Jewish Center Faces Backlash After Canceling Play Criticized as Anti-Israel

Ms. Cnaani, in a telephone interview, said while she was not a supporter of BDS, the cancellation of the events demanded a response, especially given that her installation, “For Her Own Good,” explores Goldman’s defense of freedom of speech.

“When I heard about it, I was shocked,” Ms. Cnaani said. “I immediately thought that to not do anything would amount to supporting this decision.”


Some items from Ofri Cnaani’s installation “For Her Own Good,” about Emma Goldman, at the Center for Jewish History. Ms. Cnaani removed her work as a protest against what she called censorship on the part of the American Jewish Historical Society.

Ofri Cnaani

Mr. Fishback’s play, which was to get its first full public reading at the historical society on Dec. 14, tells the dual stories of a settler family in modern-day Israel and a Jewish family caught up in revolutionary politics in early-20th-century Russia. While it explores “how Jewish families are broken over the politics of Israel-Palestine,” he said in an interview, the cancellation was not about the play’s substance.

“The people who made this decision had no access to my script,” he said. “This was about my beliefs.”

The American Jewish Historical Society, which holds about 40 million archival items, including the original manuscript of Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus,” is one of five scholarly organizations housed at the Center for Jewish History. While they share a space, each operates with significant autonomy.

While the center has strongly supported Mr. Myers, who is also a professor of Jewish history at the University of California, Los Angeles, against his critics, the cancellation suggests disagreement over how to respond to those who have campaigned against him.

Rachel Lithgow, the historical…

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