Koffler Centre blacklists Jewish artist over Israel

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aka Mycroft
Koffler Centre blacklists Jewish artist over Israel

Koffler centre presecutes Jewish artist

 

Quote:
On May 8, the Koffler Centre for the Arts issued a press release announcing that they are "disassociating themselves" from an art exhibition by Toronto artist Reena Katz which is being installed at Kensington Market later this month. They are rejecting Katz not for the content of her work but because of her personal political beliefs, namely "Reena Katz's public support for and association with Israel Apartheid Week." This is nothing less than blacklisting and the Koffler Centre should be ashamed of itself, particularly when one considers not only the number of Jewish artists and performers who suffered due to McCarthyist blacklisting in the 1950s but also the generations of Jews, in the arts as well as in the professions and various trades, who were denied employment not because of the quality or content of their work but because of their personal beliefs.

According to the Koffler Centre's press release "As a Jewish cultural institution, an agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Koffler Centre of the Arts will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state. The Koffler considers the existence and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state to be one of its core values." Katz replies in an article in today's Toronto Star saying, "I have said that I'm an anti-Zionist Jew. So they are conflating the state of Israel with Zionism. I'm speaking to an ideology when I speak about Zionism. They're speaking about a Jewish state."

 

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture

That's a very calm and reasoned response from Katz to a rather defamatory slandering.

Maysie Maysie's picture

My letter to Lori Starr, ED of Koffler Centre:

Quote:

To Lori Starr,

I'm writing to you regarding the Koffler Centre's recent decision to not associate with Reena Katz, artist and activist.

As a third generation secular Jew originally from Montreal, I need to add my voice to others to urge you to reconsider your decision.

Art and politics go hand in hand, and resisting oppression is a part of that historical legacy. We as Jews know this very well. Oppressive states, in all their forms, need to be countered with information and dialogue. Opposing state oppression is not the same as saying Israel has no right to exist.

While I respect your position, I feel that not associating with Ms. Katz, a demonstrated activist and artist whose work is grounded in her identity as a Jewish woman, is in error. I greatly hope that you reconsider your decision.

Respectfully,

(My name)

KOFFLER CONTACT:

Lori Starr, Executive Director
Koffler Centre of the Arts
416.636.1880 x296
[email protected]

Unionist

I've read this a few times:

Quote:
"I have said that I'm an anti-Zionist Jew. So they are conflating the state of Israel with Zionism. I'm speaking to an ideology when I speak about Zionism. They're speaking about a Jewish state."

... and I still don't understand it.

 

Lard Tunderin Jeezus Lard Tunderin Jeezus's picture
Unionist

I found [url=this">http://jige.livejournal.com/23904.html][u]this message from Reena Katz[/url]. Turns out the Koffler Krowd found a link on her Facebook page to Israel Apartheid Week - that was it! Somebody must have threatened to withdraw some multi-million-dollar funding, no? Kowards.

Quote:
Dear friends, family, comrades and colleagues;

Most of you know that I've been working on a site-specific commission for the Koffler Gallery in Kensington Market, set to open on May 20th. Kim Simon is an independent curator, who found me and proposed my work to the Koffler last year. She has been my main creative (and now political) ally in the process.

Today, at 9am Kim and I were informed by Lori Starr (Koffler executive director) and Mona Philip (Koffler curator) that the Koffler is disassociating from the exhibition: removing their name and URL's from any further outreach materials, exhibition posters and press.

Why?
Their Board of Directors, along with their major funder - The UJA of Greater Toronto - has decided that they "will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state".

In our meeting with Lori and Mona this morning, it was made clear that their decision is based on my involvement specifically with Israeli Apartheid Week. Lori was explicit that it isn't me they object to, but the public statements I've made on behalf of specific organizations. Seeing this as a moment of potential change, I proposed a meeting with their Board, in which I would explain the true mandate of Israeli Apartheid Week, CAIA, and the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation - now known as Women in Solidarity with Palestine.

Why now?
A year ago, Kim asked Mona directly if Koffler would have a problem showing my work considering my solidarity with Palestine. Mona was clear that since the project didn't deal with the issue, Koffler would stand behind it. Indeed, after a year of having access to my website, CV, Facebook page and any Google search results, it wasn't until this week that they chose to look at my Facebook page, and found a link to Israel Apartheid Week.

