Contact: The Jewish Theater of New York, 212.494.0050
Responding to Accusations by a Foreign Embassy against Our Theater,
re our show, LAST JEW IN EUROPE, which depicts rising anti-Semitism in Lodz, Poland
Mr. Piotr Erenfeicht,
Embassy Press Secretary
Embassy of the Republic of Poland
2640 16th St, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20009
Dear Mr. Erenfeicht,
I am in receipt of your letter to our theater, and am honestly baffled by it-not really understanding why a foreign embassy would find it necessary to get involved in the affairs of an American theater company.
Your complaint that our Press Release might negatively affect American Jews, by creating "anger against the Polish people," seems ridiculous to me. American Jews, just like any other mature group of people, have their own brains and are surely mentally capable to draw conclusions on their own.
Your further deliberation in same letter, where you accuse us of engaging in activities that "may be viewed as racist," is wholly insulting and quite unproductive. Not one of the anti-Semitic images, those used in the Press Release or on our website, is of our own creation. All the images were taken late last year in the city of Lodz, where almost not a single street is clean of them. The most shocking of images, the most vulgar of curses, and the most horrific of anti-Semitic calls can be seen TODAY in almost every street in Lodz, the second largest city in Poland. Calls to throw Jews out of Poland, or send them back to the gas chambers, go unchallenged in a major city in your country. Images of Star-of-David on the gallows, swastikas, derogatory Star of David's, and other abominable graffiti adorn the walls of a EU member state in the year 2007, and you blame us?? That you would see in our cry for justice an act of racism, is quite frankly disturbing.
You also state that I overlook acts of kindness and friendship to Jews on part of Lodz institutions. You cite Lodz's "Four Cultures Festival" as an example. Well, to inform you, I've been there. I was amazed by how this Festival so carefully chooses Jewish shows that depict Jews as a nebbish bunch of idiots. You do find your Jews, I must admit. But it's not only that Festival: Most Polish theaters are guilty of the same attitude. (BTW: My attempts to get Polish theaters to join us in condemning the rise of anti-Semitism within their own country failed; no theater agreed to have the LAST JEW IN EUROPE produced in their theaters. In private conversations I was told that had they joined us, the government would've stopped funding them and that the masses would've rioted outside the theater, demanding the show be stopped.)
Responding to your last comment, about some citizens' efforts to paint over the anti-Semitic images, I am glad to inform you that I met those people-and always do when I am in Lodz. But you know the story as well as I: If you paint over those images, it takes a day or two and all the images "magically" reappear. As far as my knowledge goes, not one member of our theater is responsible for that. But one thing I can tell you: It is time, I think, that your government makes public display of anti-Semitism a felony. I have said so again and again, asked for it numerous times during my various visits to Lodz, but my requests fell on deaf ears. My dear Piotr: If you really care how your country is seen in this land, save your preaching to your own government and get them to move to action today. Blaming the victim is an interesting concept in psychology, but I refuse to will myself as your desperate patient.
It does happen now and again that Jewish organizations are being blamed for getting involved in matters not of their authority, and for trying to arbitrate and force opinion in issues they should not touch. (Witness the recent story re the Polish Consulate General in NYC.) If there's anything positive to your letter it is in the fact that the "Jews" are not the only ones engaging in such a ridiculous activity.
In conclusion, let me say this to you: My family comes from Poland, and most of my dead relatives lie in the belly its earth. You can call me Polish, if you so wish--and I will respond kindly. But know this: what I found in Lodz is just a little part of the puzzle; what I saw in other cities was even worse. You can read this Letter from Poland, where you'll learn what I found out recently: my grandparents remains being used as a fertilizer--to this day. I am saddened, probably more than you, by the state of anti-Semitism in your, and my, country. It's time that the Polish government start remedy the disease within instead of accusing everyone without.
With the hope that my words fall on willing ears,
Tuvia Tenenbom, Artistic Director
The Jewish Theater of New York
15 Penn Plaza, B53, New York City
Mail: P.O.B. 845, Times Square Sta., New York, NY 10108