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DC JCC Continues Pattern of Promoting Viciously anti-Israel Plays

The Washington, DC JCC is staging viciously anti-Israel plays, funded by the Greater Washington Federation.

Ari Roth is the artistic director of Theater J in Washington, D.C.

Ari Roth is the artistic director of Theater J in Washington, D.C.

The Washington, D.C. Jewish Community Center has a live theater component, known as Theater J.  For years Theater J has been the object of criticism from the pro-Israel world because its director, Ari Roth, promotes plays – either by staging them or having readings – which are profoundly anti-Israel.

And now Roth has done it again.

The latest play to draw the ire of Israel supporters is “The Admission.”  It is a play written by Motti Lerner, who was also the playwright of “Return to Haifa.”  The latter play, the adaptation of a novella written by the spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was staged by Theater J in 2011.

The PFLP is an Arab Palestinian terrorist group, designated as such by the U.S. government.  The PFLP’s specialty was airplane hijackings – perhaps you’ve heard of the Entebbe hijacking?  That was one of theirs.  But they like to diversify: in October, 2001, the PFLP assassinated Rehavam Ze’evi, a member of Knesset.  The PFLP also staged homicide bombings.  The goal of the PFLP is to create a democratic socialist state in Palestine.  En route to their goal, they seek the complete destruction of the state of Israel.

When “Return to Haifa” was shown at Theater J, a pro-Israel grassroots organization sent a letter to the D.C. Federation, complaining about such a play being promoted at a Federation-sponsored venue.

Roth responded to the critical letter by stating that it “is not a prerogative of the donor” to intervene in artistic content, and claimed that attempts to limit the theater’s activities amounted to censorship or blacklisting. David Makowsky grew up in Chicago, and told The Jewish Press he well remembers Ari Roth. “He was a bully then and it sounds like he’s still a bully today.”

“The Admission’s” Lerner explained in an interview earlier this year that it was Theater J’s Roth who initiated contact about “The Admission” back in 2010.  It was Roth’s initiative that encouraged Lerner to work with an English speaker and translate the play, which was in Hebrew and Arabic, into English.

Appointing and then keeping someone who brought to the stage of a Jewish Community Center the handiwork of a leader of a group dedicated to eradicating the Jewish state is a shocking choice.  The man makes his living from the donations of Jews who think they are giving money for Jewish causes.

Not surprisingly, there are a number of people in the Washington, D.C. community who find Roth’s taste in drama repugnant, who have been trying for several years to bring the dirty back tale of Theater J to the attention of the national and international pro-Israel community, as their efforts thus far have fallen on deaf ears at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and at the Washington, D.C. JCC leadership.

Louis Offen, a Rockvile, Maryland resident, told The Jewish Press that he used to contribute substantially more to the D.C. Federation before he “was put off by the Theater J business and the failure of Federation and the DC JCC director to put an end to Ari Roth’s use of Theater J in the service of his personal politics.”

The organization Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art – COPMA – was formed in 2009, after another of Roth’s choices, “Seven Jewish Children” was staged at Theater J.   That play is a series of seven one minute plays, in which a group of parents or relatives are discussing what to tell their Jewish Israeli children about “the situation,” and what should be kept from the children.  The actors quickly reinforce every horrible anti-Israel canard, by showing parents keeping the truths from their children.  For example, one line is: “No but dont tell her Arabs used to sleep in her bedroom.”  In one of the plays, water that is supposed to be for the fields of Arabs is instead used for Israelis’ swimming pool, “Tell her it’s our water, we have the right.”

COPMA, like New York City’s JCC Watch, is a grass roots effort to inform pro-Israel people about Jewish institutions that are using Jewish communal dollars to fund programs that are harmful to Israel.

In a widely-circulated email sent out on Monday, August 20, COPMA explains that several significant plays that have been promoted at Theater J in the last few years.

These plays that defame Israel have been going on for years, and our efforts to stop them have been rejected. Although you never intended your charity dollars to be used to attack Israel, the Federation is doing exactly that by using your contributions to provide a substantial source of the operating funds of Theater J. Even worse, Theater J boasts that it is a partner organization to The Federation, thereby using the Federation’s name to endorse its anti-Israel program.

For COPMA, “The Admission,” is a red line.  It reads like a fleshed out version of one or two of the mini-plays in Caryl Churchill’s “Seven Jewish Children.”  Or for those who are not familiar with that play, picture Der Sturmer magazine’s worst caricatures.

The protagonist, Avigdor, was a colonel in the Israeli War of Independence.  We learn during the course of the play that although Avigdor had not admitted it before, his and two other companies attacked the Arab (fictional) village of Jirin, located near Haifa.  Avigdor admits that fourteen Arabs were killed (that’s Avigdor’s count, a “history book” claims 96 Arabs were killed) in the yard of a mosque, no less.

When the play takes place, Avigdor is a big developer.  His company is in the process of bulldozing over the graves of those who were killed, along with the homes currently populating the Arab village.  Oh, and for good measure, Avigdor is also working furiously to get a local Arab girl to leave town because Avigdor’s son is in love with her, and the family doesn’t want him to be involved with an Arab.

Like JCC Watch, COPMA asks supporters of Israel to consider reducing or eliminating their contributions to the local Federation.  COPMA points out that their criticism should not be met with cries about freedom of expression.

Ari Roth, the agenda-driven artistic director of Theater J, is free to stage any shameful attack on Israel that he feels driven to launch. However, he should not be supported by funds contributed by those in the Jewish Community who love and continue to defend Israel. And he should NOT be permitted to continue his anti-Israel propaganda on a stage having the endorsement and imprimatur of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.

