The National Coalition Against Censorship has sent out a letter criticizing the recent decision of the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in Miami to cancel a production of Julia Pascal’s play “Crossing Jerusalem” in the middle of its run.
The play follows an Israeli family during the second intifada in 2002, and was met with criticism from some offended community members that its message was “inappropriate and troublesome.”
The NCAC wants the JCC’s president, Gary Bomzer, to rethink its decision and reschedule the remaining shows. In a letter, the NCAC says the JCC shouldn’t have given into pressures that wanted to stifle controversy and debate.
“Censoring the play does nothing to promote conversation; on the contrary, it cuts short any possibility for a productive debate by letting hecklers decide the programming of an institution that should serve the community as a whole — in all its diversity of views,” the letter reads.
Ari Roth, the former director at Theater J, which is overseen by the Washington, D.C. JCC, and who blamed his 2014 firing in part as stemming from controversies over handling plays dealing with Israel, endorsed the letter, along with other playwrights like Joshua Ford, Larry Kunofsky, Christine Evans, Karen Zacarias, Motti Lerner and Wendy Graf.
“It’s probably a good JCC and they’ve made a very bad decision,” he said. “They shouldn’t be silencing voices in their community and will pay a high price when they shut good voices up.”
Roth believes that the NCAC’s letter will have a positive effect on those who read it, but that the JCC will stand by its decision.
“The JCC will remain firm in their decision and yet the energy and the support of the community will lead to an enlarging of the circle of interest around portraits of Israel,” he said.
Bomzer has not returned calls for comment.
Britta Lokting is the Forward’s culture fellow.