Anti-Semitism Comes (Back) to the British Stage

This year, not one but two plays are coming to London’s West End that feature sinister and wealthy Jewish businessmen. One, The Lehman Trilogy, about the titular banking family, contains—as one critic put it—“subtle but pervasive intimations of the classic anti-Semitic tropes,” with the main characters’ Jewishness playing an “unsavory role,” in the words of another. The second, Patriots, is the work of Peter Morgan, who is best known as the main screenwriter of the Netflix series The Crown. John Nathan writes:

The Jew in Patriots is the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky (played by Tom Hollander), who died somewhat mysteriously in the UK after he fell out of favor with the Kremlin. The other Jew is [Roman] Abramovich (Luke Thallon), whose Jewishness is not as conspicuous as Berezovsky’s. This may be because he is less pivotal.

According to Morgan’s play, Putin would never have become president of Russia without Berezovsky. If that’s true we may extrapolate that Ukraine may never have been invaded, thousands would not have died, and (least of all) I would not be writing this swaddled in layers of a knitwear next to an open fire as part of our Dickensian attempt to keep heating bills down.

In Patriots, religious festivals come and go but if memory serves only the play’s Jews acknowledge them. This is, one assumes, intended to remind audiences that the central protagonist is a Jew. As were the Lehman brothers, big time. To illustrate this, founder Henry (played by the always excellent Simon Russell Beale in the original production) says “Barukh Hashem” a lot.

True in Patriots there is a Jewish mentor of the oligarch who has no interest in Berezovsky’s political and money-making ambitions. But then the Jew Tubal has no interest in Shylock’s objectives and that hasn’t stopped the cutting a pound of flesh being seen as a typically Jewish thing to do. In the Almeida’s production [of The Merchant of Venice], Patrick Stewart’s Shylock placed a kippah on his head to sharpen his knife.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Theater, United Kingdom, William Shakespeare

How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus