The last days of October. Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz alone onstage with a small coffin. It is a rough pine box with two wooden pegs, one at the foot and one at the head, holding the lid in place. A prayer shawl embroidered with a Star of David is draped over the lid, and by the head a yarzheit candle is burning.
RABBI ISIDOR CHEMELWITZ (He speaks sonorously, with a heavy Eastern European accent, unapologetically consulting a sheet of notes for the family names): Hello and good morning. I am Rabbi Isidor Chemelwitz of the Bronx Home for Aged Hebrews. We are here this morning to pay respects at the passing of Sarah Ironson, devoted wife of Benjamin Ironson, also deceased, loving and caring mother of her sons Morris, Abraham, and Samuel, and her daughters Esther and Rachel; beloved grandmother of Max, Mark, Louis, Lisa, Maria… uh… Lesley, Angela, Doris, Luke and Eric. (Looks more closely at paper) Eric? This is a Jewish name? (Shrugs) Eric. A large and loving family. We assemble that we may mourn collectively this good and righteous woman.
(He looks at the coffin)
This woman. I did not know this woman. I cannot accurately describe her attributes, nor do justice to her dimensions. She was… Well, in the Bronx Home of Aged Hebrews are many like this, the old, and to many I speak but not to be frank with this one. She preferred silence. So I do not know her and yet I know her. She was…
(He touches the coffin)
…not a person but a whole kind of person, the ones who crossed the ocean, who brought with us to America the villages of Russia and Lithuania – and how we struggled, and how we fought, for the family, for the Jewish home, so that you would not grow up here, in this strange place, in the melting pot where nothing melted. Descendants of this immigrant woman, you do not grow up in America, you and your children and their children with the goyische names. You do not live in America. No such place exists. Your clay is the clay of some Litvak shtetl, your air the air of the steppes – because she carried the old world on her back across the ocean, in a boat, and she put it down on Grand Concourse Avenue, or in Flatbush, and she worked that earth into your bones, and you pass it to your children, this ancient, ancient culture and home.
You can never make that crossing that she made, for such Great Voyages in this world do not anymore exist. But every day of your lives the miles that voyage between that place and this one you cross. Every day. You understand me? In you that journey is.
She was the last of the Mohicans, this one was. Pretty soon… all the old will be dead.
Tony Kushner, Angels in America. A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, Theatre Communications Group, New York 2012. 293 pagine.
* Tony Kushner su Wikipedia (in inglese).
* Il libro su Wikipedia (il titolo italiano è Angels in America. Fantasia gay su temi nazionali).
* Il libro e gli adattamenti su Wikipedia (in inglese).
* Il film.