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November 3, 2014 12:38 am

Jewish ‘Klinghoffer’ Actor ‘Raised Pro-Israel’, Now ‘Confused’ About Conflict

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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The Death of Klinghoffer. Photo: NewYorkCityTheatre.com

A Jewish dancer who stars in the controversial opera The Death of Klinghoffer, now playing at the Met, said that since starring in the show, he has become “confused” about which side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he identifies with.

“As someone who’s been raised pro-Israel, who’s a Jew, who grew up in a country that is pro-Israel, I never knew anything about Palestine or Palestinians,” said Jesse Kovarsky, who plays a Palestinian terrorist named Omar, in a recent interview with Heeb magazine. “And to be invited into this opera and encouraged to study that history, I’ve been exposed to a world that I totally… I’m confused by my own upbringing in terms of how I see the conflict, how I see it now.”

The opera tells the story of the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of two was shot by Palestinian hijackers on the Achille Lauro cruise ship 29 years ago. The terrorists threw his body, along with his wheelchair, overboard into the Mediterranean Sea and his corpse washed up on the Syrian shoreline a few days later.

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The performance has been met with significant protest from the Jewish community and others who object to what they see as the glorification of Palestinian terror.

Kovarsky told the magazine that while he does not fully agree with the character he plays on stage, or the approach of the terrorists, he does “to a degree, having studied the role and having studied the culture of Palestine, as a Jew I really do find an empathy with that situation.”

He said that Judaism has taught him to be committed and try something new every day. It takes courage to play a role like Omar and find sympathy for the character, Kovarsky asserted. “Whether people are going to agree with it or not, I’m committed,” he said.

Addressing critics of the show, Kovarsky said that people are afraid to see “visible terrorism” or “terrorism kind of humanized.” He defended The Death of Klinghoffer by claiming that the opera does not have an opinion on the matter of Israel and Palestinians, terrorism and what is deemed “right and wrong.” The show “is about dispossession in general,” he said. “The Israelis represent dispossession in the sense that they represent hope… So then we also look at the dispossession of Palestinians who basically were denied their land.”

“But essentially, they’re the same people. That’s what this whole show is all about,” he said. “That the Israelis and the Palestinians are the same people that have just been dealt different hands.”

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  • SHELDON

    THIS GUY TRULY FITS THE DEFINFINITION. OF SMUCK.

    • Mrs. Weber

      Sheldon, I was not brought up frum, but became interested in Yiddishkeit years ago and have been living an Orthodox lifestyle since then. But this process was gradual for me, as I explored my beliefs, my prior education, and my philosophy of life, etc.

      There was a time, back then, that I had been steeped in what’s taught in places like universities and the New York Times and the John Adams opera, The Death of Klinghoffer.

      All I can say to you is that in my early stages of exploring the Torah way of life, if the Orthodox Jews to whom I addressed my questions had responded the way you did above, there’s very little chance I’d be living a frum lifestyle today.

      Please see what I wrote to Pinchas Baram, below. Ad hominem attacks are the opposite of ahavas Yisrael, and there is no place for such attacks in discussing the matter of Mr. Kovarsky’s nisayon of playing a terrorist in an opera.

      You have every reason to by dismayed at Kovarsky’s confusion. But to respond with hostility doesn’t solve anything. We as a people cannot afford that.

      As I told Mr. Fox, below, there are situations when ahavas Yisrael needs to take the form of “toughlove,” but this is not one of them!

      (And anyway, even if it were such a situation warranting the alienation and shunning you are doing here, there’s no need to shun with hostility, like you’re doing. It’s merely “tough” to respond the way you have, not “toughlove”.)

  • Robert B Geller

    I love it when Jews justify their empathy and compassion towards terrorism and the Palestinians by “quoting” lessons learned by being Jewish. Only a psychopath could find compassion towards someone who willingly can kill an elderly man in a wheelchair and then throw him overboard or for someone who can armed themselves with an explosive vest before boarding a crowded bus with school children on it or torture three young Jewish boys on their way home to dinner with their families, etc. The one true lesson from being Jewish is the need to do everything possible for our survival. Let the rest of the world have empathy for the Palestinians whose main goal is to kill every last Jew. Because, the world has absolutely no empathy for any Jew, especially a Jewish dancer who is now confused over which side to be on!

  • Michael Fox

    Brainwashing is an insidious deceit that plays games with certain individuals vulnerable weak commitments to any form of a belief system.

