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Broadway had a very Jewish year, but there is more to the Jewish story than antisemitism and the Holocaust

(JTA) — Broadway gave out its Tony Awards last month, and as I kept whispering to my wife, it was “a big night for the Jews.”

Leopoldstadt,” Tom Stoppard’s Holocaust drama, won best play. “Parade,” about the lynching of a Jewish man in the American South, won best musical revival. Miriam Silverman (“The Sign in Sydney Brustein’s Window”) and Brandon Uranowitz (“Leopoldstadt”) won for signature Jewish roles, and Alfred Uhry, who wrote the book for “Parade,” spoke while wearing a two-inch diamond Magen David lapel pin.

It was, in fact, a very prominent season for Jews on Broadway stages and beyond. “The Sign in Sydney Brustein’s Window,” Lorraine Hansberry’s second play — with a white, Jewish protagonist — arrived in a star-studded Broadway bow. “Prayer for the French Republic” at Manhattan Theatre Club — an examination of antisemitism in France — marked a massive turn in playwright Josh Harmon’s Jewish journey (and will return to Broadway next season).

The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg raved over Edward Einhorn’s “Shylock and the Shakespeareans,” a reworking of Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” and Second Stage presented “Camp Seigfried,” a different angle on German fascism. In California, the La Jolla Playhouse tried out “Lempika,” a musical about the notorious Jewish artist Tamara de Lempicka, who fled Europe for the United States in 1939.

You might see a thesis at work in producing these shows — most of which spotlight Nazis, antisemitism or the Holocaust — right now: They urge audiences to remember and learn from the past in order to prevent future atrocities, at a time when antisemitism is on the rise (or at least outward manifestations of the ancient hatred; one could argue it has been there all along). 

There’s lots to recommend this idea. A history forgotten is a history that will repeat. Representation matters. Giving Jews the moral victory (if not the narrative one) strengthens our resolve. Great artistry in the service of big ideas is a win for everyone. 

And let’s not leave out the performances themselves. Uranowitz in particular was brilliant and gave a moving Tony speech honoring his ancestors who were murdered by the Nazis in Poland.

However, I can’t help but admit to some skepticism. I’m drawn by thinkers like Dara Horn, author of “People Love Dead Jews,” who ask, “By revisiting the history of raging antisemitism, are we just giving violent extremists a to-do list for the future?” 

“A Moving Picture” by Jennie Berman Eng, presented at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, Dec. 1, 2022. (Basil Rodericks)

And it’s definitely debatable whether reliving trauma is mentally healthy for those affected. (My wife, a daughter of both a Holocaust and Tree of Life shooting survivor, gets significantly triggered by poking at these wounds.)

But more important is that today’s Jewish life — even the parts necessarily focused on antisemitism — is radically different than it was 50 or 75 or 500 years ago. Even with the challenges and outright discrimination, the Jewish community today (here and abroad) is more diverse, more free and more complex than at arguably any time in history. 

So I’d like to humbly offer some alternatives for producers and artistic directors who want Jewish representation on their stages. As the artistic director of the Jewish Plays Project, a development house for 21st-century Jewish theater based in New York and working around the country, I have the unique pleasure to be able to point to the plays written in just the last few years that can change the paradigm right now

I’d like to encourage folks to think about Jewish joy. See Audrey Lang’s amazing character Librarian of the Jewish Soul in her play “Birdie & Cait and the Book of Life” or the Adon Olam sequence at the end of Mark Leiren Young’s “Bar Mitzvah Boy.”

Think about Jewish ethics. Beth Kander’s “Return” puts todays’ scientific breakthroughs and faith right up against each other; Marshall Botvinick’s poetic “To Reach Across a River” gives us an Orthodox woman refusing to leave her faith when she adopts a bi-racial daughter; and Cindy Cooper’s “I Was a Stranger Too” directly advocates for immigrants through a Jewish lens. 

Stage Jewish diversity. Ali Viterbi’s “In Every Generation,” Molly Olis-Krost’s “What We Found” and EllaRose Chary’s “The Wrong Question” show us parts of the Jewish world — Jews of Color and queer Jews, among other mixed and modern identities — that haven’t made it to the stage much. (And we’re all waiting with baited breath for the results of Expanding the Canon, Theater J’s significant commissioning program for Jewish artists of Color.) 

Talk about Israel/Palestine without blowing the roof of the joint. Seth Rozin’s “Settlements” is nuanced and compelling and real. Alexa Derman’s hilarious and satirical cri-de-coeur “Zionista Rising” — which just won the JPP’s National Playwriting Contest —brings sharp, contemporary humor to a difficult conversation.

And if you feel you have to talk about the Holocaust and Shylock — and sometimes you do — do it with a new and vital eye. Jenny Berman Eng’s “A Moving Picture” features a cast of three Jews of Color, one Black doctoral candidate and a white student working out how to make a 100% true Holocaust film, and Eric Marlin’s “there will come a time for vengeance” mashes up Shakespeare and his contemporary Christopher Marlowe with theatrical flair.

The point is, it’s a big Jewish world out there — exciting and current and diverse. The hundreds of Jewish Plays Project artists and audience members who are part of our ongoing experiment in artistic democracy are hungry to see that life show up at theaters all over the country. 

