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 interview with the Forward, Robert Levi, chairman of the board of the National Council of Young Israel, argued that the Federation should not be using hard earned donation dollars for a cause “that a consensus of the Jewish community does not support.” He stressed, however, that he was not calling on donors to boycott the Federation or to refrain from funding it, since he did not think “we should cut off our nose to spite our face.”

In an open letter to Steve Rakitt, the Federation’s executive vice president and CEO, Levi wrote that “The Admission” “reflects a neo-anti-Israeli perspective, which is contrary to the mission of the Federation.”

Gelman publicized her opposing views in an opinion piece in Washington Jewish Week that she co-wrote with her husband, Michael Gelman, who, like her, is a past president of the Federation. In the article, they supported Theater J’s freedom to choose its artistic content.

Susie Gelman told the Forward that she did not believe COPMA’s call for suspending donations to the Federation would influence many. But she warned that linking the controversy over the play to supporting the Federation was “taking the debate to a whole new level.” The move could have a chilling effect on future work of agencies receiving support from the Federation, she said, adding, “I don’t think we should give them this victory.”

In an “open letter to our community” issued September 24, the Federation stood behind its decision to fund the Washington DCJCC and its hosting of Theater J. “It is not our job to meddle in their autonomous decision making,” the letter stated. “It is our job to live up to the ideals of Abraham, to create an open tent for all Jews, to demonstrate our love of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere.”

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman


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