Naomi Regan’s call for boycott of “disgusting play”

Israeli religious author Naomi Regan (Women’s Minyan) writes the following in a global email to her avid readers, using one of the most reliably flammable subject headers out there:

—– Original Message —–
Sent: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 3:40 PM
Subject: BOYCOTT “Seven Jewish Children”, the Jews=Nazis play, now in U.S.

Friends:  An Irish hotel had the decency to cancel a performance of the disgusting play “Seven Jewish Children,” whose main thesis is that Israeli Jews are just as bad as Nazis. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be showing in a theatre near you soon, including the Jewishly-funded and supported Theatre J, house in the Jewish Community center in Washington. And all to raise money for the poor Palestinians of Gaza! What is the matter with people? Please protest. Please boycott. Please raise your voices.  Naomi

Here’s my response to a friend who attached the the Regan email.

>>from ari:  The Naomi Regan piece is a small smear which inaccurately describes both the piece in question and our intentions with it. The play has nothing in it to suggest anything equating Israeli behavior with Nazism. We all know what Nazism achieved. Caryl Churchill’s critique of Israeli Jewish contains no parallel to any aspect of the Nazi regime.

We, at Theater J, are presenting a reading of Churchill’s play not to endorse it, but to examine it, to respond to it, to listen to it, and to interpret it. Much has been said about the play that is passionate, and some of the passion is over-heated and inaccurate. The play is very clever and deft in accurately overhearing what parents–Jewish parents–might say to their children. The play moves to a place where the parents say less attractive things. The play, it seems to me, attempts to hold up a mirror to capture and render the language of outrage — the language of feeling under siege — the language of being fed up and furious and, in that way, the play voices a certain kind of Jewish outrage. And it’s not a pretty picture. We hear that in Naomi Regan’s shrill call for a boycott.  And we hear that in pages 6 and 7 of Churchill’s 7 page play.

I am critical of the play, and that’s why I’m offering our stage for a reading–not a performance–of it. So it can be heard, digested, and responded to by our diverse audience. I trust that we will have a candid and responsible conversation about it. And that we will also present two artistic pieces written in response to the play; SEVEN PALESTINIAN CHILDREN by the Jewish American writer Deb Margolin, and THE EIGHTH CHILD, by Israeli Performance artist, Robbie Gringras

I also offer, below, our own Agency’s position on why we’re presenting this event:

• In keeping with Theater J’s longstanding commitment to presenting provocative plays that encourage debate and discussion on the most pressing moral and political issues of our time, we have decided to offer a presentation of Caryl Churchill’s eight-minute play Seven Jewish Children together with theatrical responses to the work and guided audience discussions. These theatrical counterpoints include American performance artist and playwright Deb Margolin’s Seven Palestinian Children and Israeli performance artist Robbie Gringras’s The Eighth Child.

• Theater J is now presenting the final week of its annual Voices from a Changing Middle East Festival. Festival audiences clearly have an interest in themes related to the politics, cultures and ethical concerns raised in any examination of the region. Thus Seven Jewish Children, Seven Palestinian Children and The Eighth Child—as well as the discussions accompanying these presentations—can be seen Thursday, March 26 and Saturday, March 28 following performances of the Festival’s closing production, Benedictus.

• Caryl Churchill is one of the world’s foremost playwrights. Seven Jewish Children is on one hand tremendously taut a nd compressed, often brilliantly overheard and fairly deft in its construction. On the other hand, the play is problematic, beginning with its title and its critical reading of Israeli actions in Gaza, suggesting that there is Jewish ownership—not merely the Israeli military’s responsibility—for the recent violence in Gaza. By presenting Seven Jewish Children together with the work of Margolin and Gringras, Theater J has chosen to confront Churchill’s message, explore its meanings and the attendant controversy, and examine issues raised by ongoing events in Gaza.

• The readings of Seven Jewish Children, Seven Palestinian Children and The Eighth Child are free and open to the public. The Washington DCJCC does not fundraise on behalf of any outside organization and no funds will be solicited on behalf of any third party. Churchill and her representatives have agreed to allow Theater J to present the play as described above, with discussion to follow.

2 thoughts on “Naomi Regan’s call for boycott of “disgusting play”

  1. Considering her impassioned argument against the abuse of women in the ultra-Orthodox community that formed the basis of her play, “Women’s Minyan,” I find it hard to understand how Naomi Regan can be calling for a boycott of “Seven Jewish Children.” In the columns she writes for a Jewish monthly that arrives in my mail, she seems to have been turning increasingly hostile to human rights, and I find that terribly sad.

    • Rick
      I totally agree that the person who wrote the important (imperfect but still politically exemplary) WOMEN’S MINYAN seems to have swerved in an entirely problematic directions. Maybe she’s blogging too quickly; emailing out to the world without bothering to read the things she’s critiquing. Thanks for paying attention to what we’re doing out East here.

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