who identified as both Jewish and Russian, spoke of himself as a “man living between two worlds” (the subtitle of his play). His statement explains why The Dybbuk has resonated with populations around the world.


It is not only a metaphor for the Jewish experience, but also for the experiences of millions of immigrants and refugees world-wide who have lived on the fringes of their societies, sometimes tolerated, sometimes persecuted, often between two worlds, never fully at home in either one.

who is s. an-sky?

Best known today for his play The Dybbuk, S. An-sky (pseudonym for Shloyme Zanvl Rappoport)  was also an author, political activist and  the first Russain Jewish ethnographer. Between 1912 and 1914, he led one of the most important ethnographic expeditions to document Jewish life in the Pale of Jewish Settlement.

The expeditions stemmed from An-sky's belief that Jewish folklore would become the basis of a contemporary Jewish culture. His team of Russian scholars collected thousands of folk songs, stories, legends, mysteries, and photographs from Hasidic communities in the Jewish shtetls of Eastern Europe on the eve of World War I, some of the most dramatic of which he used in his play. 

S. An-sky was born in 1863 in the Vitebsk Governate, Russian Empire and died in 1920, just two months before The Dybbuk was first on stage.

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