Judah Skoff, 32
When Judah Skoff can get away from writing legal briefs, he works on his plays. Splitting time between a legal career — he works for the New Jersey-based firm McCarter & English — and one as a playwright, however, isn’t exactly new to him.
“I’ve never done only writing,” Skoff said. At 13, he began writing plays, under the influence the bleak existentialists Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett. And while he won a National Playwriting Competition as a teenager (from a Stephen Sondheim-founded organization that promotes young writers), he devoted himself equally to school. He attended Brown, where his playwriting played second fiddle to schoolwork. But even in law school he harbored hopes to write plays.
Only recently, however, did his focus turn to Jewish themes. “I think that there’s a need to see plays about younger Jews and the issues facing the millennial Jewish generation,” he said.
Skoff was raised in an observant home in Teaneck, N.J., and has remained active in organized Jewish life — as an original board member of the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps, for instance. With his work there and at his synagogue, which he attends regularly in Hoboken, with his wife, he’s seen first-hand the alienation and religious skepticism of many young Jews with university educations. So his latest plays have addressed those themes head on: last year, he staged “The Grasshopper Way,” about a young woman who seeks help from her friend, a young rabbi who is experiencing his own crisis of faith. Early this year, his latest play, “A Matter of Dreams,” which won the Eighth Annual New Jersey Playwrights Contest, followed an Orthodox Jewish Bible professor who becomes an ardent atheist.
As for how his increasing profile as a playwright might interfere with his budding legal career, he said he’s not worried. “I don’t always have as much playwriting time as I’d like,” he admitted, “but I’ve had my most success while practicing as an attorney.”
Two recent books read: “Mr. Mani” by A.B. Yehoshua and “You Deserve Nothing” by Alexander Maksik.