Theater J Scales Back Show as Pro-Israel Critics Pressure Washington D.C. Troupe

'The Admission' Will Be Workshop — Not Full Production

Controversial: One of Theater J’s disputed productions was 2011’s ‘Return to Haifa,’ which critics claimed took an anti-Israel approach.
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Controversial: One of Theater J’s disputed productions was 2011’s ‘Return to Haifa,’ which critics claimed took an anti-Israel approach.

By Nathan Guttman

Published October 09, 2013, issue of October 18, 2013.
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In an apparent bow to the right in the Jewish culture wars, Theater J, a celebrated theatrical group housed at Washington’s DC Jewish Community Center, will not produce a play set to open this spring that has been denounced by critics as anti-Israel.

The troupe will instead run a workshop on the play and a moderated discussion, the DCJCC’s director said on October 9.

The DCJCC insists the move had nothing to do with outside pressure to remove the play from the theater’s schedule. But the decision not to run a full production came after a weeks-long campaign waged by activists who targeted not the theater troupe but the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the community’s central philanthropic fund. The activists called on donors to the federation, which supports the DCJCC, to withhold their contributions unless the DCJCC stopped the theater troupe from staging its show, “The Admission,” under its roof.

In 2012, the Federation provided more than $400,000 to the DCJCC.

The compromise reached between Theater J and the DCJCC will likely not put an end to the heated political debate about the play. Activists from a group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, which organized the pressure campaign, have made clear they will not discuss anything short of removing the play altogether. The group’s chairman, Robert Samet, told the Forward earlier that he would accept only the play’s cancellation.

Carole Zawatsky, CEO of the DCJCC, told the Forward that the decision to cancel the full production was not a result of the outside pressure. “This had nothing to do with COPMA,” she said. “COPMA is trying to shut down the conversation and we are trying to broaden it.”


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