What the?
This weekend, I am working with Kim Simon, the independent curator on the project to respond to Koffler's press release (click on it to link there) with our own press release in response. It's evident they are acting out of fear. Fear of critique of Israel from within the Jewish community, fear of the repercussions of standing by an artist who is affiliated with justice for Palestinians.

Nu, so, what now?
They have offered to continue the project's $20,000 funding - without attaching to it institutionally in any way. An interesting proposal indeed. The project is quite extensive, and involves youth from Ryerson Community Public School, Seniors from Baycrest Centre, The Element Choir, solo vocalists and a number of stores, homes and cultural institutions in Kensington Market. Of course, I don't want to cancel the project but feel very uncertain at this time of how I want to proceed with it. Kim and I are putting thought to this, and plan to have a decision on Sunday. I am interested in taking this up politically, and strategizing around the best way to do that.

Until then, I would greatly appreciate your support in sending the Koffler messages. This is clearly an attempt by a mainstream Jewish institutions to stifle dissent within our community, and the art world in general. Please cc me on anything you send. Also, talk about it to anyone you know - especially arts organizations and their members. I'll be in touch soon with our press release.

With love and justice,
Reena Katz

 

Michelle

They're probably not withdrawing the funding at the last moment because they're worried they'll get sued for breach of contract or something, after commissioning the work. 

Well, good enough.  If the funding is going ahead, then use their money and have a great exhibition.  Money they spend on the exhibition can't be spent on promoting Israeli apartheid at least.

aka Mycroft

According to the Koffler Centre's website they  receive financial support from CIBC Wood Gundy. Why not write CIBC Wood Gundy and at [email protected] and tell them what you think of them donating money to this blacklisting political organization which masquarades as a cultural insitution. Make sure to cc your comments to Koffler ED Lori Starr at <[email protected]> and Koffler fundraiser Claire Eckert at [email protected]

Jaku

The Koffler Centre has every right to support or not support whoever it wants. It is a mainstream Jewish organization and it should surprise no one that it has taken this position...albeit a bit late in the day.

aka Mycroft

Date: Sun, May 10, 2009 at 11:53 AM
Subject: To CIBC Wood Gundy re your financial support of the Koffler Centre
To: [email protected]
Cc: [email protected], [email protected]

Dear CIBC,

It is my understanding that you are a major financial supporter of the Koffler Centre. While it is admirable that you are trying to contribute to the cultural and artistic community I suggest you reconsider your support of this particular institution given their blacklisting of Jewish artist Reena Katz not for her art but for her personal political views and associations. This oppressive behaviour by Koffler and their attack on the right of artists to their political beliefs and their right of free association is inconsistent with basic artistic values and renders them unworthy of support.

For more information on Koffler's discreditable conduct please see this article in Sunday's Toronto Star (pasted below):
Kensington Market exhibit stirs controversy among Jews

Yours truly,

[redacted]

 

aka Mycroft

Jaku wrote:

The Koffler Centre has every right to support or not support whoever it wants. It is a mainstream Jewish organization and it should surprise no one that it has taken this position...albeit a bit late in the day.

They have no right to expect taxpayer support through government funds if they are going to slander, persecute and blacklist Jewish artists for political reasons.

And no Jaku, they do not have "every right" to do this. They are a Jewish cultural institution for the entire Jewish community and should be supporting Jewish artists based on merit rather than using their support, and the denial thereof, as a means of punishing Jews whose politics they disagree with. Or are you one of those people who think Jews who criticize Israel should be expelled from the Jewish community, punished and shunned?

aka Mycroft

Here's an excellent letter from Henry Lowi:

Quote:

To: [email protected]
Subject: Reena Katz unfairly targetted by Koffler Centre
Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 22:28:12 +0000

Lori Starr,

Executive Director, Koffler Centre of the Arts

Dear Ms Starr:

I read your announcement about the Reena Katz exhibition.[i]

I have known Reena Katz since she was a teacher in a Jewish Sunday School. I consulted her many years ago about violin lessons for my daughter. She referred us to the best violin teacher in Toronto.

