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Director, author of the concept, adaptation, set and costume design:
Yonatan Esterkin

Translated by:
Katja Šmid

Performed by:
Miha Rodman

Voices in the recordings:
Miha Rodman, Yonatan Esterkin

Anja Krušnik Cirnski

Video and sound:
Vid Hanjšek

Language consultant:
Mateja Dermelj

Mini teater, Prešeren Theatre Kranj and Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana

With special thanks to Asher Kravitz.

Premiere at Mini teater:
27th January 2017 (Slovene)
8th February 2017 (English)

Premiere at Prešernovo gledališče Kranj:
10th February 2017

27. jan
Križevniška 1
27. jan
12. may

About the performance

The Jewish Dog (Yediot Books, 2007) is an autobiography of Cyrus, a dog born in mid-1930s into the household of the German-Jewish family Gottlieb. Cyrus is a special dog, unusually sensitive to humans’ emotions and determined to fully comprehend human speech. The novel follows his life and contemplations while he’s making his way through Europe during World War II. Cyrus witnesses the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, and all the love he knows comes from the Gottlieb family.

A Nazi decree forces the family out of their home, and unfortunate events separate them from Cyrus. His path leads form a loving Jewish family to a stray dog, a wild pack, and even to an SS Nazi guard dog at the Treblinka extermination camp. He undergoes several name changes, he is left to himself in increasingly dangerous situations, the only thing keeping him alive is his strong survival instinct, and all he yearns is to be reunited with the Gottlieb family.

With skillful fluidity of language, Kravitz employs ingeniously harrowing metaphors and imagery to describe historic events of World War II as seen by an unusually sensitive and insightful Jewish dog. The result is a powerful and heart-wrenching narrative, and Cyrus is poignant and unforgettable character.

About the author and director

Asher Kravitz (born in 1969 in Israel) is a writer and professor of physics and mathematics at the Azrieli College of Engineering in Jerusalem and the Open University of Israel in Tel Aviv. He grew up in a traditional Jewish environment and later graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and physics. During his military service he was an instructor of krav maga, a martial art developed by the Israeli Army. Later, he joined the Israeli police where he worked as a detective in the investigative unit for serious crimes. Since 2000 he has been teaching mathematics, physics and literature in several schools and universities. His first two novels, Magic Square (2002) and Boomerang (2003) are mystery crime stories. The third one, I’m Mustafa Rabinowitz (2005) is the story of a soldier in an anti-terrorist unit of the Israeli army who faces moral dilemmas. The Jewish Dog (2007), his fourth and latest novel, won him a Diamond Citation (2002), an award from the Book Publishers Association of Israel. Kravitz is also a photographer and a pilot.

Yonatan Esterkin (born in 1981 in Israel) currently works as a coordinator of international relations as well as a director and dramaturg at the Haifa Theatre in Israel. There, he has also set up a programme to encourage children’s creativity in theatre. Between 2004 and 2015 he was a director, translator and professor at the Beit-Zvi School of the Performing Arts and the Haderech School for theatre and film acting. He is also a journalist for Maariv daily, the financial newspaper Global as well asLiberal Magazine, Theatre Magazine and others. Since 2003 he has been a member of the awards jury of the Habima Theatre, the national theatre of Israel. He graduated in directing and theatre theory from the University of Tel Aviv, and studied political science and philosophy at the Open University there. In 2014 he represented Israel at the Theatertreffen festival in Berlin. At the Week of Slovenian Drama in Kranj, three performances have been shown that he directed in his homeland based on Slovenian texts: by Simona Semenič and Matjaž Zupančič’s The Corridor and Vladimir. He translated all three from the English and staged them at the Beit-Zvi School. This is his second time directing The Jewish Dog: he first staged it at the Alley Theatre in Tel Aviv in 2010.

About The Jewish Dog

“I remembered back to my time when I was a puppy, when I used to ask myself whether canines and humans were the same. Now I was sure that the two creatures are different. Yet I still wondered – to which of the two I was closer.”

