It’s a pretty familiar theme — the Jew as a perpetual wanderer, forever a foreigner, friendless and reviled by all. Is there anyone else so existentially homeless, utterly without place on the planet as the Jew? Who, besides the Jew, is so intolerable to his host that he becomes the target of violent threats, which necessarily culminate in expulsion and annihilation?
While it’s difficult to draw parallels, perhaps there is a fitting metaphor for the quintessential placelessness of the Jew. It exists in the world of Jewish folklore, and has inspired numerous artists, most famously S. An-ski, author of “The Dybbuk.” Indeed, it is the dybbuk itself, that possessing, parasitic spirit, believed to be the dislocated soul of one who died too young, loathed by the living person whose body it invades. The dybbuk has no true home on Earth, which is why it must invade the body of another, and its presence evokes only wrath and disgust. To relieve the person taken hostage by this wandering spirit, the dybbuk is threatened and ultimately exorcised.
This somewhat intriguing metaphor surfaces throughout Julia Pascal’s rendition of An-ski’s play, also titled “The Dybbuk,” which is now playing for the first time in the U.S. as part of the Dream Up Festival at the Theater for the New City. Alas, little else about this play excites the imagination, or provokes serious thought.