I am well aware of Reena's activism in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. I know that Reena is motivated by an acute consciousness of the history of Jewish suffering and persecution (and culture!), and a commitment that "Never Again!", to anyone, anywhere.

Despite the Koffler mandate, [ii] you are taking sides in a political issue. Your position is symptomatic of a kind of panic that is overtaking pro-Zionist organizations. Your panic is based on the painful awareness that you have placed yourselves on the side of injustice and oppression, an uncomfortable position for a Jew to inhabit.

The atrocity committed recently by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has drawn the attention of the whole world. It is well documented. [iii] It has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.[iv] The whole world has seen how the Palestinians -- virtually unarmed, isolated, and poorly led -- are being systematically massacred by a well-armed military power that enjoys unlimited military, political and economic support.[v] Strong feelings of solidarity have been aroused.

You are untouched by those feelings of solidarity.

Most Jewish community organizations remained silent in the face of the atrocities and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately for you, all decent people, all lovers of humanity noticed the silence of the Jewish organizations. Fortunately, all also noticed that Jewish dissidents -- Righteous Jews, upholders of our traditions of struggle against injustice -- spoke out.[vi][vi(b)]

Reena Katz is one of those Jewish dissidents.

The Jewish community is split. The split will deepen. On one side, you will find those who uphold the values of solidarity, decency, culture, and human rights. On the other side will be the supporters of murder, racism, and apartheid. All will have to choose their side,

You have chosen your side.

By dissociating yourselves from Reena Katz's artistic work, for political reasons, you are engaging in a form of cultural boycott. As you know, progressive Palestinian grassroots popular organizations have called for a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions.[vii] Peace-seeking Israelis support the boycott.[viii][viii(b)] Solidarity-minded Canadians, like author Naomi Klein, support the boycott.[ix] Faced with the boycott, Zionist apologists howl about "singling out Israelis because they are Israelis", "anti-Semitism", and the like.[x] They lie.

The Zionists lie, but they are in a panic. Fewer and fewer people are impressed by Zionist lies. More and more are impressed by the inevitable parallels between Israel's genocidal conduct and the conduct of other oppressive regimes.

Solidarity with Palestine will grow, while disdain for Zionism and its supporters will grow.

You are singling out Reena Katz because she is a decent human being who speaks out against the oppression of fellow human beings. You have done so very publicly, making it very clear where you stand, and with whom you stand.

Reena Katz's Israeli and Palestinian comrades pay a heavy price for their activism.[xi],[xii],[xiii],[xiv] They know that justice is on their side. They will win. Palestine will be free. Arts and culture will flourish. Jews and Arabs will live together, in peace, as equals.

Regards,

Henry Lowi

 

Lord Palmerston

One thing I find somewhat encouraging is [url=http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/631984]the opening line in the Star article[/url]:

"The long-standing tensions within Toronto's Jewish community about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have flared up again, this time over an art installation set to debut next week."

Even a few years ago you wouldn't have read something like that as it was generally assumed the Jewish community was united in its support of Israel.

Unionist

Jaku wrote:

The Koffler Centre has every right to support or not support whoever it wants. It is a mainstream Jewish organization and it should surprise no one that it has taken this position...albeit a bit late in the day.

Yes, everyone has the right to talk like a shmok.

Lord Palmerston

aka Mycroft wrote:
Or are you one of those people who think Jews who criticize Israel should be expelled from the Jewish community, punished and shunned?

Isn't that obvious?

Jaku

aka Mycroft wrote:

Jaku wrote:

The Koffler Centre has every right to support or not support whoever it wants. It is a mainstream Jewish organization and it should surprise no one that it has taken this position...albeit a bit late in the day.

They have no right to expect taxpayer support through government funds if they are going to slander, persecute and blacklist Jewish artists for political reasons.

And no Jaku, they do not have "every right" to do this. They are a Jewish cultural institution for the entire Jewish community and should be supporting Jewish artists based on merit rather than using their support, and the denial thereof, as a means of punishing Jews whose politics they disagree with. Or are you one of those people who think Jews who criticize Israel should be expelled from the Jewish community, punished and shunned?

I am a person who believes that within the limits of the law people can be as critical as they want. I read your comments with interest. I also believe that the Koffler Center has its own Board and I suppose you are as free as anyone else to try to either influence their Board or even get on to it.