“We disembarked after three days of travel.  A huge cloud enveloped the forest and made it difficult to detect the barbed wire fence stretched behind the cypress trees. The place had the stench of termination, the odor of a place from which there is no return. Every word, every thud, every echo sounded different in Treblinka. The chirp of birds sounded off-key. The air was suffused with a scent of ashes, the likes of which I had never encountered before.”

This is a touching, inspiring, warm and very special story about the darkest period of European history between 1935 and 1945, particularly because it is narrated by a dog who understand the people’s language, but not their world. And yet – who does ...

The story tells us about the experiences of Cyrus, a dog, born into a bourgeois Jewish family in Berlin in 1935. It takes place in the years of the Nazi’s rise, the period of the Nuremberg laws that discriminated against the Jewish citizens and disenfranchised them, in the time of the war, the Holocaust, combats, liberation and the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. All these stories are told by Cyrus, the spectators see them through his eyes, from a dog’s perspective. Asher Kravitz thus presents these important events in a new and innovative way, which allows him to focus, in every situation, on a personal and humane stance and not tackle the “big” themes and ideas. Although the novel The Jewish Dog is a fictional tale, filled with comic and dramatic moments, it is based on facts, testimonies, documentary and statistical data. The text and the performance, with Miha Rodman in the role of Cyrus, draw attention to historic facts and ask questions, particularly important for young spectators and the (Slovenian) audience in general. Yonatan Esterkin

“A dog is not almost human, and I know of no greater insult to the canine race than to describe it as such.”

John Holmes

Quite certainly, no other animal is as important to human life as a dog. Even in prehistoric times humans domesticated wolves, so dogs (and their ancestors) have been our companions through the ages. Dogs carry out a lot of tasks and are more entrenched into our lives than we notice. Let’s list just a few of their “jobs”: sled dogs, guide dogs, dogs that help people with disabilities, therapeutic dogs, rescue dogs, sniffer dogs who discover explosives and illegal drugs, shepherd dogs, hunting dogs, guard dogs, combat dogs. But above all, they’re pet dogs, or as we people like to call them: a dog is a man’s best and most faithful friend. But despite all that we like to hurl insults at each other: “Dog!”, “Bitch!”, “Look at that mongrel!” and so on. No other insult comparing a human with an animal is as destructive as “Bitch!”. Even if we compare someone to a cow or a sheep, it sounds a little bit literary, or often almost endearing.

Asher Kravitz has sketched a particularly dark chapter of history, World War II, from a canine perspective, through which we can follow the structure of war: the stability, at first marred only by bureaucratic complications, then restriction, later disbelief, then panic, the horror of the winds of war, a barely perceptible premonition of the end and – if you’re among the lucky ones – the road home. Cyrus lives through almost all that one could live through during World War II, as well as right before and right after: he’s a sweet pet of a Jewish family, a companion of a German couple, an SS dog in a camp, a wild Jewish dingo, a fearless combat dog with Russian partisans and in the end – like his first and last owner – an aged, persecuted Jew. And throughout, he himself faces moral dilemmas without really understanding the concept of Nazism or anti-Semitism. He only understands whom he loves and who loves him ...

The Jewish Dogis a touching story. It’s a story trying to tell us something essential: hatred towards the different, other, foreign is destructive, while love will, as Dostoyevsky says, save the world. Anja Krušnik Cirnski

