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Yiddish Theater Group Files Charges of Bias Against New Yorker Magazine for Refusing to List Yiddish

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Charges of unfairness and discrimination have been filed with the New York City Commission of Human Rights and the New York State Division of Human Rights against The New Yorker Magazine for refusing to list the Yiddish show, “A Match Made in Heaven,” in their “Goings on About Town” section.

In a letter addressed to Marcella Maxwell of the New York City Commission of Human Rights, Raymond Ariel, president of the Yiddish Musical Theater and producer of “A Match Made in Heaven,” charged that the magazine and its four editors — William Shawn, Wolcott Gibbs, Jr., Brendan Gill and Edith Oliver — are discriminating against the Yiddish musical which is now playing at the Town Hall Theater, one block east of Broadway in the theater district, because it is omitted from a section that “lists every Broadway show now playing, as well as some 50 other Off-Off Broadway and Off Broadway shows.”

Ariel’s letter, dated December 6, explained that the charges are brought under the “Law on Human Rights” to “encourage equality of treatment for and prevent discrimination against any racial, religious or ethnic group or its members.”

He added that “A Match Made In Heaven” is the “major Yiddish show in New York and Broadway” and refusing to list it is harmful to the show and to the company of more than 30.

Max Eisen, press representative for the musical, claimed in an October 31 message to Shawn, that persistent complaints to the magazine yielded a variety of excuses such as “we don’t list foreign language shows.” Eisen asserted this is untrue since the magazine has included Carmen, and “Parlon Francais 11: Un Exercise De Style,” a comedy by Eugene lonesco introduced last spring.

Other excuses Eisen cites include “we don’t have room” and “we don’t list Yiddish shows,” according to New Yorker theater critic Edith Oliver. Eisen then proposed that the magazine’s Broadway theater critic Brendan Gill review the Yiddish show which, he noted, has English subtitles.

In response to Eisen’s arguments, Gibbs, the editor directly in charge of the “Goings On” section, defended the magazine’s position in a November 26 letter to Eisen. According to Gibbs, Gill would not cover a show in Town Hall because it does not conform to the magazine’s definition of a Broadway theater.

Gibbs contended that the magazine has recently had to contract the “Goings On” listings in all areas “in order to save space for other material.” Aside from the Broadway, Off-Off Broadway and Off-Broadway listings, “Goings On About Town” includes dances, films, night clubs, music and opera, jazz, folk and rock concerts, personal appearances, orchestras and choruses, recitals, and coming entertainment events.

“While we never attempted to list everything that was going on in New York, we now have even less space at our disposal and have had to either drop some regular listings or not include other events that might otherwise have appeared,” Gibbs wrote.

NO FURTHER COMMENT

In a telephone call from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Gibbs had no further comment other than, “We list everything we can” and said the section has had to cut back in all areas such as art galleries and night clubs.

Ariel noted in his letter to Maxwell that when The New Yorker was asked to list last season’s Yiddish musical at Town Hall, also produced by Ariel, and which had a run of more than 10 weeks on Broadway prior to going on a national tour, the magazine refused to include the show for the same reasons as mentioned this year.

According to Ariel, “The Yiddish Theater has been a significant part of the New York City theater and cultural scene for more than 75 years” and the “discriminatory” action against “A Match Made In Heaven,” which marks the 7th season of Yiddish shows at Town Hall, “should be condemned and changed under the anti-discrimination laws of the city and state.”

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