 You forbidding the Koffler center from taking a stand you disagree with is also highly offensive.

remind remind's picture

Are they ar registered charity or non-profit?

Unionist

Jaku's typical tactic is to talk about some empty legalities when his allies are acting like fascists and he'd rather not deal with matters of substance.

Jews have been victims of oppression throughout history. Only in very recent times has a section of them become oppressors and murderers. Jews who cherish our most enlightened traditions can never sink to the level of McCarthyites.

I loved Reena Katz's message above. She is young and active and obviously hasn't learned the ways of diplomacy, thank God. Jews like her are standing up everywhere, unafraid, speaking the truth. May Jaku's fraudulent "mainstream Jewish" organizations tremble in their boots. The end of their power is on the horizon.

Lord Palmerston

As I said, you wouldn't have seen a Star article five years ago talking about a divide within the Toronto Jewish community over Israel and Zionism.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Unionist wrote:
Jaku's typical tactic is to talk about some empty legalities when his allies are acting like fascists and he'd rather not deal with matters of substance.

Making legality empty is what fascism is all about.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

'Toronto city-funded theater shouldn't stage anti-Semitic play'

Quote:
B'nai Brith Canada has contacted Toronto Mayor David Miller to ask that he use his authority to ensure that the city-funded Theatre Passe Muraille does not become a staging ground for the drama, "Seven Jewish Children."

The Jewish human rights organization has characterized the play as "blatantly propagandist" and "aimed at de-legitimizing not only Israel, but its Jewish supporters worldwide." Seven Jewish Children is scheduled to run from May 15 ­to May 17th.

"The City of Toronto should not allow a venue that it funds to be the staging ground for a divisive play that promotes anti-Jewish hatred," said B'nai Brith Canada's Executive Vice President Frank Dimant. "As its name denotes, 'Seven Jewish Children' does not even pretend to target Israel exclusively. It is clearly aimed at maligning Jews, depicting them as oppressors of Palestinians, blood-thirsty aggressors and child killers. It disturbingly inverts history, using Holocaust imagery to allege that the Jews, once the victims, are actively teaching their own children callous disregard for the suffering of others.

"We call on Mayor Miller to ensure that our tax dollars are not inadvertently being used for the promotion of a play whose thrust is anti-Semitic. It is unthinkable that the City would allow this communal theater to be used as a venue for promoting hatred and discord amongst its citizens, as this play threatens to do," he said.

Anti-semitic? See for yourself.

 

remind remind's picture

Unreal, seriously unreal!

 

I agree cue!

Maysie Maysie's picture

Here is the latest statement from Reena Katz, Artist and Kim Simon, Curator:

Quote:
For Immediate Release: May 10, 2009 
Two Jewish cultural workers, 30,000 opinions: 
A public statement from artist Reena Katz and curator Kim Simon

It is with absolute outrage and a deep sadness that we write this statement regarding our experience working with 
the Koffler Centre of the Arts. As a Jewish curator and Jewish artist, we were invited by the Koffler to develop a 
project in early 2008. Since April of last year we have been working closely on an off-site exhibition 
wholeheartedly approved by Koffler curator Mona Filip, Koffler Executive Director Lori Starr and the Koffler 
Arts Advisory Committee.

Slated to open on May 20th 2009, the project, entitled each hand as they are called, is an ambitious and considered series of ephemeral gestures reflective of life in Toronto's historic Kensington Market. The project consists of sonic and visual performances, brings elders from Toronto's Jewish community into conversation and play with students from Ryerson Public School, and involves a series of vivid posters designed by Cecilica Berkovic sited throughout the Kensington neighborhood. This beautiful, smart and tender project reflects a deep commitment to animating a dialogue between aspects of Toronto's diverse Jewish/Yiddish history and its fascinating contact with other cultures. Through a queer framing of social history, this dialogue draws on the current social and economic space of Kensington Market, the trans-cultural game of Mah-Jongg, and the fusion music of the North American Yiddish song.