    Mr Kovarsky may have been by genetics, born Jewish and enjoys a good bagel now and then. That makes him Jewish but he is not a Jew. There is a difference and Jews have no confusion as to who they are and where their loyalty lies. Mr Kovarsky’s religion is opportunism.

    • Mrs. Weber

      You are speaking as if you are inside his head and are sure that Mr. Kovarsky truly knew better than to even somewhat entertain the “Palestinian” notions.

      It is possible that the Jewish education he received was enough to keep him pro-Israel up to now, but perhaps it was insufficient for the nisayon he’s going through in playing “Omar.” Perhaps as you say, all it took was a bit of “brainwashing” to show the gaps in his Jewish knowledge. But this doesn’t make him a weak person, just perhaps a person with gaps in his knowledge or understanding!

      Remember always that if he is a born Jew (or had a kosher conversion), he is just as much our Jewish brother as is the most learned Talmid Chocham.

      Nothing is solved–and no one is served–by forgetting the mitzvah of ahavas Yisrael! There are instances when that “ahavah” has to be “toughlove,” but this is not one of them!

      Please think about this, and please, please never give up on our Jewish brothers and sisters, Mr. Fox!

  • Max

    This dancer’s attitude demonstrates the unfortunate results of running an opera like Klinghoffer, which draws a moral equivalency between the Jewish struggle for independence and the right to defend themselves from Palestinian terrorism on the one hand and the “suffering” Palestinians who brought it all upon themselves. The dancer in question knows nothing about the history of the Arab- Israeli conflict. He does not know that the UN partitioned Palestine in 1947, a vote Israel accepted and the Arabs rejected, hoping to throw the Jews into the Mediterranean; he knows nothing of the many chances the Arabs had to make peace which they also rejected; he ignores the fact that after the 1967 War Jordan occupied and ANNEXED the West Bank with no protest from the Palestinians who are now showing that their desire for independence only stems from their hatred of the Jews which is drummed into them at home and through the hate-filled curriculum in their schools. Mr, Dancer, go learn history before you let your precious sympathies veer from your own people to the poor, suffering Palestinians.

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    Dear boy! Don’t bother your head about all this disgusting worldly realities. Just dance away into the clouds of dreams, sweetness and light and leave the dirty cloths for us to wash. Israel Smisrael the important thing is to know when to pirouette. Oh hum. It is art that is the true value of the world.

  • Shlomo

    Mr. Kovarsky is an unsophisticated dupe. However, the issue is not whether or not the opera itself is antisemitic. The issue is that the composer and the librettist selected – among all the terrorist/victim confrontations in the world they could have written about (9/11, Sri Lanka, Chechnya, etc.) – the Palestinian/Jewish confrontation.

    THAT is antisemitic.

  • bs”d

    As a Jew you are being used to play the part of the terrorist. It is you who are humanizing the terrorist because the terrorists don’t regret nor are remorseful of their actions and will repeat their terror activities given the chance. By having a Jew play the part of the terrorist it allows the audience to believe that there is some measure of remorse or some measure of humanity in a terrorist who is some form regrets or can regret his terror activities.

    Don’t let them use you because you are not an authentic terrorist. You are merely an actor playing the part of one. But the part of you that shows humanity is authentic but also depicts a false narrative. You are projecting your personal humanity into your character which unfortunately is false and a lie in a historical context. What did your character do after this hijacking. Did he continue with being involved with additional acts of terror? If so, that is the character you must play. Unrepentant. A terrorist and always a terrorist.

  • Kovarsky, nay, say all the JUIs who voted as they did these
    last two elections.

  • Yale

    Kovarsky is more confused now that he has “studied” the conflict than when he was “ignorant”. Then, he knew little; now much of what he claims to have learned simply isn’t so.

    What he needs to do is ask himself what circumstances justify murdering a wheel-chair bound elderly man? If there are none, then the whole Klinghoffer mess cannot be justified and anyone who participates in it shows he has no concept of morality.

    • Liliane Abergel

      Yale, you nailed it in few words! Absent morality …

  • Reform School
  • Sara

    Kovarsky, a Jewish dancer, couldn’t get a better job, and he is happy to get this job playing the role of Palestinian-terrorist-murderer who murdered Jewish Klinghoffer and threw his body, along with his wheelchair, into the Mediterranean Sea.

    Kovarsky is not confused,he is trying to justify his job, with lack of education and lack of knowledge of the Israel-Jewish history.

