A Sydney theatre has apologised after refusing a young Jewish theatre group’s request to use its venue in an alleged act of discrimination.
The Jewish group, Hillel is a not-for-profit educational and cultural organisation which aims to ‘inspire university-aged young adults to engage with Jewish life’ and become future leaders.
The group are planning a series of performances about survivors of the holocaust and were in search of a venue.
When Hillel made an application to perform at The Red Rattler Theatre in Sydney’s inner west, they were shocked at the email they received in response.
‘Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine,’ the Marrickville Theatre group responded curtly.
Members of the youth group could not believe that they were being rejected, allegedly due to their religious beliefs.
Assistant director Shailee Mendelvich was confounded when she received the rejection email from The Red Rattler Theatre group.
‘I was shocked and disappointed because I believe that denying a Jewish group the right to make a commercial booking is clearly racial discrimination and, in this case, Antisemitism,’ Ms Mendelvich told Daily Mail Australia
Ms Mendelvich was particularly troubled by the rejection as The Red Rattler Theatre are also a not-for-profit, artist-run company which purports to have ‘community at heart’.
The theatre issued a statement later Monday saying it was sorry for the email that refused the youth group’s request.’The Red Rattler apologises for the email that was sent to Hillel. It does not reflect the values of the community Board of the Red Rattler Theatre Inc,’ the statement said.
‘The Red Rattler condemns racism of any kind.’
The theatre said it actively encouraged cultural diversity.
‘In effort to further the conversation we have directly contacted Hillel to discuss the situation in the hope of obtaining a positive outcome.’ the statement said.
On their website, the Red Rattler claim that the theatre ‘was set up as a space where racism, homophobia, transphobia and sexism are not welcome on stage, in the audience, at the door, and at the bar.’
‘We ask you to join us in efforts to make this space welcoming, stimulating, and happiness producing to people regardless of their ethnicity, sexuality or gender.’
Hillel believes that the decision to reject a Jewish theatre group contradicts the company’s ethos.
‘I hope that people working in community service and the not-for-profit sector can acknowledge the common ground we share, especially for events that encourage honest and open creative expression for important cultural or social issues.’
The event series, called ‘Moth’, is a performance evening to ‘encourage people to express themselves in a creative way’.
The upcoming event aims to ‘unpack what it means to be the third generation of holocaust survivors.’
The NSW Jewish Community have been left ‘shocked and distressed’.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff have written to the theatre to express his concern that Hillel have been discriminated ‘based on conflicts taking place far from Australia.’
Mr Alhadeff sent the letter on March 13 and has placed several calls with The Red Rattler but is yet to receive a response.
‘It is disappointing that a theatre group (The Red Rattler Theatre company) let politics get in the way of policies, as they claim their ethos is about equality and acceptance,’ Mr Alhadeff told Daily Mail Australia.
Mr Alhadeff also reiterated that the group are apolitical and the purpose of the performance would be to explore the impact of the holocaust on modern generations, rather than engaging with the issue of the occupation of Palestine.
‘These young people have been the subject of discrimination because of an overseas conflict whilst conducting a play which had nothing whatsoever to do with any conflict overseas,’ he said.
‘Their focus was on exploring the lessons future generations can learn from the holocaust survivors.’
‘The Jewish community in Australia are Australians. This is very disappointing as we need to be able to embrace difference and focus on the shared values we have as Australians.’
The Hillel theatre group continue to search for a venue for their performance and are looking forward to the series, which will include the spoken word, poetry, acoustic instrumental performances and rap.
Daily Mail Australia attempted to contact The Red Rattler Theatre Company for comment but did not receive any reply.
Source: Daily Mail