Oud Player on the Tel - June 2014

Performance photo
Performance photo
Performance photo
Performance photo
Performance photo
Performance photo
Performance photo
14th Street Y Theater
New York, NY
June 14, 2014

"Oud Player on the Tel" explores Israel's' founding, the possibilities of a shared future that flowered briefly and then was buried in that moment of history.  Vaguely referential to "Fiddler on the Roof," the play's action takes place at the intersection between the overwhelming tide of history and what might have been.  

In British Mandate Palestine in 1947, in the foothills of Jerusalem, Amir greets his expelled northern cousins with a (literal) olive branch. Melke, a Holocaust survivor, makes fast friends with his Sufi host.  But the families on both sides grow restless, feeling the onrushing tide of history.  There are new used cars to sell, an eretz to work and decisions that must be made quickly. What good is an oud player on the tel?

As playwright Tom Block, a long-time activist in the Jewish-Muslim peace world, noted, this play stems from the politics of humility and acknowledgement, as opposed to one of domination and victory.  It is the hope of both playwright and producer that this kind of artistic exploration might open up the conversation around this issue, allowing audience members to speak honestly, if painfully, about the difficulties both in history and in the contemporary situation between Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims and Jews.

This developmental reading was followed by a talk-back with peace activists involved in the difficult job of trying to bring these two peoples together.


Tom Block’s theater piece follows on his groundbreaking, journalistic study of the Sufi (Islamic mystical) influence on medieval Jewish thinkers, Shalom/Salaam: A Story of a Mystical Fraternity (Fons Vitae, Louisville, KY; 2010).  A long-standing Middle East peace advocate, Mr. Block was one of two invited Jewish speakers at al-Azhar’s (Cairo) first ever interfaith conference (2009), and has also spoken about his ideas of interfaith coexistence at the Chief Rabbi’s Office (Istanbul), Rumi Forum (DC), Columbia University (NY), Middlebury College (VT), and many other conferences, interfaith gatherings, synagogues and mosques around the United States and Europe.

The Jewish Plays Project puts bold, progressive Jewish conversations on world stages.  A revolution is underway in Jewish culture. Artists are creating amazing new pathways to Jewish identity.  The Jewish Plays Project believes that it is time for theater to join the movement.  The JPP believes that theater holds the promise of faith, identity, belief, emotion and inclusion.   



Sarah Sayeed, Ph.D has been involved in interfaith activities in New York City for more than a decade.  As Director of Community Partnerships, at the Interfaith Center of New York Sarah currently runs the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreats for Social Justice.  She is also a board member of  Women in Islam, Inc., a social justice and human rights volunteer organization dedicated to the empowerment of women through knowledge and practice of Islam.  Sarah earned a degree in Sociology and Near East Studies from Princeton University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.  She also holds a certificate in Reconciliation Leadership through the Institute for Global Leadership.  Sarah's work at the Interfaith Center of New York and with Muslim communities is featured in an online exhibit of the Tribute World Trade Center Visitor Center, titled “Renewing Our American Dream after 9/11.”

Joseph Montville is director of the Program on Healing Historical Memory, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University.  He is also director of the Abrahamic Family Reunion, the Esalen Institute project to promote Muslim-Christian-Jewish reconciliation.  And he is also Senior Adviser on Interfaith Relations at Washington National Cathedral, and a Distinguished Diplomat in Residence at American University. Montville founded the preventive diplomacy program at Washington, DC’s  Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1994 and directed it until 2003. In 2008, the International Society of Political Psychology gave Montville its Nevitt Sanford Award for “distinguished professional contribution to political psychology,” at its 31st annual scientific meeting in Paris.

Jacob Bender is the first American Jew ever to lead an American Muslim organization, as director of the Philadelphia office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).  Jacob has spent more than thirty years as a documentary filmmaker and interfaith consultant, among other things. During the many years he lived in Israel, he worked as an audiovisual producer at Yad Vashem, as well as for the Israel Ministry of Education, and met and worked with most of the important figures on the Israeli left.  After the attack of September 11th, Jacob embarked on making the film Out of Cordoba. Released in 2010, this award-winning film tells the story of Muslim Spain and the coexistence there of Muslims, Christians, and Jews.  Bender also helped initiate interfaith dialogue with the American Muslim community, and has spoken at interfaith conferences around the Middle East.  He has been profiled on al-Jazeera as an important voice in positive Jewish-Muslim relations.

Oud Player

Rabbi Zach Fredman  serves as rabbi and music director at the New Shul, a downtown (NY) community which envisions how ancient and modern wisdoms can create a place for thriving Jewish investigation and congregation.  In 2011, Zach founded The Epichorus – a band seeking to return Jewish prayer music, to the sounds of the Arabic east and North Africa.  With traditional Arabic instruments, a Sudanese master songstress, and a heavy dose of global percussion they are creating a new sound in world music carrying listeners at once to a Tunisian marketplace in festival season or a yoga class in the village.  Zach has taken pointed interest in the wisdoms of world religions.  He is comfortable teaching Buddhism and Sufism alongside Midrash and Jewish text.  Zach was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2013.



AMIR (Rajesh BOSE)







OUD PLAYER (Rabbi Zach Fredman)


DIRECTOR: David Winitsky

DRAMATURGE: Jeremy Stoller


MUSICAL SCORE: Rabbi Zach Fredman


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