Carole R. Zawatsky
Chief Executive Officer
DC Jewish Community Center
1529 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Ms. Zawatsky,
We are writing to express our dismay at your firing of Ari Roth as Director of Theater J, a position he has held with distinction for 18 years.
We at the Institute for Policy Studies and Split This Rock deeply support free expression and the exchange of ideas, and question the direction that this action suggests the DCJCC is moving in.
One of the roles of art should be to widen the conversations we have with one another. By firing Mr. Roth, whose curatorial vision was an expansive and generous one, you have accomplished the opposite, narrowing and limiting the space for imaginative consideration of the pressing issues of our time.
Art, too, functions to humanize others, to remind us of what we have in common as a people. As John Judis, the former New Republic senior editor, was quoted as saying in The Washingtonian, “What’s at stake here is not simply artistic censorship, but the attempt to snuff out works of art that recognize that Jews and Palestinians share a common humanity.”
We remind you: Ari’s work with Theater J was cutting edge at times; this is what good theater often is. If we cannot defend the cultural front, we have no chance on the political battlefields.
If we desire peace and the need to bring people together – what better place than the theater?
The road to peace with justice in the Middle East will require that we listen to one another, to many voices, sometimes even to unpopular voices. Your actions in removing Mr. Roth from your institution, sadly, work to silence the diversity of opinions so desperately needed.
We write this with great sadness because our two organizations have viewed the DCJCC as a close ally. IPS held our 25th Annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards at the DCJCC 14 years ago with our art show of “Light Among Shadows.” We co-hosted Ariel Dorfman’s “Death and the Maiden” a few years later.
IPS and Split This Rock will be willing partners with Mr. Roth in the new theater he intends to build at the Atlas so that we can help promote the type of cultural work that is needed today.
Sarah Browning, Executive Director, Split This Rock
John Cavanagh, Executive Director, Institute for Policy Studies
E. Ethelbert Miller, Board Chair, Institute for Policy Studies
Dan Vera, Board Chair, Split This Rock