The Jewish Press spoke with Carol Greenwald, treasurer of COPMA, about the effort to send a financial message to the Federation.  Greenwald understands very well what it means to have a financial impact on an institution in order to encourage change.  She has a PhD in macroeconomics from Columbia University.

“It is a tragedy when Jewish leaders refuse to stand up to support Israel.  But it is actually against the law when Federation leadership accept Jewish charity money and then use it to defame Israel. That’s a violation of their fiduciary duty, and something for which they can and should be held accountable,” Greenwald explained.

Sondra Kloner lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.  When contacted by The Jewish Press, Kloner said she was “very much opposed” to what goes on at Theater J.

“There are enough people out there trying to encourage Jewish youth to be anti-Israel.  I don’t think the Federation should be supporting this,  and I don’t think the money I give to Federation should be used for this,” Kloner said.

“The Admission” has not yet been staged in Israel, although it is scheduled to open there this November. It had already been scheduled for productions in three different Israeli theaters, but all three productions were canceled.

“I can only guess that there were fears and perhaps pressures that led to it. You can also guess that these pressures had to do with the huge difficulties we face in Israel and in Jewish communities outside of Israel to discuss the events of the 1948 war that led to a conflict that is still unresolved,” Lerner said.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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13 Responses to “DC JCC Continues Pattern of Promoting Viciously anti-Israel Plays”

  1. Carolin Knox says:

    Repulsive! I don’t understand these self hating Jews. All I know is that those who hate us could care less about whose “side” a Jew is on, only that we are Jews.

  2. cgreenwald says:

    It is a breach of their fiduciary duties that the Board of the Jewish Federation uses Jewish charity funds given to support Israel and world Jewry instead to defame Israel. People get sued for this kind of misuse of their fiduciary responsibilities. Carol Greenwald, Chevy Chase, MD

  3. And next week, Roth will be presenting Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. At least he's fair and presents all divergent forms of anti-Semetic propaganda.

  4. Benjamin Fox says:

    Sounds like this Jew hates himself? No weapon formed against Israel will prosper and that goes for this nut job also. I don't and never will understand men like him, does he have some hidden quilt?

  5. Alan Kardon says:

    In your own words " is not a prerogative of the donor” to intervene in artistic content, and claimed that attempts to limit" has a simple answer. Refuse to support the DCJCC. If I was on the board he would be unemployed.

  6. Joseph Colen says:

    Maybe it is time for Jews to stop embracing socialism and communism. Remember the Holocaust when Nazi Party ejected out of socialism and began their ridding Europe of those who had so dearly embraced socialism.

  7. Ron Kall says:

    The self hating Jew is the vilest form of human being! This self hating sickness is found nowhere else in human kind! Ari Roth, please go to Israel and catch a Katusha rocket!

  8. It is infuriating that so many enemies are "in the tent." It would be terrific if the entire Board and Ari Roth were sued for "dereliction of duty," or Malfeasance, or Defamation or Theft, or whatever. All of them are accountable for diversion of funds and hate speech. All of them should be tossed out.

  9. mraiderroth says:

    These personally attributable comments in the Facebook thread are seriously irresponsible and repugnant. This thread should be shut down as it advocates violence. 
    This article is a distorted description of Theater J and it uses the tactics of tabloid journalism rather than serious reporting. As someone who has had the fortune to view Theater J productions, I see this arts organization as one that portrays the spectrum of Jewish life with honesty, integrity, humor, and seriousness. If you review the past seasons you will see great Jewish classics, as well as homegrown new work. The Voices of the Middle East series is an important, challenging, and serious artistic effort to engage the audience with the complexity of Israel, both currently and historically. I am dismayed by the cheap shots this journalist takes at the theater and Ari Roth, who are committed to the highest quality theater, art, Israel and Jewish life.  Go to the Theater J Website, read, learn, and understand. http://washingtondcjcc.org/center-for-arts/theater-j/

  10. jgray1 says:

    mr. roth and his crew are too cowardly and sniveling (and delusional) to be Jews.  they would be better off joining the bizarre death cult of islam they promote so vociferously.

  11. dalema says:

    mraiderroth
    You wouldn’t be a tad biased considering you are his sister now, would you?

  12. cfriverdog says:

    By the definition so loosely used in these comments, a massive number of Israeli Jews and a majority of American Jews would have to be included in the ranks of the “self-hating Jews” simply because they disagree with some policies of the current Israeli government. By these standards and this logic, Americans who oppose, say, current congressional tactics to defund the Affordable Health Care act could be called “self-hating Americans.” For millennia the Jewish values of inclusiveness, diversity, tolerance and the ability to live with complexity and ambiguity have contributed to a vibrant cultural and religious life and even In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved a VZV vaccine (Zostavax) for use in people 60 and older who have had chickenpox. In March 2011, the FDA extended the approval to inlcude adults 50 to 59 as well. Researchers found that giving older adults the vaccine reduced the expected number of later cases of shingles by half. And in people who still got the disease despite immunization, the severity and complications of shingles were dramatically reduced. The shingles vaccine is a preventive therapy and not a treatment for those who already have shingles or postherpetic neuralgia.to our survival. There has also always been the countervailing notion that disagreement equals “heresy,” internal debate shows weakness, loyalty to
    a narrow and rigid definition of Jewishness and Judaism is essential and the only really important sign of that loyalty is an unquestioning, uncritical, total support for the actions and policies of the current Israeli administration.

  13. dalema says:

    cfriverdog Oh please.  It is not that they disagree with some policies of the Israeli government.  Heck, I disagree with a lot of their policies myself.  It has to do with which policies, that there may or may not be a double standard, and how they disagree.
    Intellectually dishonest arguments like yours are frequently used by those wanting to intimidate others from correctly labeling something or someone an anti semite or a self hater.
    It won’t wash.

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