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October 11, 2013 3:30 pm

Theater J Won’t Produce Play Accused of Being Anti-Israel, Will Still Present it as Workshop

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Mike Nussbaum in Theater J's "Imagining Madoff." Photo: C. Stanley Photography.

JNS.orgThe Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s (DCJCC) Theater J troupe will not produce Israeli playwright Motti Lerner’s “The Admission” following concerns that the play reflects an anti-Israel perspective, the Washington Jewish Week reported.

Instead, Theater J will be present the play as a workshop with audience feedback, and the number of dates the work will be showcased was reduced from 35 to 16. The decision was made “to give the work the context that the work and the audience deserve,” DCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky said.

The decision follows years of protest by Jewish community members, such as the group Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA), who oppose the funding of Theater J by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

Robert Levi—chairman of the board of the National Council of Young Israel—wrote in an August letter to the federation that “The Admission” reflects a “neo-anti-Israeli perspective, which is contrary to the mission of the Federation.”

“The climatic scene of play implies a fictitious 1948 massacre conducted by a colonel in the Israeli defense brigade,” he wrote. “You may not be aware that many of Mr. Lerner’s dramas are not performed in Israel due to their harmful message.”

But Ari Roth, artistic director of Theater J, has told that “The Admission” is all based on “actual research done by three historians,” rather than implying the “fictitious 1948 massacre” that Young Israel’s Levi described in his letter.

COPMA Chairman Robert G. Samet told in a larger report on the issue that his group does not intend to impede artistic freedom, but rather specifically opposes the federation’s support of Theater J.

“It’s just, don’t do it on our nickel,” Samet said. “Don’t do it on [federation] contributors’ support, it’s not appropriate. It’s a fringe view that’s being supported by mainstream contributors.”

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