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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The DCJCC explained the decision as stemming from their “guiding principle” that plays from Israel should be done in partnership with Israeli theater companies. And since a planned partnership did not materialize, Theater J will not present a full production in Washington. The workshop, Zawatsky said, will include the play’s author, Motti Lerner, alongside other historians, artists and political figures.

The controversy surrounding production of The Admission is only the latest in a series of attacks against the capital city’s Jewish theater company involving plays related to Israel. Theater J rejected the earlier rounds of criticism, insisting on its right to stage the plays in question as a matter of artistic freedom.

This time, however, the debate was deepened by a call from the theater’s detractors to withhold donations from the city’s Jewish federation because of its support for the artistic group.

“The Admission” deals with claims that Israeli soldiers carried out a massacre of Arab civilians in the village of Tantura during the 1948 War of Independence.

A plan to co-produce the play with an Israeli theater company, the Herzliya Ensemble, was scratched after the ensemble folded. This left Theater J on the front lines as the world premiere stage for Lerner’s play, heightening the debate over the show even more.

There were indications even before the DCJCC’s announcement that Theater J was taking the new pressure campaign seriously.

“There is always room for adjustments,” said Ari Roth, Theater J’s artistic director “but we’re going to do that on our terms.”

Critics were calling on donors to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to withdraw their funding from the Federation unless it ceased its support for the Washington DCJCC. As the central communal fund for Greater Washington’s 275,000-strong Jewish community, the Federation supports a vast array of communal services for Jews and social services for Jews and non-Jews.

As the communal power struggle developed, major Federation donors were courted by both sides.

On one side, those opposed to the theater’s decision to put on the play viewed control of the communal purse strings as a legitimate tool in this battle.


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