On anti-Semitism and the attitude towards Jews

Unlike the situation in the past, when the Jews represented small, powerless and often repressed minorities in every country in which they lived, today they vehemently renounce that intimidation. Regardless of where they live, they insist on the right to live in Israel.
The vast majority of the Jews were directly caught in the hell of the Holocaust. Even seventy years after the end of World War II, the memory of it casts a dark shadow over their lives, as do several centuries of anti-Semitism that is now often accompanied by anti-Zionism. But the Jews don’t beg for mercy. They simply wish that the promise “never again” would become a reality, and in realizing this goal, Israel plays the central role. It is the only place on earth where Jews can always feel at home.
The renaissance of Jewish pride, spurred by the re-establishment of Israel, does not sit well with the rest of the world which has been anti-Semitic ever since the Jews have existed. Anti-Semitism is a wide-spread phenomenon that has poisoned all nations. Like all forms of racism and intolerance, anti-Semitism also grows best in the dark and hidden corners of fake and genuine ignorance.
If together we all took time to try to understand the historic facts and see Jews as diverse, complex and often exceptional individuals, we’d perhaps feel the power to stop hating them.
I’d say that the Jewish migrations in the biblical-ancient times were caused by politics and war, and the moment the Jews became a diaspora, a minority, the foreigners, they started to be treated in a way that depended on a cluster of different circumstances. This story is particularly widespread in the Jewish migration throughout the Roman Empire and later throughout the rest of the world.
[Even in Slovenian] I capitalize the word Jew [although our grammar does not require it], because my thoughts refer to the Jews as a nation, although Judaism as a religion plays an immense role in it. The fact that Judaism emerged as the first monotheism and was completely different from anything seen until then also contributed to a number of problems simply because the Jews refused to yield to a number of behaviours prevalent among the majority.
The case for that can be found in the Book of Esther, when Mordechai refuses to bow or kneel for anyone, even the ruler.
If we also consider numerous differences in praying, dietary, family and other customs, it is inevitable that because of all these differences, problems will arise in certain environments. Such problems even increased with the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion, which, because of the story of Judas’s betrayal and Jesus’s crucifixion, broughtnew accusations, problems and prosecutions, from the early era of Christianity through the Middle Ages to today.
When considering the reasons that led to centuries of enduring pogroms, expulsions and different forms of expressing hatred towards the Jews, the most frequent are the stereotypical analyses of the Jews and not just the historic circumstances and societies in which anti-Semitism can be observed. Thus Jews are often described as different, rich, dangerous, precisely because of this difference, as rulers, owners of the half of the world, their strong lobbies are mentioned, their monopolies, a different religion, they’re alleged to be conspirators, murderers, the guilty party for everything, simply because they’re like that (like what?). They’re demonized, ascribed mythical traits, their numbers supposedly multiply by millions, they’re said to be dominant in everything and so on.
A lot less attention and time are dedicated to analyses of the circumstances, realities, social, political, economic and other factors in particular times or moments, analyses that could explain a lot.
The absence of rationality in all this is obvious to anyone who’s willing to use reason, but unfortunately, such people are quite rare, because, like in so many other similar circumstances, the human race is fond of coming across as a pack, a rabid mob, as a mass that’s rolling downhill and, following the law of inertia, is picking up speed.
The key here is that for centuries – except in the case of Israel (which has only been true for the last seventy years) – the Jews were a minority everywhere, they were the foreigners and the different. In various crises, it is in human nature to most easily search for culprits among the mentioned groups – if you’re different, and a foreigner on top of it, you become an ideal scapegoat!
A cluster of historic circumstances caused the Jews to become educated to levels above average and to become richer, so much that they prevail in many fields.
Beside the obligation that they have to educate themselves (already mentioned in the Torah), it was the persecutions that heightened the need for education and knowledge. In a number of countries where Jews live, resourcefulness and the ability to communicate in several languages are necessary. The only thing that you can always retain, even when they persecute you, is knowledge, what you keep in your head. If you can, you will of course take the Torah with you, you’ll always have some gold on you, and you’ll also build a strong bond with your family and your nation all over the world.
Jews were often not allowed to own property or land – logical, as they were neither growers nor stock farmers, but an urban population – a role designated to them by others. For this reason they have thus mostly lived in cities, are highly educated, perform deficitary professions so that they can survive, connect with their kin, are more resourceful and better than those who don’t have to develop such specific survival skills. The Jews have become what they are today as a consequence of persecution and hatred.
Now the Jews have become just the way they were made by the others: they've become obtrusive because they’re more capable than others, and they’re demonized for it. The paradox is that for the Jews, the very same things that destroy them, have also helped them to survive. In addition to persecution, the most dangerous thing for them is assimilation. The latter happens when the persecution is at an all-time low and when their lives are the best and the most peaceful, in other words, in all the societies that provide equality and guarantee complete freedom.
Would Jews still exist if anti-Semitism and persecutions ended, or would they – as so many other nations – disappear, drowned in their surroundings and blended with it? In connection to all the mentioned above, the question of Jewish tenacity and existence is very complex and hard to answer. - Robert Waltl