NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM is available for individual purchase through Amazon Kindle by clicking the title page. Performance rights can be obtained by emailing bcpkid AT gmail.com.
Next Year in Jerusalem begins in a New York hotel room as 81-year-old Moshe Zydowski struggles to prepare for a speech he is to give, at his son Benjamin’s behest, about his memories of the Holocaust. As he falls asleep, resigned to avoid delving into his past, he is visited by his childhood Yeshiva friend Ye’ev, who brings him back to a Warsaw Ghetto bread line. There Ye’ev and the young Moshe argue over Moshe’s involvement in a planned resistance, which Moshe ultimately refuses to participate in out of concern for the wife and daughter he would leave behind.
Moshe’s wife Rachel appears to the older Moshe to support his decision. She takes him back to the day of his daughter’s birth, where a nervous young Moshe and a sharp-tongued midwife argue over Rachel’s care. As the young Moshe cradles his newborn daughter, the older Moshe is brought back further to his own childhood, where he relives his Rabbi father’s Seder celebration. The older Moshe’s bitterness and confusion invade this memory as father and son debate issues of faith and belief in G-d’s deliverance of his chosen people.
Out of this, Moshe is transported back to Warsaw, where the ghetto is being cleared. With Rachel and his feverish daughter in tow, young Moshe tries to navigate through the capos and dangerous SS. The first act ends with the murder of Moshe’s daughter at the hands of an SS soldier, who in a flashback then commits suicide.
The second act begins in a transport car, where young Moshe wakes up with his head bandaged by a musician with a pink triangle stitched to his coat (signifying the crime of homosexuality). Young Moshe relives the death of his daughter, and realizes that he has been separated from his wife. He then helps the musician who saved his life by convincing him to switch coats with a dead man on the train. Older Moshe is then visited by his second wife Leah, who recounts how the two met in a relocation camp and scoured Europe in a fruitless search for Rachel.
Leah shows him a scene he never witnessed, as in 1970s Brooklyn a now older Rachel knocks on Leah’s door. In an unlikely coincidence, Rachel encountered the musician from the transport, who recounted to her that Moshe did not die the day they were separated, and has now come to see him once again. Leah expresses her fear of losing Moshe, with whom she now had a son. Rachel consoles her and explains that she has no wish to usurp her—she ends up seeing Moshe briefly, not revealing who she truly is.
In the play’s final scene, a young teenage girl is painting a picture as older Moshe approaches her, unsure if she is real or a dream. As they talk, Moshe realizes that the painting is of his boyhood home in Lublin, and the girl he is speaking to is the daughter he lost in the Warsaw Ghetto, now as she would have been had she lived. She leads him to the Seder table, where all the members of past wait for him to join them.
Moshe, M, 60+, 81-year-old Holocaust survivor who resists remembering the horrors of his past while struggling with his bitterness and lack of faith
Moshe (Young), M, 20s-30s: the young artist the older Moshe once was, who tires to keep his family together in the face of uncontrollable forces
Rachel, F, 20s-30s, plays 50s as well: steadfast wife of Moshe who reappears after given up for lost
Leah, F, 50s: Moshe’s second wife, who clings to their newfound life together when Rebecca reappears
Ye’ev, M, 20s-30s: Yeshiva friend of Moshe’s who tries to convince him to join the Warsaw Ghetto resistance movement
Frederick, M, 20s-30s, homosexual musician who saves Moshe’s life and is in turn helped by Moshe
Mother/Midwife, 50s: sharp-tongued midwife who shames young Moshe while preparing to deliver his daughter
Father, M, 40+: Moshe’s Rabbi father who tries to convince Moshe to regain his faith
Rebecca, F, teenage: Moshe’s daughter as she would have been had she lived
Other roles include: Benjamin, 30s-40s, Moshe’s rabbi son, Capo 1 and 2 (any age), SS 1 and 2 (20s-30s), Ghetto/transport inhabitants, Moshe’s childhood family (many of these roles can be doubled
Itzhak Perlman plays Rieding Violin Concerto in B minor, op.35 (From "Concertos From My Childhood"), used in the Cunneen-Hackett production.
"An eloquent and moving tribute to the millions who died and the victims who survived." James F. Cotter, The Times Herald Record
"I am not Jewish. I am not even religious. Yet I found this work to be moving and memorable." Jason Kirkfield, Independent Reviewer