Play about addiction is set at Passover | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Play about addiction is set at Passover

“Freedom Song” is a musical performance unlike just about all others. For one thing, it combines the story of a family and their struggle with addiction with the telling of the Exodus story. For another, all people involved are in some stage of addiction recovery.  

Frequently performed nationwide, the show will come to Milwaukee for a performance on April 4 at Congregation Shalom.  The performance is open to the public, but those attending are asked to RSVP. A Mental Health Forum will follow on April 7, which asks, “What’s Jewish about Mental Health?” 

Brian Avner, director of congregational learning at Congregation Shalom, wanted to bring the show to Wisconsin after seeing the show twice while he was living in Los Angeles. 

“Seeing recovering addicts share this story, as well as hearing their personal experiences afterwards, was so moving,” Avner said.  “As we’ve had a focus this year at Congregation Shalom on taking care of our mental health, I wanted to give our Milwaukee community the opportunity to see this story and be moved and inspired by it the same way I was in Los Angeles.” 

The performance brings mental health and Passover together.  

“On one side of the stage is a Passover seder, what one would think is a typical Jewish family,” said Michael Kamenir, the show’s director. “And on the other stage is an AA meeting. And the two never meet for the most part. However, what we find is that both sides are really going through the same thing. In other words, one is celebrating Jews coming out of bondage in Egypt, and the other is more the idea of addicts coming out of their own slaveries when it comes to their addiction.”  

He added that it’s about “telling our stories over again” through both Passover seders and AA. “Ritual is very important in Judaism, and it’s very important in recovery as well,” he said.  

A Q&A always follows performances of the show, and according to Kamenir, the discussions can become raw and personal. And while the show is performed year-round, the Milwaukee performance is seasonally appropriate, arriving not long before Passover in April.  

In addition, Kamenir seeks to spread awareness about addiction within the Jewish community specifically and encourage synagogues to host 12-step meetings the way churches often do.  

“Freedom Song” is a project of Beit T’Shuvah, a Los Angeles-based facility described by Kamenir as “a long-term treatment center for drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other destructive behaviors.” It is a Jewish faith-based program, which Kamenir described as “the only long-term Jewish faith-based treatment center in the country.”  

The “Freedom Song” show was first written in 2006, with Stuart K. Robinson as the writer. Laura Bagish is the musical director, and Jessica Fishel, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, is the show’s tour coordinator 

Beit T’Shuvah, in addition to a rehab facility, is also a Jewish community featuring Friday night services and other functions of a synagogue. “Freedom Song,” in its nearly 20 years, has featured about 600 people in its casts. 

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“Freedom song” 
Thursday, April 4, 7 p.m.  
Congregation Shalom 
Free, but please RSVP at 

After the show: 
Mental Health Forum 
“What’s Jewish about Mental Health?” 
Sunday, April 7, 10 a.m. 
Congregation Shalom 
Open to the community