  • Pinchas Baram

    yes, he’s poorly educated, and yes, he’s a jerk and a creep, but he’s also very likely a feminized jewish boychik who thinks being Jewish is all about sweet talk, “compassion” and empathy for the other without limits, bending over backwards, turning the other cheek, peace at an price. in short, a SPINELESS GUTLESS so-called spiritual “judaism.”

    • almondleaf

      “feminized jewish boychik”. Why are you assuming he is GAY? Because dancers are all “sissies”? “Feminized”?Is THAT a problem for all the women in the IDF? Do you say all that about the millions who went without a fight to their graves at the hands of the Nazis? Rather than point out to him WHY his statement “terrorism kind of humanized.” is wrong, YOU project your own “mommy problems” on him. OOH, you’re sooo mad you’d hit a “boychik”! What a MAN YOU ARE!

    • Mrs. Weber

      To Pinchas Baram:

      Ad hominem attacks are completely uncalled-for here.

      The arguments against this opera are numerous and have all the merit needed in order to disagree with the so-called Palestinians’ so-called justifications.

      As someone who used to perform at the Metropolitan Opera (in the chorus for seven years, using my maiden name, before leaving to pursue an Orthodox life), I can say that although it’s a “great gig,” the business is brutal for the singers, the dancers, and even the supernumeraries — anyone on stage — especially for anyone whose political principles are anything other than far left. The fact that Mr. Kovarsky got as far as he did in the business (before landing the role in this opera) with his pro-Israel upbringing intact is nothing short of a wonder.

      While I am sad that this Jewish performing artist is now “confused” in his views since taking on the role of Omar the terrorist, we can only hope that his family and friends will ultimately help him sort out his confusion. May his confusion be temporary, and may he also increase his learning about “Why be pro-Israel,” and come to his senses.

      Opera is a European art form, and this opera reflects the current “climate” in Europe for Jews, r”l. Even 15 years ago, when I was last performing at the Met, there were offensive-to-Jews scenes at the Met. In Schonberg’s “Moses und Aron,” the Jews were caricatured in some ways, in the name of “Art”. Taleisim and other Judaica articles were stomped upon, as well. The director really had a field day with the cheit egel scene, and I’ll never know how many members of the audience were influenced by that. (Thank G-d I was never called upon to do such overtly offensive things.) I could go on and on…. Singing Wagner’s choruses of “Heil, heil….” (in Die Meistersinger) is a chilling experience, even though that particular opera has nothing to do with Nazism. Perhaps this kind of thing also influenced my exit from the business.

      But as for you, Mr. Baram, I am ashamed that an Algemeiner reader would speak as you have here. It is indeed unfortunate that you have made such a chillul Hashem. In the future, please think before you write or speak the way you did! I’m sure you were brought up to behave better than that!

  • Casey

    Two words – Samir Kuntar
    How many people leaving the opera know that the terrorist that the hijackers wanted released from prison shot an Israeli father to death in front of his 4 year old daughter and then beat the child to death by beating the child’s brains with the butt of a rifle?
    They watch an opera and have no idea what the history is as anything remotely pro Israel is conveniently omitted.

  • Lammie

    If the actor can answer the following questions, he will be a little less confused: (Everything can be found on the internet).
    QUESTIONS ABOUT PALESTINE:
    When was the country of Palestine founded and by whom? If there was or was not such a country who were some of important leaders of the Arabs in Palestine – besides for Yasser Arafat (who was a terrorist)? Name a Prime Minister or two of Palestine?
    What form of Government did they have?
    What currency did they use? Choose any date and give the approximate exchange rate of their currency with the Dollar, Pound or any European currency .
    What was the mainstay of their economy?
    Where were their borders?
    Until 1967 there is no mention anywhere at all of a “Palestinian Nation”. In 1948 when the State of Israel was declared – after the United Nations Partition Plan of 1947 – the Arabs who lived in Palestine could have had a state. they refused and six Arab armies attacked the new state. These six countries told the Arabs living in Palestine to leave and they could come back after the Arabs had killed all the Jews. A lot left and some stayed and those that stayed and their families are still here today. The Jews won the war. The Arabs have still not accepted the right of Israel to exist. In the 1967 Six Day War the Israelis took back the territories which had been captured by the Jordanians in 1948. Each and every Israeli/Arab war has been because the Arabs refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist. After 67 the Arabs suddenly became the “Palestinian Nation”. In any case – why does this actor think he can “understand” terrorists cruelly killing – in cold blood – an old disabled man who had no connection to the events in Israel. Why did they need to shoot him and throw him and his wheelchair into the ocean? What did they accomplish by this cruel and vicious act? They have been offered a state many times – they always refuse. I suggest that anyone who really wants to understand what the Middle East is like, should come to visit Israel – you will see for yourself how much better Israeli Arab citizens are than Arabs in Arab countries and they will see Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza who are intent on getting rid of Jews, instead of being intent on making a decent life for themselves and their children. Peace is attainable. The Arabs do not want peace. They want the Jews dead. The actor should understand that after the Jews the Arabs will turn on the Great Satan – the U.S.A. – where you are celebratinbg Klinghoffer’s death…

  • wm. j. levy

    This is the story of American Jews.

    They have no pride or self-respect.

    They bend over backwards to see the other side’s view even if its wrong and distorted.

    Alan Dershowitz was proud to state he would defend Hitler because everyone is entitled to a defense,

    Our worst enemies are ourselves. BE STRONG

    Somebody help that dancer. Shooting a handicapped man and throwing him overboard is OK?

    • Steven Kalka

      Alan Dershowitz would only defend Hitler legally. I can’t possibly imagine him morally defending him. I can imagine Larry King interviewing the likes of Hitler in a serious way.

  • Rachel

    “…So then we also look at the dispossession of Palestinians who basically were denied their land.” and “That the Israelis and the Palestinians are the same people that have just been dealt different hands.”

    Obviously, he’s not been too educated to make statements like these. He’s not gone far enough back in history to know that:
    1. “palestinian” was a term for Jews and Arabs of the region;
    2. Jews have been a majority in Jerusalem since the mid/late 1800’s;
    3. Arabs sold land to Jews; that no one was denied-the Arabs had an opportunity and blew it due to hate (and subsequently have been given more chances), so in that respect, they were “dealt” the same hand;
    4. it was never “palestinian” land in the first place-it was Turkish and then a British mandate.
    5. Lastly, their not the SAME people (sentimental hogwash); they’re cousins with similarities, but they’re all people who have a choice between a culture of life or death.

    Everyone gets different opportunities in this life-it’s how you respond to those opportunities that determines your destiny.

    Another young person not thinking critically and being so very sensitive and progressively liberal, but actually giving justification for murderers. Distressing…

  • Lynne T

    Another intellectual feather-weight offers his non-opinion.

  • Michael Dar

    The dancer is “confused”. If there is anything he doesn’t understand about the Arab-Israeli conflict I volunteer to inform him. Lesson 1. There never was a country nation, sovereign entity by the name of Palestine, nor was there ever a distinct, specific race or ethnic group of people called Palestinians in history. Most of those who nowedays and “all of a sudden” call themselves Palestinians are the offsprings of Arabs and other Muslims from all over the former Ottoman Empire. They were invented for the sole purpose the deny the right of the Jews on the land.

  • judithg

    pleeeze. what a load of crap. just say that frankly you’d have waltzed with hitler and smooched him in return for dancing on stage at the met. creep.

  • june

    How could the Ottomans expel Jews from Jerusalem and Israel had there been no Jews? How could the Romans do the same? Arafat coined the term “Palestinian” in 1964 with the formation of the PLO. The term “Palestine” was a term coined by the Brits to describe the ENTIRE region INCLUDING Jewish areas. “Palestine” referred to the long lost Philistines, an ancient people NOT related to the “Palestinians” we know today. If you don’t dispute Trans Jordan’s right to exist why do you question Israel’s? Arab leaders told Arabs to flee Israel in 1948…. Israel is the ONLY place in the Middle East Arabs are TRULY free!!!!

  • Zipory

    Kovarsky says he “studied” the “culture and history” of the so called Palestinians. What he studied was the lies and prevarications of these arabs. I wonder if he realizes that there was never a Palestinian people; never ever????? He’s just another JINO and is an embarrassment to the Jewish people like all the other progressive liberal Jews who become mouthpieces for the jihadis who kill their brethren and other non believers.

  • robert borns

    what is this “basically denied their land” statement coming from. can this guy read? how about reading actual history and discovering that that statement is untrue.

  • “Jewish” dancer Kovarsky’s confusion will perhaps eventually be resolved as the current Mideast crisis deepens. During the 1930’s, there was also considerable moral confusion that to some extent tended to clear up, beginning with the outbreak of the Second World War. The great struggle against fascism killed many millions, but perhaps provided some decades of moral clarity. But, I do now tremble thinking about how many Jews will have to die before Kovarsky achieves some deeper understanding of what is now going on in the Mideast and globally.