THE FACTS: 
Late on Thursday, May 7th we received an email requesting our attendance at an urgent meeting with Lori Starr 
and Mona Filip, scheduled for Friday, May 8th at 9:00 AM. When we inquired about the agenda of the meeting, 
Filip refused to answer. The next morning, twelve days before the scheduled opening of a project involving over 
seventy participants, we attended the meeting. We were shocked to learn that the Koffler would be dissociating 
itself from Katz and our project solely on the basis of her political affiliations they said they had discovered on the Internet. Of particular concern was Katz's participation in Israeli Apartheid Week. Starr made a verbal offer to honor the full funding of the project while removing the Koffler's name, logo and URL from any related material.

Before leaving the meeting we requested a discussion with the Koffler Board of Directors and Starr agreed to take 
the request under advisement. The one -hour meeting ended with many questions unanswered, and it was agreed 
that we would be in contact again with the Koffler on Monday, May 12th about whether and how to continue such 
a difficult working relationship. In less than one hour after this meeting, the Koffler and its parent organization United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto (UJA) issued separate public statements of dissociation from Katz.

FROM KIM SIMON, CURATOR: 
Now distributed to an international network, the Koffler and UJA's statements are a hypocritical, inaccurate 
account of Katz's work for human rights in Palestine. They constitute an irresponsible, inflammatory and slanderous attempt to discredit Katz and by extension her work as an artist. After a year of dialogue with us, to be 
summarily dismissed by Star and Filip without opportunity for discussion is shocking to say the least.

The Koffler had full knowledge of the work Katz has done over the course of a year to develop close relationships 
enabling dialogue and collaboration with numerous organizations and individuals participating in her exhibition.

While verbally agreeing to continue funding for the exhibition, the Koffler's reprehensible and uniquely 
unprofessional conduct has in effect placed the project in jeopardy. At this time, several key collaborators in the 
project have withdrawn their participation due to the discomfort directly caused by the Koffler and UJA 
statements.

In their public dissociation from Katz's exhibition, not on the basis of the aesthetics and content of the work but 
rather on the presumed opinions of the artist, the Koffler has entered into a practice of cultural blocklisting 
reminiscent of the 1950s and McCarthyism. I cannot overstate my disappointment in this institution that claims its mission as strengthening "identity and community while fostering an appreciation of difference." The Koffler's dissociation with Katz is a complete undermining of open dialogue within the Jewish community of Toronto and a great disservice to the Toronto cultural community, and the greater community of this city. As a condition for receiving financial support, the City of Toronto requires all organizations to follow policies that clearly prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of political affiliation. The Koffler Centre for the Arts has unwisely 
chosen to follow a different course and thus effectively rendered itself an undemocratic cultural space.

Katz is a person for whom I have deep respect. It has been my honor and privilege to work with her, learn from 
her and debate with her. I am appalled and heartbroken over the manner in which she has been treated by the 
Koffler Centre for the Arts.

FROM REENA KATZ, ARTIST 
I come from a family of many Holocaust Survivors. My elders' stories of resistance and survival have deeply 
informed my visual and sound work. In a number of Jewish contexts, I was taught to embrace tolerance and fight 
racism in all its forms. It is this wisdom and ethical rooting that informs my art practice as well as my activism.

My relational, sound and sculptural work have a consistent reference to oral archive, Yiddish texts, Jewish 
metaphor, and culturally specific imagery.

Starting at age 16, I studied Yiddish with my great-aunts, both of whom lived at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric 
Care, a participating organization in the project. I have been a student, teacher, and performer of Yiddish and 
Klezmer for the past 14 years. I have worked within Jewish, multi-faith, and secular forums to educate around 
anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and sexism.

I bring an irreverent, creative, and queer voice to my Jewish cultural work, critiquing and transforming traditions into contemporary praxis. My projects build bridges between the diverse communities I am a part of, forming my esteemed reputation as a community-based artist. It repulses me that I have to justify my practice here, as I sit falsely accused. I am as Jewish as they come, and not the Jew the Koffler claims me to be.

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and its organizers do not act to delegitimize Israel, but rather, "to educate people 
about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) 
campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement." I have not stated that I advocate for the "extinction of 
Israel as a Jewish State" as the Koffler's statement claims. What I do state publicly is that I am an anti-Zionist Jew. This is an ideological stance, not one that determines any specific outcome for the contemporary state of Israel. I consider the Koffler's press release a blatant misrepresentation of my position as well as that of IAW.


