Judith Malina, co-founder with Julian Beck of the Living Theater in 1947, premiered what she described as “my Jewish anarchist play,” Korach, on this date in 2010. “In retelling the familiar story of Korach as it unfolds through a handful of verses in the Book of Numbers,” wrote the Jewish Week, “Malina plumbed Jewish sacred commentaries, chiefly the Mishna and its midrashic citations. Though biblical accounts of the wandering from Egypt seethe with tales of Israelite insubordination, dutifully checked off in the play, it was Korach who led his followers to outright insurrection, challenging Moses’ claim of divinely ordained rule over the people with the ringing cry: ‘We are all holy!’” Malina, the daughter of a German rabbi who taught her about the power of political theater as a tool of protest, noted through her play that while most Jewish traditions condemn Korach (who is swallowed up by the earth, with his followers, in the biblical story), the Talmud contains a story in which the rebels become band of angels who play music to soothe God of his anger. Malina passed in 2015.
“I’ve been in jail in twelve countries.” —Judith Malina