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Flirting with danger: A play based on the true story of 3 Dutch women who lured Nazis to their deaths premieres in NYC

(New York Jewish Week) — During World War II, three young women formed a small legion of the Dutch underground resistance, fighting Nazis with the most powerful weapons at their disposal: their youth, their gender and their sexuality. 

They were sisters Freddie and Truus Oversteegen and Hannie Schaft, who, in  1940 were 14, 16 and 20, respectively. While they, along with other resistance fighters, used dynamite to destroy bridges and railroads, and helped hide Jewish children and smuggled Jews out of the country, the very young women also would go to bars and pick up Nazi soldiers. They would ask the men to go for a walk in the forest under the pretense of romance or sex — and then shoot and kill them. Their story was told in a 2019 book, “Seducing and Killing Nazis,” by the Dutch author and activist Sophie Poldermans.

Now, a new play based on their actions, “The Moss Maidens,” is one of eight plays selected from 300 submissions showing at the SheNYC Festival at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th St.) this week. 

In my communities, both young women and Jewish people, I feel like there’s a lot of rage right now,” New York-based playwright S. Dylan Zwickel, 30, told the New York Jewish Week. “I think it will be both exciting and cathartic for people to get to see these girls raging and behaving badly and fighting systems that don’t work for them, and don’t work for people they care about, on stage.”

“The Moss Maidens” has already sold out three performances at the annual festival, which features plays written and created by people of “marginalized genders,” including ciswomen, trans and non-binary people. SheNYC chooses its submissions based on representation and how well its themes grapple with current events, Eh-den Perlove, one of the festival’s organizers said.

Due to the demand for “The Moss Maidens,” a fourth performance has been added, a first in the festival’s eight-year history. “Part of the reason ‘The Moss Maidens’ has resonated so much is that we’re having renewed discussions around white supremacy,” Perlove said. “It’s always been there, but it’s so relevant to how we’re kind of reacting in our day-to-day, to white supremacy, to Nazism, to neo-Nazism. It helps us ask ourselves, as a group who are maybe being persecuted or who see persecution, ‘What can you do to kind of stand up against that?’”

Ahead of the play’s opening on Wednesday, the New York Jewish Week caught up with Zwickel to discuss her inspiration for the show and why she felt the story was so relevant and necessary to tell.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

S. Dylan Zwickel is the Jewish playwright of “The Moss Maidens.” (Yekaterina Gyadu, design by Grace Yagel)

What was the inspiration for this play?

The play is based on a true story of the young Dutch women that did this, which was my initial impetus for writing the show. In addition to doing all of this active resistance work by actually murdering Nazis, one of them was hiding Jews in her home. I first read about it a few years ago in a random article — I don’t even remember where — and as soon as I read it, I was like, “I have to tell this story.” Then I read a great book about these girls: “Seducing and Killing Nazis,” which is written from several firsthand accounts of what happened. The author had access to a lot of people who knew them, and even some of the women themselves — two that lived to be 92 and died in 2016 and 2018, which is really remarkable.

I ultimately decided not to make my story exactly that of the true story and just made my play inspired by that story. That book provided great research so I could come up with my own characters and plot based on their experience; it was really exciting having the creative license of making them my own characters, and being able to sort of dive into aspects of it that may not have been included in the original story. But there’s always that layer there that people really did make this choice. People really did do these things. 

Why is it important to tell this story in 2023?

There is a certain catharsis getting to watch these young girls fight back against the people who feel that way [about Jews]. For me, amidst the rising tides of antisemitism that are happening right now, it feels very easy to react by wanting to remember how badly things have gone in the past. I do think that is extremely important, but it’s also important to think about how that instinct can be fought. The story that, as a Jewish person, you’re expected to tell about World War II, is details of the Holocaust and people suffering. It’s so important to remember all of that, but I also needed the catharsis of people fighting back. I would rather write about and live in this world of people killing Nazis rather than my people being killed. That’s what I wanted to focus on. 

The story is still so relevant. A couple of weeks ago, I was on my way to see “Camelot” at Lincoln Center and there was this guy shouting antisemitic conspiracies and he had posters with antisemitic cartoons. I went into rehearsal the next day, and there’s a line in the play where a Nazi is talking about the Final Solution. I got so nauseous that I had to leave the room — having just seen this guy on the street the day before, I became so aware that there are still people who feel this way and it’s so  much closer than we think. 

One of the books that I read for research, “The Diary Keepers” by Nina Siegal, uses testimony from the thousands of diary entries written in the Netherlands during World War II. Siegal combed through them, translated them and published a book using these diaries. She included perspectives of Jews, perspectives of resistance fighters, perspectives of citizens who were not involved at all and just kept our heads down — which was most people — and also perspectives of Nazis and Nazi collaborators. It was really interesting reading that, especially reading about the beginning of the war and just feeling how close we are to how it did start. It was alarming, but also enlightening.

Why is it important to give these young Dutch women a voice?

