Tags: met | opera | klinghoffer | protest | rabbi | weiss

Rabbi Avi Weiss Leads Vigil at Met to Protest Opera

Monday, 20 Oct 2014 05:11 PM

A globally prominent rabbi led Jewish teenagers in a prayer vigil Monday outside the Metropolitan Opera to protest an opera they say glorifies Palestinian terrorists.

Rabbi Avi Weiss and youths from several faith-based schools later planned to join former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other big-name politicians at a rally against the Met's premiere of "The Death of Klinghoffer."

Midday Monday, youths sat at their makeshift prayer spot opposite the Met, discussing Hebrew scriptures in shifts of about a dozen throughout the afternoon.

"We're here because the Met is glorifying the killing of a Jew, and we must speak out — we're the next generation," said Shabbos Kestenbaum, 15.

A placard read: "We pray for Leon Klinghoffer's soul."

The disabled 69-year-old New Yorker was shot in his wheelchair aboard the Achille Lauro Italian cruise ship. It was hijacked in 1985 by four men from the Palestinian Liberation Organization who then pushed him into the sea.

American composer John Adams' opera has been a lightning rod since February, when it was first scheduled for this season. The first large demonstration came on the Met's Sept. 22 season opening night, featuring a Mozart work, when protesters jeered at arriving spectators.

The opposition to "Klinghoffer" is now reaching fever pitch, with word spreading that activists may try to disrupt the Monday evening company premiere by using legitimately purchased tickets, then popping up inside the auditorium during the show.

Weiss said the music "extols" the terrorists, beginning with the "Chorus of Exiled Palestinians," while the Klinghoffers come off as shallow, money-conscious characters whose first words, according to the rabbi, are: "I've got no money left. I gave all my money for the taxi."

"The language is explosive. It's radioactive. It's dangerous," the rabbi said. "It inspires violence."

Politicians who are part of the growing firestorm against Adams' 1991 opera include former New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Peter King.

Organizers said 100 symbolic wheelchairs would be brought to the rally at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The Met canceled the international movie theater and radio broadcasts in November amid pressure from Jewish groups, especially the New York-based Anti-Defamation League. Met General Manager Peter Gelb, who is Jewish, warned that the broadcasts could trigger anti-Semitism overseas.

But the Met issued a statement, saying that "the fact that 'Klinghoffer' grapples with the complexities of an unconscionable real-life act of violence does not mean it should not be performed. ... 'Klinghoffer' is neither anti-Semitic nor does it glorify terrorism."

In response to demands that the performance be canceled, the company said: "The Met will not bow to this pressure."

The Klinghoffers' daughters, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, issued a statement through the ADL that will be included in the Met program.

It says the sisters believe the arts "can play a critical role in examining and understanding significant world events. 'The Death of Klinghoffer' does no such thing. It presents false moral equivalencies without context, and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew."

Opera expert Fred Plotkin said Adams depicts the Klinghoffers as his work's moral spine.

"Does this opera present the killers in a favorable light? No," said Plotkin. "Are the Klinghoffers far and away the most sympathetic characters in the opera, the ones we care about most? I believe so."

Plotkin notes that many "Klinghoffer" opponents, including Weiss, have never seen the work performed live. The rabbi said he has read the libretto.

Advertising for the opera comes with the slogan: "See it. Then decide."

"The Death of Klinghoffer" first premiered in Brussels in 1991, with little controversy, then in various European cities as well as at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it was greeted with both praise and anger.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the rights of cultural institutions like the Met to put on works of art have to be respected.

"We don't have to agree with what's in the exhibit, but we agree with the right of the artist and the cultural institution to put that forward to the public," he said.

De Blasio, who hasn't seen the opera, added that anti-Semitism "is a serious problem today in the world that has nothing to do with this opera."

"The Death of Klinghoffer" runs through Nov. 15.

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A globally prominent rabbi led Jewish teenagers in a prayer vigil Monday outside the Metropolitan Opera to protest an opera they say glorifies Palestinian terrorists. Rabbi Avi Weiss and youths from several faith-based schools later planned to join former New York Mayor Rudy...
met, opera, klinghoffer, protest, rabbi, weiss
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2014-11-20
Monday, 20 Oct 2014 05:11 PM
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