    In the interim, I would ask Kovarsky: “Who ever heard of the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian’ People before 1967 CE?” And, I would remind him that the self-identified, specifically “Jewish” People was born there in its ancestral homeland around the Jordan River some 26 centuries ago. From that ancient Biblical time right until today, there has never been a single year when then self-identified “Jews” were absent from this aboriginal homeland of the Jewish People. There, Jews are now once again the majority of the local population. Today, the circa 6.2 million Jews there are probably the single largest Jewish community anywhere.

    To admit that today there now exists a newborn “Palestinian” People does not automatically cancel the prior rights of the Jewish People. Ideally, there is now an urgent moral requirement for a peaceful process that effects something like a juridical reconciliation between the self-determination rights of the newborn Palestinian People and the prior rights of the ancient Jewish People — including Jewish aboriginal, treaty and self-determination rights. Moreover, Jews individually and collectively have a right to life, including the right to live safely in their aboriginal homeland between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

    Perhaps Kovarsky’s confusion arises from the modish illusion that Israel is “colonial” in character. It seems that he confuses Jews returning to live with other Jews in the aboriginal homeland of the Jewish People with the 17th-century Pilgrim Fathers who went to build some English “settlements” in America were they had neither native kin nor ancestors.

    Kovarsky seems preoccupied with the theme of “dispossession,” but is comfortable pursuing a career in Manhattan which is land taken away from the native people there. By contrast, for more than two thousand years, the Jewish People has always had the strongest claim to be “the” aboriginal People of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

  • Elisheva14

    To me it is black and white. There is no good justification for murdering a man in a wheelchair because he is Jewish. You cross all red lines when you justify the actions.

    Palestinians have not been denied any land. They want to destroy all Jews. They have had so many offers that they have rejected. They are not interested in Peace. To me it is not confusing at all. Recently Egypt offered them land and they rejected it.

    Palestinians are not indigenous to the Land Of Israel. Most come from Egypt, like Arafat. Some are from Saudi Arabia or Jordan. I got this link:
    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Who+are+the+Palestinians%3F

    https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Who+are+the+Palestinians%3F

    There have been so many video’s on this topic. It is a hoax to believe the Palestinians have any roots in Israel. They are here to be a thorns in the State of Israel. I don’t see how this can be confusing to any Jew anywhere. Many Christians understand this phenomena.

  • So much claptrap. When will these liberal Jews learn that they are being used?

  • myra vero

    the palestinians are not dispossessed, this is not their land.

  • Walter Bachner

    Why have so many of my fellow Jews still not learned the difference between truth and Jew hating propaganda,tolerance and suicide, or our history as an oppressed people vs. 1400 years of vile, ceaseless Islamic Jew hate.

    It is the 1400 years of Islamic Jew hate that is the reason for the lack of peace in the Middle East, along with the Qur’anic doctrine that claims Muslims own any land they steal by military conquest forever. Muslims invaded Israel and stole our land in 638 ce. ARABS come from ARABIA.The Arabs claim they own Israel forever by right of conquest, yet when we take back what is ours, we are attacked as racists. The world has a separate standard for Jews that says anything we do for our own benefit, even if it is accepted and standard practice for all other nations, is wrong. One rule for Jews that leave us with no rights and one rule for everyone else that allows them do spit on us for 2000 years and counting.

    The confused Jewish dancer needs to wake up to reality and get over the whiny Jewish guilt that he seems to impose on himself for no good reason.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    What a facile jerk.

    I urge the Palestinians to accept him as one of their own.

    They deserve each other.

  • Abbushuki

    I’ll have a BLT sandwich, but hold the bacon, lettuce and tomato and substitute cheese, cucumbers and salami. Oh and change it from white bread to whole wheat. It’s basically the same sandwich right? They are both called sandwiches, n’est pas?

  • Hasi

    Anyone who believes that Israelis and Palestinians are the same people deserves to be a ballet dancer.

  • David

    This guy is as confused as they come. He obviously has not studied enough, e.g. Judaism, Jewish history and the history of the Middle East. So, he is confused and can’t distinguish between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, evil and justice. Yes, this person is confused.

    I represented Moslems in Immigration around the country. What they learned in their countries of the West and Judaism and history was twisted, distorted and had no relationship to facts or the truth. It was totally laughable. For those who were still in school, it was extremely disorienting to learn that virtually everything they learned in their home countries was false. Of course, once they were tainted by Western education, they could never return to the educational systems that they came from.

    I really wonder what his education consisted of.

    • Liliane Abergel

      Not much David ….

  • steven L

    Kovarsky just started to do his homework.

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