I do not expect the Koffler or the UJA to agree with my political leanings. The issue here is the silence because 
of my political affiliations, and the stonewalling of internal dissent and debate within our cultural 
institutions. I am deeply committed to open discussion both within Jewish communities and with Palestinian, 
Arab, and Muslim communities worldwide. Dissent and discourse are crucial parts of this now global 
conversation; silencing and blocklisting are cowardly and toxic. At no point along the way was I asked to 
represent myself, my ideas, or the mandates of the groups I belong to, despite amicable, almost daily contacts with 
Filip for many months.

One of the first steps towards dialogue and understanding is upholding the rights of expression and free 
association. The arts especially, are fertile ground on which communities can come together with respect and 
creative vision. Cultural workers and artists must be allowed to speak honestly, stir passions, disturb - as well as kindle - justice and peace.

MOVING FORWARD 
Since the release of the Koffler and UJA statements we have received overwhelming support from an international 
community of artists, curators, public arts organizations, educators and organizers. We greatly appreciate your 
attention to this matter. In further consideration we suggest you continue to question what is at stake in the 
Koffler's decision. We respectfully request your support in the form of continued dialogue with each other and a 
critical inquiry regarding all forms of support to the Koffler Center of the Arts.

Rest assured that the presentation of each hand as they are called will go on, even if this means an amendment to 
the original project. We look forward to inviting you to the opening.

Please visit our blog at eachhand.org and the eachhand Facebook page which will be up and running by May 12, 
2009. For any questions or comments, please contact Reena Katz at [email protected] and Kim Simon at 
[email protected]

Full disclosure: I know Reena personally because we used to work together a number of years ago, and now, as neighbours, we live across the hall from each other in a downtown-east co-op.

Maysie Maysie's picture

An update from Reena Katz and Kim Simon.

Quote:

Friday May 15, 2009
For immediate release

Dear friends, supporters and colleagues,

As our situation with Koffler Centre of the Arts continues unresolved, we offer this brief update on the status of the Reena Katz exhibition each hand as they are called:

While we have made every attempt to present the exhibition as originally intended, with numerous logistic delays and the fact that Baycrest Centre Geriatric Care - an essential and valued collaborator in the project - has withdrawn their participation, we are prevented from moving forward at this time.

Our request to meet with the Koffler board of directors has been rejected and the question of silencing discussion and diverse voices within our communities remains.

While it is with great sadness that we announce the exhibition will not be opening to the public on Wednesday, May 20th as originally scheduled, we continue to work towards the presentation of each hand as they are called.

The incredible support that we have received from cultural workers, administrators, organizers, academics, and the media has been the inspiration for our desire to continue moving forward. Your writing, calls, and critical discussions are greatly appreciated and act as a place marker for the original spirit of the project.

We will continue to share updates as they happen, and please visit our website for any information: www.eachhand.org

Sincerely,
Reena Katz, artist
Kim Simon, curator

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

There's a facebook group started called "Oppose the Koffler's decision to disassociate from Reena Katz' exhibition"

Click here if you want details and to join.

aka Mycroft

NOW: The show that you won't see

Quote:

Howard English, vice-president of communications at the United Jewish Appeal, one of the Koffler's funders, tells me, "When somebody says Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is not fair, therefore Israel should not exist as a Jewish state, I draw the line." 

The word "apartheid," he says, is "used as a propaganda term to delegitimize Israel, which is the first step in the pursuit of the demise of the Jewish state."

English maintains that mainstream Jewish organizations have no problem with those who criticize Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. If that's true, it represents a significant shift, but before anyone starts celebrating this development, it should be noted that English goes on to say that these orgs will not, on principle, even dialogue with those who want to alter the Jewish character of Israel or, by inference, those who support a binational Jewish/Palestinian state.

But Katz says her critics aren't attuned to the massive spectrum of Jewish opinion on the Mideast dispute and that none of them even asked her what her views are. Here's what she would have told them: "We have to make a separation between anti-Zionism as a position and a prescription for the future of the region. 

"As Jews, we need to look at the history of what we've done in the region, stop abusing the human rights of Palestinians and work together to find a coexistent answer to this global problem. One-state solution? Two-state? I'm not even going there - that's for the people in the region to decide."

