(New York Jewish Week) – A young woman imagines herself standing inside the office of a fast-talking, bowtie-wearing, pipe-smoking editor of a major publishing house in New York City.
She’s just submitted her diary — a memoir of her life in hiding from Nazis and subsequent detention in a concentration camp — for his review, and stands in front of him as he scrutinizes her experiences, deeming them plausible or not, appropriate or absurd.
The woman is Anne Frank, and the imagined scene is the premise of “Anne Being Frank,” one of two shows based on Frank’s diary that are running Off-Broadway in New York City this fall. The other is “Anne Frank, a Musical.”
The one-woman show, which opened on Sept. 4 at Manhattan’s Emerging Artists Theatre, presents a new version of the Anne Frank story in which she pens her diary while she is dying in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, rather than writing it while in hiding in Amsterdam. The show depicts her suffering from starvation and sexual assault in the camps, and eventually contracting a lethal case of typhus, all of which changes the tone of her writing.
“Instead of leaving people with this idea that all these people are really good at heart, she’s grown up and seen the atrocities and the things that have happened to her,” Amanda Lerner, the director of “Anne Being Frank,” told the New York Jewish Week, referencing a famous passage of the diary in which Frank writes, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”
Lerner added that she wanted to represent the experience of Holocaust victims in the camps and depict the “truth of all of the other people who have lived these stories — without apologizing for it,” she said.
Frank’s story is among the most well-known Holocaust narratives, and the creators of both shows said that they saw it as an avenue for conveying the gravity of the Holocaust to audiences, especially non-Jewish ones. The two productions come during a time when works about Frank’s life have taken a central place in national debates about education and censorship. Recently, multiple school districts have banned a graphic novel based on Frank’s diary, and in September, a teacher was allegedly fired in Texas for reading it aloud to students.
Earlier this year, the National Geographic limited series “A Small Light” told the Anne Frank story from the perspective of Miep Gies, the woman who helped hide the Frank family.
“For me, the Anne Frank story is, and really should be, universal,” said David Serero, who directed and produced “Anne Frank, a Musical,” and stars as Frank’s father, Otto. “Of course, it’s a Jewish story, but I think it’s important to share that story so it will never happen again. It’s important for others to know the damage that such a thing can do.”
The diary has been adapted dozens of times in the more than seven decades since its publication, beginning with the 1955 Broadway show, “The Diary of Anne Frank,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.
“In the 1950s when her diary came out, Anne Frank became probably the most well known victim of the Holocaust,” said Dr. Alex Sagan, a historian affiliated with Harvard’s Center for European Studies who has written extensively about adaptations of Frank’s diary. “It’s a very famous and resonant story. Everybody knows it, and it’s understandable that lots of people are inspired to retell it. The question is, what should our judgment be about what they produce?”
He said adaptations should be judged based on whether they “impart inaccurate information,” and added that observers should “ask to what extent does it teach us or make us feel something about the story of Frank, or about her diary, that is really meaningful.”
Sagan added that while adaptations and retellings should stay accurate to the diary, there is still plenty of opportunity for artistic license.
“They’re going to reflect the moment in which they’re created, the medium in which they’re created and the creators,” he said. “So it doesn’t mean that they have no individuality, and it means that when they’re created, they see where they might seem very relevant if they’re well done.”
The publishing house scene in “Anne Being Frank” speaks to the question of whether and how future generations will receive Holocaust stories. In the play, Anne (played by actress Alexis Fishman) imagines the conversation with the editor as she lays dying in her bunk in Bergen-Belsen.
She considers how an editor — and the world — might perceive her and her story after they learn the truth about humanity. The editor, while praising her as a writing prodigy, finds the details, especially the events in the camps, implausible.
“The reason that I have spent such a great chunk of my career in writing speculative history is that I truly believe that truth is stranger than fiction — that no writer can match the sheer unpredictability and madness of the real world,” said Ron Elisha, the play’s writer. “There’s nothing that happens in my play that could not have happened. These things happened. They need to be explained.”
The second show out this fall, “Anne Frank, a Musical,” is less speculative about what happens after Frank was discovered in the annex in Amsterdam. Instead, it reinterprets the events depicted in Anne’s diary through song.
The musical, which was originally written in French by Jean-Pierre Hadida in 2007, was adapted for an American audience in English by Serero. It premiered in 2019 at the Center for Jewish History and opens this year on October 11 at the Actor’s Temple Theater.
