Following the story in the Melbourne Age yesterday of news that Jewish Care had cancelled a fund-raising performance by actress Miriam Margolyes due to her involvement in the play Seven Jewish Children, the paper today publishes the following letters:
THOSE people who did not have a chance to hear Miriam Margolyes on Monday missed a wonderful experience (“Charity rejects Jewish actor over ‘anti-Semitic’ play”, The Age, 12/5). If she had commented about her belief in the right for Israel to exist in safety and security, but that Palestinians also have those rights, and that the tragedy must not go on, she would have voiced the feelings of a significant part, if not the majority, of Israeli society, and indeed of Jews.
I have read Seven Jewish Children, and participated in it as a play-reading. The problem is not the play, which reflects the pain and difficulty of the issues, but the context in which it is presented, in this case as the centrepiece of an event marking Israel’s independence. It is doubly disingenuous to quote the Palestinian organiser, who said that no Jewish organisation was prepared to argue Israel’s case. I was one of those approached to speak. I declined, not only because Jews and Israel are not synonymous and I am not a spokesman for Israel, but also because of the context.
I would be prepared to speak at a neutral reading — but in a fair and neutral reading, the play would speak for itself of the pain and anguish felt by Jews and by Israelis trying to find a just solution, so that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace.
Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, East Kew
Our cause not served
WE, SURVIVORS of the Holocaust and children of survivors, are saddened by Jewish Care’s last-minute withdrawal of Jewish actor Miriam Margolyes’ performance for its elderly residents. The notion that her participation in a play critical of Israel would somehow automatically upset Holocaust survivors is simply untenable.
The play Seven Jewish Children is not anti-Semitic, as anyone who has bothered to read it or watch it can tell. The fight against anti-Semitism is important to us, but it gains nothing from trying to turn the play into an anti-Semitic incident.
Demonising the play’s author, director or actors does not serve the interests of the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism. Depriving elderly members of the Jewish community of entertainment where neither Israel nor the Holocaust is mentioned does not serve that fight either.
Dr Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper, Sol Salbe, Dr Peter Slezak and Dr David Zyngier, Melbourne and Sydney
All children have rights
THE play Seven Jewish Children, which I have at least taken the trouble to read, is far from anti-Semitic. Anti-injustice, anti-ignorance, anti-insensitivity and anti-narrow-mindedness, certainly. Its underlying theme is that Arab children have as much right to a decent life as do Jewish children, no matter what their elders get up to. To see even a hint of anti-Semitism in this is unjust, ignorant, insensitive and narrow-minded.
Miriam Margolyes should be praised, not treated as though her support for the play were some kind of menace to all we hold dear.
Steve Brook, Elwood
JEWISH Care is to be congratulated for reversing its invitation to Miriam Margolyes to appear at its fund-raiser. Of course, Margolyes is entitled to her opinion and, of course, she is entitled to perform in whatever theatrical production she chooses to.
However, every community is also entitled to set its standards, and she should know that performing in an anti-Semitic play is deemed offensive by the mainstream Jewish community.
Seven Jewish Children is a play craftily written to advance the Palestinian aim of demonising and de-legitimising the state of Israel. It is just another example of the rising tide of anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism.
Alan Freedman, East St Kilda
Our own prejudices
ON HOLIDAY in London, I attended the opening night of Seven Jewish Children at the Royal Court Theatre. It is no more anti-Semitic than Rabbit-Proof Fence is anti-Australian.
Jennifer Killen, St Peters, NSW