**UPDATE** Simon Wiesenthal Center Denounces "Israel-bashing" Romeo and Juliet Play

June 3, 2016

In response to our calling out politicized elements of Theatricum Botanicum's production of Romeo and Juliet, leadership of the company came to the Simon Wiesenthal Center for an open, frank, and productive discussion. We thank Zev Yaroslavsky, the consummate public servant, for arranging the meeting. Theatricum Botanicum accepted our objections about the inaccurate and harmful way that Israeli soldiers were depicted in one scene. That staging has been changed, as per the attached letter here. In coming days, after the formal opening of the play to the general public, we will be able to watch the new staging, as well as the rest of the performance and report on our findings.




** UPDATE TO THIS STORY** We have removed the photo included in this story and Theatricum Botanicum has also removed it from their site.


Los Angeles Unified School District Agrees: "Production not suitable of support of LAUSD"

May 19, 2016

The Simon Wiesenthal Center denounced a new Los Angeles production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet currently in previews at Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon as "Israel-bashing".

"Shakespeare's classic love story has been hijacked to demonize the State of Israel," charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Jewish NGO's Associate Dean. The production is set in contemporary East Jerusalem and includes uniformed Israeli soldiers lording over “peaceful” Palestinians, with one soldier executing an unarmed Palestinian woman at close range.

After complaints from parents whose children (from various public and private schools in Southern California) were taken to previews of the production, Rabbi Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, SWC Director of Interfaith Affairs, turned to Steve Zimmer, President of Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education. Officials of the nation's second largest school district agreed with the Center’s findings and found the current production of Romeo and Juliet at the Theatricum Botanicum, "...not suitable of support from LAUSD," stating, "This production's content is not supported by LAUSD for its students.”

“We do not believe in censorship,” Rabbi Cooper said. "But this production has degraded a classic play into a heavy-handed anti-Israel propaganda platform. As currently staged, Romeo and Juliet is a "lose-lose" proposition. The play loses, the public loses and the truth loses. The genius of Shakespeare should be used to illuminate the human condition and promote understanding of issues, not the distortion of reality," Rabbi Cooper added.

"The production could easily have contemporized the play without feeding an ugly myth about Israelis, whose standard procedure is to use crowd-dispersal tools - but not live ammunition - in dealing with crowds hurling large stones that kill and maim," added Rabbi Adlerstein. "The decision to turn Israel into a beast was malicious, and should not be countenanced by LA theater-goers, " he concluded.

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).