A Play about a Great Yiddish Play Mangles Its Source to Make Lesbianism Seem Scandalous Again

Written by Sholem Asch (1880–1952), one of the most prominent Yiddish writers of his day, the play God of Vengeance tells of a brothel keeper striving for respectability along with religious absolution for his life of sin. The current Broadway play Indecent tells the story of the Asch play, focusing on its production on the New York Yiddish stage, which was shut down for obscenity—specifically, a lesbian romance between the brothel keeper’s daughter and one of his employees. In her review, Ruth Wisse assails Indecent for misunderstanding both Asch’s work and its reception:

[A]s far as Indecent is concerned, God of Vengeance is a play about lesbians. Not only that, according to [its creators] Rebecca Taichman and Paula Vogel (both of whom are gay), lesbianism also defined the backstage drama of its performance history: they also depict the lesbian characters being played by lesbian actresses who live openly together as the play tours Europe and comes to America. The American censorship of the play was [supposedly] due to its depiction of lesbianism. And lest any gravestone be left unturned, Indecent takes us into a Polish ghetto in the final stages of Hitler’s Final Solution where starving and soon-to-be executed Jews perform the women’s love scene.

But this reduces God of Vengeance to a contemporary sexual-politics polemic when it is far more ambiguous and complicated than that. . . . Indecent has no real interest in either Asch’s play or the obscenity trial except to use them to provide fuel to make lesbianism once again seem daring and revolutionary.

Indecent purports to be part of the brave tradition of those who have stood up for their rights against social and political repression, but it actually demonstrates that those battles have been decisively won—else why would it have had to go to such lengths to dig up and distort the suppression of lesbianism in the past? This is theater by and for those who don’t yet know how to accept responsibilities for freedoms attained and who pretend instead that they are still part of the struggle to attain them.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Arts & Culture, Homosexuality, Sholem Asch, Yiddish, Yiddish theater


Ordinary Gazans Are Turning against Hamas—and Its Western Sympathizers

In the past few days, difficult-to-confirm reports have emerged of unrest in the Gaza Strip, and of civilians throwing stones at Hamas operatives. A recent video from Al Jazeera showed a Gazan declaring that “God will bring Qatar and Turkey to account” for the suffering of Palestinians in the current war. Being an agent of the Qatari government, the journalist turned away, and then pushed the interviewee with his hand to prevent him from getting near the microphone. Yet this brief exchange contributes much to the ongoing debate about Palestinian support for Hamas, and belies the frequent assertion by experts that the Israeli campaign is only “further radicalizing” the population.

For some time, Joseph Braude has worked with a number of journalists and researchers to interview ordinary Gazans under circumstances where they don’t fear reprisals. He notes that the sorts of opinions they share are rarely heard in Western media, let alone on Al Jazeera or Iran-sponsored outlets:

[A] resident of Khan Younis describes how locals in a bakery spontaneously attacked a Hamas member who had come to buy bread. The incident, hardly imaginable before the present war, reflects a widespread feeling of “disgust,” he says, after Gazan aspirations for “a dignified life and to live in peace” were set back by the Hamas atrocities of October 7.

Fears have grown that this misery will needlessly be prolonged by Westerners who strive, in effect, to perpetuate Hamas rule, according to one Gazan woman. Addressing protesters who have taken to the streets to demand a ceasefire on behalf of Palestinians, she calls on them to make a choice: “Either support the Palestinian people or the Hamas regime that oppresses them.” If protesters harbor a humanitarian motive, she asks, “Why don’t we see them demonstrating against Hamas?”

“Hamas is the destruction of the Palestinian people. We’ve had enough. They need to be wiped out—because if they remain, the people will be wiped out.”

You can watch videos of some of the interviews by clicking the link below.

Read more at Free Press

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian public opinion