O’casey Listens to Rabbi’s Talk on Latest Play
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O’casey Listens to Rabbi’s Talk on Latest Play

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70 West Fifty-fifth street, where he makes his New York home, he brought him to the Temple, sat with him on the platform, escorted hi into the hotel and spent two hours at tea in his apartment discussing a wide variety of subjects. O’Casey talked of his plays, art in general, of the Jews and the Irish, of Palestine, of the situation of the Jews in Germany, of the future of the Jews, their omission in life and a multitude of other subjects.


On the subject of the Jews, he admitted a lack of great knowledge. His views were always predicated on that assumption. But he was intensely interested in the Jewish people, in their ways, in their traditions. He asked many questions, the questions of an astute observer. The synagogue, particularly, interested him and he admitted having long had a desire to enter one. His shyness, the thought that in his ignorance of customs he might offend, kept him away.

“Just what,” he asked immediately after our meeting, “am I to do in the synagogue? Do I wear a hat? How do I pray?” These were just a few of the questions. But despite his failings in this respect, O’Casey comported himself perfectly. His audience warmed up to his few words and the Temple was a half-hour in emptying, so many were the congregants who availed themselves of the opportunity of greeting the playwright when he stepped down from the platform. A considerable scattering of Irish, and other non-Jews, were present to hear one of his few public addresses.


Both in his address and later O’Casey stressed both the friendship of the Irish and the Jews and the good that will come for the Jews with the development of Palestine as a Jewish country. He sees Palestine in the future as a country with a population of several million Jews.

The writer expressed a desire that Palestine should expand to its Biblical size. Also, he voiced the opinion that Jewish Palestine might expand to the west, to Asia Minor. Turkey, he thinks, is a country that cannot long endure.

O’Casey talked not of tomorrow, nor of fifty years from now. He talked of an indeterminate future after explaining that a hundred years, or five hundred years, means little in the history of the world. Although he stated that Palestine can never hope to harbor all Jews, it is even today a great thing for Jews in that it gives the Jews a home, something to stem from.


“Ireland, likewise,” he pointed out, “can never hope to harbor all the Irish. But the Irish, without Ireland, would be in a sorry state. “The Soviet,” he said, “should afford a haven for many Jews, a country without persecution, with equality for all.”

His philosophy, as expressed in “Within the Gates” is a cry for faith. Rather than an attack on religion he is a Communist. It is a criticism of it, an invitation to organized religion to release the ties that bind it to conventionality. His philosophy is a plea for surging power, vibrant life. In the words of some of the lines from the play he said:


Way for the strong and the fearless:

Life that is stirred from the fear of its life; let it die;

Let it sink down, let it die, and pass from our vision forever.

Sorrow and pain we shall have, and struggle unending:

We shall weave courage with pain, and fight through the struggle unending.

Way for the strong and the swift and the fearless:

Lift that is weak with the terror of life let it die;

Let it sink down, let it die, and pass from our vision forever!


For the plight of the Jews in Germany, O’Casey had nothing but sympathy. Stating that he heard Hitler is a degenerate, he said Germany is ruled by “mad men.” The Germans, however, he said, do not hate the Jews. He blames the present government on the neighbors of Germany that pushed her against the wall, made her pay impossible reparations.

In his forty years of residence in Dublin, O’Casey said he never saw so much as even a street brawl between the Jews and the Irish over a racial question. During the war, he amended, one or two Jews were molested in an anti-German frenzy, but that was because they were thought to be German sympathizers, not because they were Jews.


“The Jews today,” he said, “even in time of persecution, are as vital as ever in their long history—maybe more vital.”

In his talk at Rodeph Sholom, the playwright said he didn’t feel as strange as he thought he would in a synagogue because “no Irishman could be really uncomfortable among Jews.” He recalled the Irish legend that they might be descended from the Israelites, one of the lost tribes, having settled in Ireland after the flood.

He further pointed out that the Jews and Irish have many characteristics in common. Both peoples, he said, are sentimental. They have an abundance of folk lore, love music, are both racially proud and extremely sensitive.


“Both the Jews and the Irish,” he laughingly said, “would have been destroyed many years ago had it been their fate to be destroyed. Today, it is the mission of both peoples to bring peace to the hearts of men. We will bring peace by contributions to art, literature, music and by a display of fortitude and courage. These are great qualities of the Jews and the Irish. By these things we make our contribution to the world.”

O’Casey’s new play, “Within the Gates,” is written in an experimental form. It is utterly different from his older and completely realistic writings, such as “Juno and the Peacock,” “The Plough and the Stars,” and “The Silver Tassle.”

O’Casey, who has been in this country for the past month, will return to London, where he now resires on Friday.

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