UJA Federation distances itself from Tony Kushner event

Tony Kushner discusses 'Angels in America' in San Francisco on Nov 6. 2010 ED RITGER PHOTO
Tony Kushner discusses 'Angels in America' in San Francisco on Nov 6. 2010 ED RITGER PHOTO

After “thoughtful consideration,” UJA Federation of Greater Toronto said that it is disassociating itself from a May 9 event featuring U.S. playwright Tony Kushner – presented by the Koffler Centre of the Arts – over his links to Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

“Mr. Kushner is a member of the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an organization that supports boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel,” the March 21 statement reads.

“Although Mr. Kushner has publicly stated that he does not support the BDS movement, UJA Federation has concerns about Mr. Kushner’s association with JVP and we will not support an event where there is any link to organizations supporting BDS. Therefore, we are disassociating ourselves from this particular event involving Mr. Kushner, although we remain strongly supportive of the Koffler Centre of the Arts.”


The federation had previously promoted the event in a post on its website, which has since been removed. It’s also listed as one of Koffler’s institutional supporters in a full-page advertisement in the March 17 print edition of The CJN.

In a statement to The CJN, the Koffler Centre affirmed that it is “very fortunate” that Kushner accepted its invitation to speak in Toronto. Responding to UJA’s decision to distance itself from the event, co-chair of the Koffler Centre Tiana Koffler Boyman said, “Mr. Kushner has publicly and repeatedly stated that he does not support BDS. We acknowledge Mr. Kushner’s position and look forward to presenting a wonderful evening of conversation about contemporary theatre with this widely acclaimed, celebrated playwright and screenwriter.”


Kushner, a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning author, is best known for his two-part epic Angels In America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes and for writing the screenplay for Mike Nichols’ film of Angels In America, and Steven Spielberg’s Munich. His 2012 screenplay for Spielberg’s movie Lincoln was nominated for an Academy Award, and won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Boston Society of Film Critics Award, Chicago Film Critics Award, and several others.

During the Toronto event, Kushner will reportedly discuss how he “tackles the most difficult subjects in contemporary history” as well as his thoughts on the future of contemporary theatre in North America.

Jewish Voice for Peace, founded in 1996, is a left-wing NGO that supports “divestment from and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem,” according to its website, which lists Kushner as an active member.

“JVP rejects the assertion that BDS is inherently anti-Semitic, and we encourage discussion both within our own community and outside of it of the growing BDS movement.”


In 2010, the Anti-Defamation League listed Jewish Voice for Peace as one of the top ten anti-Israel groups in the United States.

Last month, the Jewish National Fund of Canada withdrew its support for an upcoming Yom Ha’atzmaut performance in Vancouver by left-wing Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, who is also accused of supporting BDS. “The entertainer that has been hired does not reflect nor correspond to the mandate and values of the Jewish National Fund of Canada,” JNF Canada CEO Josh Cooper said.

Photo: Flickr