The Witches of Lublin

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April 8, 2012

witches

Illustration by Ilene Winn-Lederer


Poor but educated Rivke, along with her two unmarried daughters and a granddaughter, lives in 18th century Lublin, Poland. The women face a quandry when their reputation as the best klezmer musicians in Poland spreads beyond their ghetto's boundaries. The ruling count commands Rivke and her family to perform at his son's celebration, forcing Rivke to make an impossible choice: Do as he commands and risk scandal, or refuse and risk the Count's revenge on the entire Jewish community - a pogrom.

While researching klezmer music history in Eastern Europe, co-writer Yale Strom learned that women also performed, and that when they played for gentile nobility, their reward was sometimes beatings, kidnappings or even death. This history formed the springboard for The Witches of Lublin, a radio drama by Strom, Elizabeth Schwartz and Ellen Kushner based on Jewish women's lives in 18th Century Europe, klezmer music and feminist history, with a healthy dose of magical realism thrown in.


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