“Of course, people in America and in New York were a little bit reluctant when they heard, ‘a musical about Anne Frank,’ but a musical doesn’t have to be about something joyful. It’s emotive,” Serero said. “I can assure you, I have a lot of respect in the approach of all the characters in order to make them believable onstage.”
The musical opens in the present day, with a group of teenagers visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. When they start to ask questions about her life, they are quickly transported back in time to the same place in 1942.
“To bring it through the medium of music is very important because we sing what we cannot say — there are things that only music can express,” Serero said. “When you add music, the diary of Anne Frank becomes the life of Anne Frank.”
And though the productions approach the story differently, they each reflect contemporary perspectives on the world. “Anne Being Frank” aims to show the graphic, violent suffering and death of Jews in the Holocaust, and to invite viewers to think about what happened next — rather than solely the hope reflected in the most famous passage of Frank’s diary. The show, in some ways, asks its viewers to interrogate other places or moments where the full story isn’t being told.
For Serero, the “secret of the musical’s success,” is that it connects Frank’s story to atrocities today.
“You could say that this story is over,” he said. “But still today, people are killed because of who they are.”
“Anne Being Frank” is playing at the Emerging Artists Theatre (15 W. 28th St.) through Oct. 29; tickets start at $59. “Anne Frank, a Musical” is playing from Oct. 11 through Nov. 5 at the Actors Temple Theatre (339 W. 47th St.). Tickets start at $36.50.
The post 2 Off-Broadway shows offer fresh perspectives on Anne Frank’s story appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Israeli and Jewish activists take campaign for greater concern about Oct. 7 sex crimes to UN
(JTA) — Less than a week after the United Nations secretary general urged an investigation into reported sexual violence by Hamas, the Israeli U.N. mission held a conference on the allegations and pressed the international community to speak out more forcefully against them.
“We have come so far in believing survivors of sexual assault in so many situations. That’s why the silence on these war crimes is dangerous,” said former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg, the event’s keynote speaker. “The world has to decide who to believe. Do we believe the Hamas spokesperson who said that rape is forbidden, therefore it couldn’t have possibly happened on October 7th? Or do we believe the women whose bodies tell us how they spent the last few minutes of their lives?”
A CNN op-ed by Sandberg, and an accompanying Instagram post, have been at the center of a growing protest by Israeli and Jewish women who charge that the U.N. and other international bodies have dismissed or downplayed reports of sexual violence during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The protest has spread via the hashtag #Me_Too_UNless_UR_a_Jew and found its real-life expression in Monday’s event, which drew 700 people to U.N. headquarters on Manhattan’s East Side.
Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan took aim in particular at U.N. Women — the organization’s arm for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment — which caught flak for posting and then deleting a statement condemning the Hamas attack.
“Sadly, the very international bodies that are supposedly the defenders of all women show that when it comes to Israelis, indifference is acceptable,” Erdan said in his opening remarks.
“U.N. Women ignored all of the proof and were blind to all the evidence, including video footage of testimonies of sexual crimes,” he said. “Instead of immediately supporting the victims, U.N. Women brazenly suggested that Hamas’ gender-based violence be investigated by a blatantly antisemitic U.N. body.”
The condemnation of the U.N. is the latest in a long line of complaints Israel has had about the body both before and during its ongoing war with Hamas. In late October, Erdan called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign after he said the Oct. 7 attack “did not happen in a vacuum.”
The United Nations General Assembly has yet to condemn Hamas and has called for a cessation of the conflict, which restarted last week after a seven-day pause in which Hamas released more than 100 hostages and Israel released hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners..
Last week, Guterres called for an investigation into sexual violence by Hamas. But speakers at Monday’s event pushed for more from world leaders. Sandberg called for “the entire U.N. to formally condemn, investigate, hold the terrorists accountable.” Erdan, to loud applause, called for an “investigation of U.N. Women’s indifference to the heinous crimes against Israeli women”
In the nearly two months since the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7, Israeli law enforcement, search and rescue groups, and the country’s recently formed Civil Commission on October 7 Crimes by Hamas against Women and Children have collected evidence and testimony regarding Hamas’ sexual violence on Oct. 7. Over the weekend, The Sunday Times reported testimony from survivors of the Nova music festival recalling women being gang raped and beheaded.
Sheila Katz, the CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women, which organized the event along with other women’s rights groups, drew a parallel between last week’s Torah portion, which includes the Biblical story of the rape of Dinah, and the experiences of the victims of Oct. 7. Katz noted that Dinah’s voice is notably missing from the Biblical narrative.
