French university accused of putting on anti-Semitic play

(JTA) — A French university defended a student theater production that a Jewish leader labeled “grossly anti-Semitic.”

“The humor is difficult to handle, but this is not an anti-Semitic show,” Catherine Benguigui, vice president of the University of La Rochelle, told the local newspaper Sud Ouest in an article published last week.

Benguigui was reacting to a statement by Richard Prasquier, the president of the CRIF umbrella organization of French Jewish communities, who said the play “Your Children’s Role in the Global Economic Recovery” was “grossly anti-Semitic.”

“How else would one describe a play in which a greedy money dealer called Goldberg presses a family to invest their life savings in repugnant causes,” Prasquier wrote. He noted that the play included a reference to Nazi hunters named “Cohen 1 and Cohen 2” who abandon their cause for cash.

Produced by students of La Rochelle with state subsidies and help from the Institute Francais, the play was staged five times last month at a theater festival in La Rochelle, about 100 miles from Bordeaux, where it attracted some 500 theater goers, according to the university.

In a statement sent to JTA, the university wrote it “does not censor” students and that the students who produced the play were “not anti-Semitic nor was their intention to promote anti-Semitism.” The university “regrets seeing its reputation tarnished unjustly,” read the statement, adding that the play was meant to “caricaturize” stereotypes.

Prasquier wrote: “Maybe soon we will hear that The Sturmer and ‘Mein Kampf’ are so ridiculous that they serve to deconstruct anti-Semitic preconceptions.”

Michel Goldberg, a teacher of biotechnology at the university, also criticized the play.

“Those stereotypes have killed people before,” he wrote.

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