Jewish Organization Urges Federation to Stop Funding Anti-Israel Productions by Theater J
By Staff Writer
The following letter was sent by the Chairman of the Board of the National Council of Young Israel, representing 26,000 Jewish families nationwide:
To: Mr. Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, 6101 Montrose Rd., Rockville, MD 20852.
Dear Mr. Rackitt:
As an organization dedicated to promoting public pride in Jewish heritage and the modern Jewish civilization, and solidifying the strong affinity of the Washington Jewish community with our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel, the Greater Washington Jewish Federation has been instrumental in furthering Jewish culture since its inception.
As an active member of the Washington Jewish community and as chairman of Young Israel, a national organization that represents approximately 26,000 Jewish families, I am dismayed at the financial support that the Federation is providing to Theatre J to subsidize the production of The Admission, a play written by an anti-Israel Israeli named Motti Lerner. The play is scheduled for performance March 20 - April 27.
As you may be aware, the play reflects a neo-anti-Israeli perspective, which is contrary to the mission of the Federation. The climatic scene of the play implies a fictitious 1948 massacre conducted by a colonel in the Israeli defense brigade during Israel’s War of Independence.
You may not be aware that many of Mr. Motti Lerner's dramas and plays are not performed in Israel due to their harmful messages against the Jewish state. Regrettably, Theater J is not concerned about the negative message; moreover, this is not the first time that the Greater Washington Federation has lent aid to Theater J-produced plays with an anti-Israel point of view.
While I fully appreciate freedom of expression and the right of Mr. Lerner to promote his political agenda, such an expression should not be financed by Federation contributors. Such financial support runs counter to the interests of your constituency and runs afoul of the Federation's long-standing desire to affirm a strong commitment to the State of Israel and world Jewry. Artists who denigrate the Jewish State or its citizens should not be supported by the Federation.
I respectfully request that greater care be given to the selection of Federation beneficiaries and support endeavors that promote Israel, rather than demean it.
Sincerely, Robert M. Levi, Chairman of the Board, National Council of Young Israel
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It remains to be seen whether this letter or any of our efforts will have an impact upon the Board. Unfortunately, it may well be that some members of the Board of the Federation view Israel in a similar manner as that of Theater J’s director and staff and won’t recognize a fiduciary obligation to fairly administer its funds according to the wishes of the vast majority of its donors.
The Federation has left us with little choice but to urge those who disagree with the Federation's support of Theater J to withhold their contributions until such time as the Federation acts in response to its donors' wishes. At the same time, we urge you to notify the Federation by emailing Steve Rakitt, executive director of the Federation’s email address: <email@example.com>, that you will gladly reinstate your donations if the Board acts to suspend its support of Theater J.
As we've indicated previously, The Washington Jewish Week, which is owned by former and current leaders of The Jewish Federation, has notified us that they will no longer run display ads from COPMA.
We therefore need your help in forwarding this email to your friends and colleagues who share your interest in the welfare of Israel. Thank you. Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) - Robert G. Samet, Chairman; Mark H. Lazerson, Vice-Chairman; Carol Greenwald, PhD, Treasurer; Barbara Leber, PhD, Secretary; Jeffrey Ward, General Counsel; http://www.COPMA.net; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Federation Donations would Hurt Israel
“Your Jewish charity dollars are being used to finance theatrical productions that attack and defame Israel. It must stop. Theater J at the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center (DCJCC) has for years, under the directorship of an individual named Ari Roth, been staging plays and holding workshops that denigrate Israel. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has been providing funding to Theater J, and despite COPMA’s efforts, continues to knowingly funnel dollars to support Theater J. This violates the Federation’s fiduciary obligation to donors to monitor the destination of its donor contributions. We would not support Jewish Federation funds going to support the Palestinian Authority, and we should not support Jewish Federation funds going to attack Israel in its struggle for peace and security.
“Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) is a group of concerned citizens who believe there is no place in our Jewish community centers and institutions for anti-Israel propaganda and that the use of charitable donations to support activities harmful to the State of Israel is a breach of the trust that donors and supporters place in these institutions.
“This is not an attempt to infringe on anyone’s right to produce propaganda attacking Israel. These groups are entitled to engage in political activism against Israel whenever they please. They can even mislabel it as ‘art.’ But they do not have the right to do it with the financial support of unwitting donors who believe their contributions are being used to help, rather than hurt Israel. And those very same donors now have a right to choose where their contributions should NOT go.
“Theater J is now producing a play called ‘The Admission,’ written by an Israeli author named Motti Lerner, who Wikipedia calls ‘one of the pioneers of radical political theatre in Israel.’ The Admission centers on a fictitious slaughter of Palestinians by Israelis in a fictitious Palestinian village during the War of Independence, and the modern day effort by the Israeli commander of the unit who committed the slaughter to profit by erecting a shopping mall over the site where the bodies of the Palestinian victims are buried. Although it is entirely fictitious, the author of the play and now Theater J want the audience to believe it mirrors real events.
“We have tried to work with The Federation, to no avail. We’ve met with the leadership of both the DCJCC and The Federation, with no progress after more than 4 years. If we continue to have meetings, write letters and make phone calls hoping that The Federation will act responsibly, we’ll find ourselves in exactly the same position 4 years from now.
“Do you want your charitable donations to support ‘radical political theater’ attacking Israel? You have a choice.”