“For generations, survivors of sexual assaults have looked to Dina’s story because it speaks so powerfully to the secondary trauma of being unheard, ignored and reduced to mere objects for debate,” said Katz, who invited people to step out of the room if they felt the need, given the graphic nature of the event. “And we heard this with new significance this year, because Israeli women and girls were recently tortured, raped, and killed, forever silenced by Hamas.”
Several actors attended the event, including Tovah Feldshuh, Julianna Margulies, Emmy Rossum and Debra Messing, all of whom have spoken out against antisemitism or Hamas’ attack. (Margulies was also fresh off an apology after making disparaging comments about Black Americans who have not supported Jews after Oct. 7.)
The event also featured people who tended to victims of the event, including representatives from ZAKA, the Orthodox Israeli first-responder organization, and the Israeli police, who have been collecting and documenting evidence from victims of sexual violence and people who witnessed the violence. They recounted graphic stories, to which the crowd responded vocally with murmurs, gasps and tears. Some in the audience exchanged tissues, hugs and pats on the back for extra support.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a Democrat, also came and discussed seeing a compilation of footage of the attack that a group of senators recently viewed.
“I’ve seen much of the raw footage. It takes your breath away,” she said. “You can’t unsee it.”
Speaking to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency after the event, Sandberg said silence surrounding sexual violence is connected to a dearth of female representation on the world stage.
“You look in that hall at those flags — those are countries run by men, very few are run by women. I really wanted that to change in my lifetime. It’s not going to happen, not going to be close,” she said. “But that means the progress we fought for to get women’s women’s rights and protection of our bodies, protection of who we are, protection against systematic, sexualized violence — can’t be lost. And that is why anyone can speak out. And when they speak out, we have to all unite together as quickly as possible.”
The post Israeli and Jewish activists take campaign for greater concern about Oct. 7 sex crimes to UN appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Canada’s Rally for the Jewish People brought thousands to Ottawa calling for the return of the hostages in Gaza—while delivering a loud rebuke to the recent waves of antisemitism
A detailed report from a spirited snowy scene on Monday afternoon.
The post Canada’s Rally for the Jewish People brought thousands to Ottawa calling for the return of the hostages in Gaza—while delivering a loud rebuke to the recent waves of antisemitism appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.
Despite bus driver boycott, thousands attend pro-Israel rally in Ottawa
MONTREAL (JTA) — Despite a foot of snow in Montreal and chartered buses that never showed up in Toronto, thousands of Canadian Jews assembled on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday to voice solidarity with Israel and decry a rise in antisemitism.
Despite concerns over overall security in Canada’s capital city, which was tight, the rally’s speakers included several prominent Canadian politicians, Jewish leaders, college students who feel unsafe on campus and family members of Israelis taken hostage or killed by Hamas on Oct. 7.
Local Jewish leaders called the event, organized by Jewish federations across Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a historic gathering. But just weeks after a similar incident in Detroit before a massive pro-Israel rally in Washington, 17 of 70 chartered buses did not show up to pick up rally-goers in Toronto.
Organizers called the no-show bus company antisemitic.
“Despite charging in full in advance and confirming its participation, the [unidentified] company did not send a single bus and has declined all communications while refusing to provide any explanations,” said Adam Minsky, president and CEO of United Jewish Appeal Federations in Toronto.
“We are driven to the view that this shameful decision is intended to disrupt our peaceful rally out of hatred toward Jews,” he added. “What happened today is sickening and outrageous. We will respond aggressively with every legal and public affairs tool at our disposal.”
Israel’s ambassador to Canada Iddo Moed, Liberal Party member of parliament Anthony Housefather and deputy Conservative Party leader Melissa Lantsman all spoke on Monday.
“This is not 1943. I’m grateful that Israel exists and has an army to fight back against those who launched this pogrom,” said Housefather, who is Jewish and represents Montreal’s heavily Jewish Mount Royal district.
Raquel Look, whose son Alexandre was murdered at the music festival in southern Israel attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7, called on Canadian politicians to take more action against antisemitism. Hate crimes against Jews — including multiple incidents that have involved Molotov cocktails thrown at Montreal-area synagogues — have spiked across Canada.
“Our sorrow is deep and immeasurable but today we want to channel this immense pain into a call for action,” Look said. “Please let us honour his memory by standing up against the forces that seek to destroy Jewish and Canadians values we hold so dear.”
The post Despite bus driver boycott, thousands attend pro-Israel rally in Ottawa appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.