Reactions from Israelis (and Americans too): on Theater J’s Participation in the J Street Conference

from Israeli playwright, Motti Lerner:

I read the article. I support you and encourage you to continue your collaboration with J street. I’m just about to leave for a writer’s conference in Kibbutz Genosar – on the Sea of Galilee and my speech is about the role the theatre should play in exploring new political ideas. That’s what I sow in all my plays. The theatre must introduce these new ideas into the political discourse all the time. We can take these new ideas from everywhere they are created: The political debates, the academy, the literature and even from the other side of the borders. We are a laboratory of ideas. This is what we should commit to.

from Yoav Lurie, writing on our Facebook page:

I am proud that Theater J is participating in the J-Street Conference; they are embodying the perfect role of a theater. If there is an AIPAC/J-Street conflict, I find myself on the AIPAC side. My grandfather signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence and I’m a proud and committed sabra. But I also know, understand, and deeply value the role of the arts broadly and theater specifically: as Edward Albee said, “All theater is political.” And Jewish theater is especially so. Arthur Miller, Aaron Sorkin, Sholem Aleichem, Wendy Wasserstein, Tom Stoppard – the playwrights who defined our Jewish theater were never afraid to get dirty mucking around in the politics of the day. They understood that the stage was an important platform upon which controversial topics needed to be discussed, challenged, and communally processed.

Theater holds a sacred place in our community: the intersection of art and reality, the place where we can engage the undergirding ideology of critical contemporary issues without getting mired in their specific, fleeting details. Theater is at its best – and it’s most Jewish – when there is disagreement: between the actors, the playwright, the director, and most importantly the audience.

To silence this active dialogue is to crush the soul of Jewish theater and it is to turn away from the fundamental artistic and intellectual spirit of our people. If there is one thing for which there is no place in Jewish theater, however, it’s censorship. Bravo to Theater J for standing up.

from Elaine Reuben, sent as a Letter To The Editor c/o The Washington Jewish Week:

Who or what is “COPMA,” other than two individuals whose complaints and opinions you quote, and why should so much attention be given them? Whom do they represent, and what is their purpose?

I cannot find a website, mission statement, list of officers, address at which to contact or respond. There certainly are responses to make to what seems a vision of art without connection to our world, including all its complexities and controversies that might even be considered “political.”

One can, however, easily find Theater J. It has been an important locus of thoughtful theater in Washington for years. It offers our community multiple opportunities around its productions (including the reading of “Seven Jewish Children”) for learning and feedback, intelligent sharing and civil discussion. That is what it will be doing in the so-called Culture Track at the J Street Conference: seems worth applause, not attack.