In “Hannah Senesh,” a play running through August 18th at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the title character is a Jewish teenager in Europe in the 1930s who starts keeping a diary at age 13. In it, she complains about the ugly pink party dress her mother bought for her, dreams of her “ideal boy” and observes the growing anti-Semitism around her. “Despite everything I do believe that the world was created for good,” Senesh writes.
But half way through “Hannah Senesh,” it becomes clear that her story swerves in a very different direction from Anne Frank, as I point out in my article for TDF Stages “Why Hannah Senesh’s Story Is So Important Right Now”
In 1939 at the age of 18, Senesh was able to get out of Europe and immigrate to Palestine, where she studied at an agricultural college and worked on a kibbutz. Yet four years later, determined to do something about the horrors of the Holocaust, she returned as a paratrooper on a military mission to Yugoslavia to rescue British soldiers caught behind enemy lines. Her intention was to then cross into Hungary to help Jews in her homeland escape. She was killed a year before Anne Frank.
‘She was an ordinary person who became extraordinary when the times demanded it,” says David Schechter, the show’s writer, who is directing its revival. Although not as well-known in the United States, “she is sometimes called the Israeli Joan of Arc.”
Here are photographs of Lexi Rabadi portraying the real-life Hannah Senesh at different times in her life.