Close your eyes, breathe in deeply, now exhale slowly… That was easy, wasn’t it? Not for everyone…
The final session of the Wyman Institute conference focused on the Bergson Group’s controversial 1946 Broadway play “A Flag is Born,” about Holocaust survivors and the fight to create Israel. Actor Steven Hill, famous for his role in the television series “Law & Order” in recent years, spoke about his first acting role, as a character in “A Flag is Born,” in which he appeared alongside a young Marlon Brando. Hill said he was “deeply proud” to have been part of a theatrical production that helped the movement to create Israel.
Hebrew University president Judah Magnes denounced “Flag” for its sympathetic portrayal of the Jewish armed revolt against the British in Mandatory Palestine. He called it “an appeal to terror” and urged former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to withdraw her endorsement of the play. She ignored the request.
When “A Flag is Born” came to Philadelphia, mainstream Zionist groups urged the public to boycott it. The boycott proved ineffective, however, and Hecht wrote afterward: “To the 20,000 who saw our show during its 15 performances, we say: Glad we were able to wake Philadelphia up – even if only for two weeks.”
In Baltimore, the Bergson Group discovered that the theater where “Flag” was to be performed had a policy of confining African-Americans to the balcony seats. The Bergsonites teamed up with the local NAACP to force the desegregation of the theater. This unprecedented step paved the way for desegregating all of Baltimore’s theaters.
About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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