The Reform movement today joined the chorus of Jewish organizations protesting an upcoming Metropolitan Opera production widely considered anti-Semitic.
“We join with other Jewish leaders in expressing our disappointment and dismay about the staging by the Metropolitan Opera of ‘The Death of Klinghoffer,’” the movement’s leaders said in a letter to Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.
The opera, which opens Oct. 20, tells the story of New Yorker Leon Klinghoffer, 69, who in 1985 took a 36th wedding anniversary cruise with his wife, Marilyn, aboard the Achille Lauro. Four members of the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked the ship, shot and killed Klinghoffer and then threw his body overboard while still in its wheelchair.
In response to concerns from the Jewish community, the Met has cancelled the simulcast of the opera and is permitting Klinghoffer’s daughters to write a rebuttal to the opera that is being inserted in the Playbill.
The Reform movement’s letter acknowledges those steps, nevertheless it expresses “regret” that the opera is being presented. But the letter, which “protests” the opera, stops short of calling on the Met to cancel all Lincoln Center performances.
“People of good conscience can debate the artistic merits of this opera and we affirm the right of the Metropolitan Opera to make decisions about what it stages,” said the letter’s authors, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Richard Block, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
“But having the right to do something, does not make doing it right nor wise,” they wrote. “People who have seen the opera view it as offering a sympathetic portrayal of terrorists who, with intent, killed an innocent person. At the very time when the world is in such tremendous turmoil, when we must deal with the rise of ISIS, escalating anti-Semitism across the globe, the spread of terrorism, and the threats that Israel faced this past summer with the war with Hamas, presenting an opera with this kind of overall message is a decision not without consequences. For all these reasons, the timing of the Klinghoffer Opera is especially problematic.”
The letter’s authors observed that art that raises painful issues can offend, but concluded: “Art that in its overall effect glorifies terrorism against innocents, steps across a line, and this opera raises just such concerns.”