Saturday, September 21, 2019 7 pm — This year Congregation Emanu-El will introduce our Sliḥot prayers for the High Holy Days in an unusual way, a reading of the award-winning contemporary play, The Gates Are Closing. Beginning Saturday, September 21 at 7 pm preceding the traditional Sliḥot service, 10 members of the Jewish community will take the parts of a varied yet inspired minyan of Jews in the synagogue on Yom Kippur as they grapple with issues of identity, meaning, repentance and forgiveness.
This award-winning play had its first staged reading at the Jewish Repertory Theatre in New York in May 1986. Since then it has been presented in hundreds of synagogues and college campuses from Brooklyn to Beijing, including a signed performance by Temple Beth Solomon of the Deaf in Arleta, California.
Over the years many rabbis and congregations have treasured the play including Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, who described it as “a drama of great religious insight and nuance, instigating probably the most thoughtfully lively High Holy Day preparation our congregation ever had.”
The playwright, Merle Feld, is a widely published poet whose work frequently appears in anthologies and prayer books including the new Conservative High Holy Day Maḥzor Lev Shalem, the Siddur Lev Shalem, and the Reform Movement Women’s Torah Commentary. She is also the author of a popular memoir in poetry and prose, A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition (SUNY Press, revised 2007) and a recent book of her poems, Finding Words (URJ Press, 2011).
Feld is moved and delighted that The Gates are Closing, written early in her career, has retained its urgency and spiritual power for such a vast audience nationally and internationally. “It feels miraculous to me that every fall these characters come to life again—in Philadelphia and San Diego, Youngstown and Nashville, Virginia, Arizona, San Antonio, Australia, and London—and that these characters continue to provide a gateway for Jews across the denominations who are searching for meaning.”