Tom Stoppard Realizes His Audience Understood Something about “Leopoldstadt” That He Didn’t

Tom Stoppard’s much-acclaimed Leopoldstadt tells the story of a Viennese Jewish family as it contends with assimilation, intermarriage, anti-Semitism, and, eventually the Holocaust. Since writing it, Stoppard reports having lost whatever faith he might have had in the “universal spirit” of humanity:

I’m reading Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel, 1917-2017 by Ian Black. I had reached 1953 when at midnight a text pinged in from an old friend: “Who will cross the street when we pass? Who will hide us in the attic?”

Who, me? When did it come to this? I remember a hum in Britain about “anti-Semitism in the Labor Party” when I was writing my play about a Viennese Jewish family who perished in the Holocaust, but there was nothing “timely” about Leopoldstadt when it opened in London nearly four years ago. Anti-Semitism was not a hot topic. When elderly Jews, often weeping, thanked me for “telling our story,” I felt a bit surprised that the story still needed telling. But they knew something I didn’t. By the time the play moved to New York in September 2022, anti-Semitism was the hook for every interviewer, and by the end of the run last July there were two extra security men patrolling the theater.

Six months later and 3,000 miles nearer home, the security guard at shul advised my friend to hide her Star of David if she was going to the West End.

Perhaps then, Leopoldstadt was much more timely than Stoppard admits, and he and many others should have paid more attention to anti-Semitism in the Labor party. In her review for Mosaic, Sarah Rindner observed that Leopoldstadt was in a sense “even more Zionist a play” than Theodor Herzl’s The New Ghetto, but Stoppard might not have seen it that way. Literary critics can add this episode to the eternal debate about whether authors are the best interpreters of their own work. In the meantime, let’s hope someone recommends Stoppard a more evenhanded history than the late Ian Black’s. I suggest he start here.

Read more at Spectator

More about: Anti-Semitism, Holocaust, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Labor Party (UK), Theater


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security