• Jim Coppoc

Kaddish for Murray Wolfe

A little over twelve years ago, I had the honor of sharing a stage for a couple weeks with Czech Holocaust survivor, poet, playwright and translator Murray Wolfe. The piece I was working on was the one-act version of my project, Manhattan Beatitude, about coming of age in NYC in the 90s and finding beauty everywhere. The piece Murray brought was Kaddish, about escaping the Nazis as a child, coming to New York, and finding his way in a new world. One theme they shared was how blessed and grateful we both were to have lived the lives we'd lived. Another theme was death.

I believe it was Murray who first pointed out that the thing both the Beatitudes and the Mourner's Kaddish have in common is the idea of blessing--of being blessed with this life no matter how strange or difficult or painful, because there is beauty everywhere.

Of course, my work here was a lot easier than Murray's. I was able to find blessing despite a little bit of the normal poverty and grief of la vie boheme. Murray lost everything and nearly everyone he knew, and had to start life over in a strange land at an age most children are just coming into grade school. I learned more about theology by witnessing this powerful and joyful man than I ever will from scripture. If you read the final version of my play, the Mourner's Kaddish is in it. It's the dramatic peak. Beauty in devastation. Gratitude in grief. Joy in death. I don't think I would have been brave enough to make that move without knowing Murray.

So here's a Kaddish for my friend, on this Holocaust Remembrance Day. v'ʼimru amen.