The Whipping Man

February 17, 2014

By Jody Hirsh, Judaic Education Director

It’s been so exciting being involved with this extraordinary show at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. The Whipping Man, a play about a young Jewish Confederate officer returning to his home in Richmond immediately after the surrender of the South at Appomattox.  He confronts two of his families (former) slaves as they struggle to forge a new relationship. Appomattox happened during Pesach (April, 1865) and the play includes a Seder scene. There are so many ironies and questions. The black slaves are, in fact Jewish. How is that possible? How could the Jewish slave owners have observed Passover for generations – a meal cooked and served by slaves? How could the moral outrage of slavery actually have existed in “The Land of the Free?” What can we learn from this exploration of the events of history almost 150 years ago that is relevant to our own age?

During the Civil War, there were 150,000 – 200,000 Jews in America... about 20,000 of them in the South. Of the Jewish Southerners, only about one quarter of them actually owned slaves, and of those most of them were city dwellers with a handful of household servants. Never-the-less, Jews did own slaves. This production is thought provoking for all of us.

The last performance is Sunday, March 16th - Special $20 tickets to this play are available through the Rep box office (414) 224-9490 or online with the special code: JOIN.

Want to learn more about how I have been involved, click here to listen to my interview with the director of The Whipping Man on the Lake Effect!