If we can do that, we might see a Tony Awards (and Obies and Jeffs and Barrymores and more) that both celebrates brilliant work and moves the Jewish conversation forward — not by being anti-antisemitism, but by being truly pro-Jewish.

That would really be a big night for the Jews.

The post Broadway had a very Jewish year, but there is more to the Jewish story than antisemitism and the Holocaust appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Jordan Reaffirms Commitment to Peace With Israel After Iran Attack, Says Ending Treaty Would Hurt Palestinians

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi attends a press conference after a meeting on the Gaza situation in the government’s representation facility in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 15, 2023. Photo: NTB/Stian Lysberg Solum via REUTERS

Senior Jordanian officials recently reaffirmed the country’s commitment to maintaining peace with Israel, despite protests erupting across Jordan against their treaty amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

Pro-Hamas protesters have been actively campaigning to end the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, which the two countries signed in 1994 to end the state of war that had existed between them for decades and establish diplomatic relations. The treaty followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, a historic agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi said on Sunday that the peace deal was best for not only his country but also the Palestinians.

“The treaty actualized all our rights and served our interests. Revoking it would not be in Jordan’s or the Palestinians’ interest,” Al-Safadi told Jordan’s official news channel Al-Mamlaka in remarks flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “If we thought even for a moment that revoking it would be in the interest of Jordan or of the Palestinians, we would have done so without hesitation.”

Revoking the peace treaty, he continued, would “harm both Jordan and Palestine and greatly limit our ability to continue fulfilling our main and primary role in providing aid to the Palestinian people … The peace treaty is a source of strength for us and allows us to continue our role of aiding the Palestinian people while protecting our interests.”

Al-Safadi’s comments came one day after Jordan — along with the US, Britain, and France — helped Israel repel an unprecedented direct attack by Iran against the Israeli homeland. Iran fired over 300 drones and missiles at the Jewish state, nearly all of which were shot out of the air. Only one injury was reported in Israel.

The chief diplomat’s defense of the peace treaty also came amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which has fueled anti-Israel animus across Jordan. Thousands of protesters have been routinely gathering for weeks to lambast Israel, express solidarity with Hamas, and call for an end to the peace treaty. Al-Safadi addressed such opposition in his comments.

“We respect Jordanian public opinion,” he said. “Back in 1994, when [the treaty] was signed, it protected our interests. We regained all our occupied lands, and the treaty enshrined Jordan’s special role in administrating the places holy to Islam and to Christianity in Jerusalem. Were it not for this role, there would have been a vacuum, and Israel would have exploited this to impose its own sovereignty and administration on the holy places rather than granting them to the Palestinians.”

Al-Safadi wasn’t the only official to recently articulate Jordan’s commitment to the peace treaty amid calls to revoke it and mass anti-Israel protests over the Gaza war.

Jordan’s government spokesman, Muhannad Mubaidin, told Sky News Arabia late last month that Hamas was inciting the Jordanian people against their leadership. The Palestinian terrorist group and its supporters in Jordan, he said, were trying “to force Jordan to choose different options,” but “peace is our strategic choice and the peace treaty [with Israel] is what allows us to fulfill our role of easing the pressures on the people in the West Bank.”

MEMRI was first to report Mubaidin’s comments in English.

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US Stops UN From Recognizing a Palestinian State Through Membership

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting to address the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The United States on Thursday effectively stopped the United Nations from recognizing a Palestinian state by casting a veto in the Security Council to deny the Palestinian Authority full membership of the world body.

The United States says an independent Palestinian state should be established through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and not through UN action.

It vetoed a draft resolution that recommended to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained, while the remaining 12 council members voted yes.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a recognition that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the West Bank.

“Recent escalations make it even more important to support good-faith efforts to find lasting peace between Israel and a fully independent, viable, and sovereign Palestinian state,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council earlier on Thursday.

“Failure to make progress towards a two-state solution will only increase volatility and risk for hundreds of millions of people across the region, who will continue to live under the constant threat of violence,” he said.

Israel‘s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Palestinians failed to meet the criteria to become a full UN member, which he outlined as: a permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter relations with other states.

“Who is the council voting to ‘recognize’ and give full membership status to? Hamas in Gaza? The Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Nablus? Who?” Erdan asked the Security Council earlier on Thursday.

He said granting full UN membership to Palestinians “will have zero positive impact for any party, that will cause only destruction for years to come, and harm any chance for future dialogue.”

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.

Ziad Abu Amr, special envoy of Abbas, earlier asked the US: “How could this damage the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis? How could this recognition and this membership harm international peace and security?”

“Those who are trying to disrupt and hinder the adoption of such a resolution … are not helping the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis and the prospects for peace in the Middle East in general,” he told the Security Council.

Abu Amr said full Palestinian UN membership was not an alternative for serious political negotiations to implement a two-state solution and resolve pending issues, adding: “However, this resolution will grant hope to the Palestinian people hope for a decent life within an independent state.”

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The value of Jews to Canada today: What would the cost be if the community packed up and left?

Jonathan L. Milevsky is an author and educator. Raphi Zaionz is the founder of mygoals Inc. Both live in Toronto, for the moment. (The latter’s children either have left or are planning to leave Canada.) Towards the end of the film Schindler’s List, there’s a scene in which the famous non-Jewish philanthropist, who saved over […]

The post The value of Jews to Canada today: What would the cost be if the community packed up and left? appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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