The community center insists that the change of plans for “The Admission” has nothing to do with a vigorous campaign mounted by a local ad-hoc group that calls itself Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art to stop the presentation. Motti Lerner’s drama is based loosely on events surrounding an incident in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war in which Palestinian villagers were killed.
The protest group, headed by Potomac lawyer Robert G. Samet, has mounted a campaign on its Web site, in letters and in the Jewish press beseeching donors to withhold money to the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, which provides financial support to the DCJCC and many other community and social service groups in the region.
“One must ask: Why are Theater J, the DCJCC, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington promoting a discredited and defamatory lie against Israel?” reads one recent e-mail from the group. “Is this what you want your charitable donations to the Jewish Federation to support?”
“No, this is not in relationship to COPMA,” said Carole R. Zawatsky, chief executive of the community center, calling the protest group by its acronym. “COPMA would love to see us close down the conversation, and our intention is to open up a conversation.” She added that the presentation of “The Admission” has been modified because a partnering Israeli company, Herzliyah Theater, had been shuttered. That troupe had no financial involvement in the Theater J venture and, according to Roth, shut down in May.
The DCJCC engaged a Washington communications firm, West End Strategy Team, to help frame a response to COPMA.
Roth said that COPMA’s effort to paint “The Admission” as anti-Israel smears the play’s intentions and meaning. For his part, Lerner, whose plays include “Pangs of the Messiah,” staged at Theater J in 2007, says he’s taken aback by the vehement pushback against a play no one has even seen. “Their protest expresses a lot of fear,” the playwright said by phone from Chicago, where another of his works, “Paulus,” is in rehearsal. “I didn’t know that this would be so frightening and scary that it would create such a discourse in America.”
Nevertheless, the campaign against “The Admission” has gotten traction.