Pretty much all of my writing features young women. That is an area of focus for me. I think of everything that I write as “a superhero origin story.” It’s all about girls stepping into their power. That’s true across everything I write, but this is kind of the best and biggest example of it, which is one of the reasons I’ve so enjoyed working on it — it just feels like the most major, distilled and exciting version of that. 

It is just so remarkable that during that time there were these girls who, despite everything they were being told by society, had the awareness to make a different choice. There’s a lot of discussion in the play about the choice to be doing this and how easy it would have been to make a different choice. I hope that this play can help inspire young women to ask themselves, “Could I be one of these girls? Is this how I would respond in a situation like this?”

As you were writing and researching the play, was there anything unexpected that you learned about yourself or about the story?

Well, it was interesting because I initially wasn’t thinking of the play as that Jewish because the characters are not Jewish — one is half-Jewish. I didn’t want to make any of them Jewish “just because,” for two reasons. One, historically, they would have had to either be in hiding or have escaped already, so they wouldn’t have been able to be doing the activities they were doing. The other reason is I was really interested in the idea of these girls fighting to protect not themselves but other people. For the most part, the girls say they don’t even know any Jews, so they’re really not fighting for any friends of theirs, just for belief in the rights and humanity of all people.

The more we’ve worked on it, the more I’ve realized how Jewish the sense of morality and the cultural values in the play are. Even though these are not written as Jewish girls, they bear a lot of resemblance to Jewish girls and women that I know. I’ve written them as loud and brave and bold and opinionated — all of these things that I associate as being Jewish cultural values. So I think even though I didn’t write them as Jewish characters, I was surprised to discover how much of my own Jewish culture embedded itself in there anyway.

“The Moss Maidens” will be performed at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th St.) four times this week. A digital version of the show will be available for purchase for $5 and will be available to stream from August 4-6. Find tickets and information about the SheNYC Festival here

The post Flirting with danger: A play based on the true story of 3 Dutch women who lured Nazis to their deaths premieres in NYC appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto

“Greetings from the Seventh Zionist Congress to our friends in Toronto” reads the top message on this postcard sent from the 1905 Congress in Basel, the first held after the death of Theodor Herzl. The image was painted by Carl Josef Pollack and depicts Herzl standing among his fellow Jews awaiting entrance to the Land of […]

The post Treasure Trove: A 1905 postcard from Basel recalls the many Zionist groups and supporters in Toronto appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Arteries of Capitalism’: Anti-Zionist Groups Planning Major ‘Blockade’ of Ports Around the World

Pro-Hamas demonstrators marching in Munich, Germany. Photo: Reuters/Alexander Pohl

Far-left anti-Israel activists are launching a mass demonstration to block the “arteries of capitalism” on Monday by staging a blockade of commercial shipping ports across the world in protest of Western support for the Jewish state.

“We will identify and blockade major choke points in the economy, focusing on points of production and circulation with the aim of causing the most economic impact,” A15, the group planning the action, announced in a statement. “There is a sense in the streets in this recent and unprecedented movement for Palestine that escalation has become necessary: there is a need to shift from symbolic actions to those that cause pain to the economy.”

A15 is calling on members in cities such as New York, Dublin, Sydney, Ho Chi Minh, Genoa, London, and others to participate in the act, which could endanger billions of dollars in shipping. The group is also sharing information about police arrest, bail, and other legal information, possibly suggesting that its members are prepared to behave unlawfully.

“As Yemen is bombed to secure global trade and billions of dollars are sent to the Zionist war machine, we must recognize that the global economy is complicit in genocide and together we will coordinate to disrupt and blockage economic logistical hubs and the flow of capital,” the group continued.

Another anti-Zionist group, which goes by “Within Our Lifetime,” has vowed to join the demonstration and will participate by amassing on Wall Street in an attempt to bring trading on the New York Stock Exchange to a halt. Nerdeen Kiswani, a former City University of New York student who once threatened to set a person’s sweater on fire while he was wearing it, will lead the effort.

Police in Victoria, Australia are on high alert, according to a report this weel by The Sydney Morning Herald. On Monday, the city will activate its State Police Operations Center, an action which is reserved for emergencies and will require diverting resources from other cities in the state. One likely target of the group, the Port of Melbourne, processes over 8,000 containers per day and adds $11 billion to national gross domestic product (GDP).

Anti-Zionist protesters have protested at the Port of Melbourne before. In January, they attempted to prevent the docking container ship at Webb Dock because its owner, ZIM shipping firm, is an Israeli company.

The New York City area has been the site of similar demonstrations. In 2021, a group called “Block the Boat” protested the unloading of a container ship owned by ZIM at the Port of New York/New Jersey, two days after another Israeli ship was reportedly blocked from unloading in Oakland.

Since the Hamas terror group’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, attempted disruptions of shipping have occurred in many major American cities. Most recently, a group amassed at San Francisco’s Piers 30/32 to condemn the leaving of USNS Harvey Milk, believing that it was en route to the Middle East.

US Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addressed the protesters, according to a local CBS affiliate, telling them that President Joe Biden agrees with their message.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Biden Pressure on Israel Partly Due to Concerns Over 2024 Election, Says Israeli Lawmaker, Former UN Ambassador

US President Joe Biden, left, pauses during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: Miriam Alster/Pool via REUTERS

Israeli politician and former Ambassador Danny Danon attributed US President Joe Biden’s increasingly critical posture toward Israel’s war on the Hamas terrorist group to domestic political concerns and the upcoming presidential election in a wide-ranging interview with The Algemeiner.

Danon, a current member of the Israeli parliament for the Likud party and former ambassador to the United Nations, spoke with The Algemeiner to discuss the ongoing war against the Hamas , potential escalation in northern Israel with the Hezbollah terrorist organization, and the evolving politics of the US-Israel relationship.

Asked about Biden’s pressure on Israel not to enter Rafah — the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza — and to agree to a ceasefire, Danon said, “You know, a ceasefire without us bringing the hostages back and defeating Hamas, it means that Israel will lose this war.”

“I don’t think that President Biden and other allies of Israel are actually supporting the stand of Israel losing the war,” he continued, arguing that “they have other interests in moving forward because of the election in the US and international pressure, but we have a different timeline.”

When asked to clarify if he believed the upcoming presidential election in the US was fueling Biden’s current policy toward Israel — especially in the form of public and private pressure — Danon reiterated that he believes “it’s a combination of the election and also international pressure.”

In several US states, activists have been campaigning for voters not to support Biden in the Democratic primary due to his overall support for Israel. In Michigan, for example, a key battleground state and home to America’s largest Arab population, a campaign to vote “uncommitted” during the state’s primary rather than for Biden gained significant support. Some prominent observers have suggested that the Biden administration’s changing position on Israel and the war in Gaza may be influenced by domestic political fears of losing electoral support from anti-Israel voters.

Meanwhile, amid escalating tensions on Israel’s northern front with Hezbollah, which wields significant political and military influence across Lebanon, Danon made it clear that Israel would remove the threat of Hezbollah on its border one way or another.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, “tens of thousands of Israelis have been evacuated from the northern communities” due to the rockets launched by Hezbollah on a nearly daily basis, he explained. In total, more than 2,000 rockets, along with many more anti-tank guided missiles and drones, have been launched into Israeli territory since the war began.

“They … have to be able to go back to their homes. In order for them to go back, we … have to push Hezbollah away from the border,” he said. “So that’s the end game.”

How that may happen in practice remains uncertain: “One option is to have negotiations and to prevent the conflict,” he said. “And the second option is to have a limited conflict. And the third option is to have a full war with Hezbollah.”

Regardless, he added, in the end Hezbollah “will not be on the fence and they will not threaten our communities.”

The interview took place prior to last week’s airstrike on Iran’s consulate in Damascus, Syria last week that Iranian officials have attributed to Israel.

the Israeli strike in Syria that killed two commanders in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) — putting Israel on high alert for the prospect of a direct Iranian attack on Israeli territory. The strike killed seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a US-designated terrorist organization, including two senior commanders.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied involvement in the incident. However, Israel has been bracing for a retaliatory strike amid a flurry of public threats from Iran to attack Israel.

Another important issue that has captured the attention of the citizens of Israel and the entire Jewish world is the continued captivity of more than 130 people in Gaza who Hamas terrorists kidnapped during their Oct. 7 rampage. Liberated captives testified to surviving sexual assault, torture, and starvation.

“When you deal with the [sic] irrational enemy like Hamas, it’s very challenging [to negotiate a deal],” Danon said. “I think we should apply more force, more military force, and that will encourage Hamas to negotiate another agreement that will release more hostages.”

Some of the more than 250 hostages seized on Oct. 7 were released as part of a temporary Israel-Hamas truce in November.

Pushed on why there has not been another agreement since then, he explained, “The challenges that we are facing are not easy. Both the one that requires the defeat of Hamas, you know, we pay a very heavy toll every day, more and more soldiers are paying the price of their lives in order to achieve this goal.”

“And also the hostages,” he added. “It’s very hard for them, the conditions are unbearable, and we are aware of the ongoing atrocities. So it is hard, but I think it’s a challenge for us to be determined. And I think at the end of the day, despite the difficulty, we are determined to win this war, and we will win this war.”

Some Israelis have criticized the government for prioritizing military victory and politics over the return of the hostages. One family member of a hostage said at a rally recently that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “concern for coalition stability outweighs his clear duty to bring our loved ones home … We were told to sit still, we were told to travel the world, but after six months, the hostages are still in Gaza! This is a complete and deliberate failure!”

Nevertheless, Danon is singularly focused on winning the war against Hamas and bringing home the hostages. 

“I think the enemy underestimated the strength of the people of Israel, and they will realize that we are a strong nation and that’s why we will defeat them,” Danon concluded, underscoring the way in which this war has, in many ways, brought Israelis together in an unprecedented way.

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