Simon and Katz are hoping to salvage something of the exhibit. That depends on whether the budget holds and if the Koffler will accept changes in the project.

"My relationship to every single aspect of the project has changed, and I'm not willing to pretend that it hasn't and do this sweet little reverent piece," Katz says.

"There's so much fear, and I have compassion for that fear. This is why it breaks my heart that they've made me into the devil, because I have so much compassion for the force of pain that comes from the Holocaust. 

"I'm the one in my family who bothered to learn Yiddish. I'm the one who bothered to study klezmer, who bothered to perform it, who went to Poland because that's where my grandmother's from. 

"I'm the wrong person to vilify."

 

 

EYE: Katz vs Koffler

 

Quote:
In an EYE WEEKLY interview with Starr, the executive director maintains that their decision to formally disassociate itself from each hand as they are called is a reflection of the institution's "core Jewish values." (Koffler is also a member of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, a philanthropist organization committed to financially supporting the state of Israel.) This is the first time such an action has been issued, both for Koffler and the artist.

Starr points me to an open letter from the organization Anti-Zionist Youth In Canada - signed by Reena Katz (alongside many other activists) on January 5, 2009 - that apparently cemented the institution's decision for disassociation. Among the discourse reads the following missive: 

Ours is a generation that is committed to ending Middle-East violence by opposing all forms of discrimination, calling for a just peace within the entire region, and condemning Zionism to the dustbin of history.

Not exactly abolitionist material.

Admits Starr, "It's been a valuable lesson of due diligence. It certainly raises questions about the role of Jewish cultural institutions in the mainstream Jewish community. And the well being and existence of Israel as a Jewish state as a responsibility of due diligence."

Whether it's due diligence or artistic censorship remains to be seen.

 

 

And the Canadian Jewish News has finally published a story on this affair. Here's all they have to say:

 

Canadian Jewish News: Kensington Exhibit "postponed indefinitely"

Quote:
TORONTO - The exhibit each hand as they are called has been "postponed indefinitely" and won't be part of Luminato, the Toronto art festival said last week.
Last month, the Koffler Centre of the Arts said it was disassociating, but not pulling funding, from the interactive exhibit about the history of Toronto's Kensington Market after it said it learned the artist, Reena Katz, supports Israeli Apartheid Week. It gave the exhibit $20,000 and co-sponsored it with Luminato.
Baycrest, whose seniors were integral to the exhibit's interactive component, withdrew its support just before the scheduled opening date of May 20, Katz said.
Luminato and Koffler are no longer promoting it.
Katz, who calls herself an anti-Zionist Jew, has said Koffler officials knew of her political leanings before they agreed to sponsor her project, and were comfortable with it, because it had nothing to do with the Middle East.
It was to have run in Kensington Market until July 26.

 

 

aka Mycroft

Quote:
Toronto Artists Protest Koffler Fundraiser

Silence Tastes Bad...Put Free Speech on the Menu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 4, 2009

Artists and supporters speak out for freedom of association at the launch of the Koffler Gallery fundraiser, ARTFUL DISH, Thursday, June 4, 10 AM at The Four Seasons Hotel, 21 Avenue Road. This protest will be held outside the hotel, at Avenue Road and Cumberland.

As this gala with "world class cultural luminaries" and "leading chefs" is announced, artists will don chef's hats, take up utensils and declare, "Silence Tastes Bad", "Occupation is Unsavoury", and "Put Human Rights on the Menu."

This action responds to the Koffler Gallery's eleventh hour "disassociation" from Reena Katz' relational art project, each hand as they are called, which was to be presented as part of the Luminato festival May 20.

After a year of active collaboration and sponsorship, the Koffler widely circulated a letter days before the show was to open, saying that they are disassociating from Katz' project due to her support of Israeli Apartheid Week. Koffler erroneously claimed that the artist "advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state." Each hand as they are called has no relation to Israel/Palestine. Katz and curator Kim Simon have been forced to suspend the project.

"The Koffler's withdrawal was not based on Katz's artwork or conduct in relation to the project, but solely because of the artist's support for the human rights of Palestinians. This constitutes a serious attack on freedom of speech and political affiliation, and if unchallenged poses grave threats to all artists," said artist b.h. Yael.

As a result of the Koffler actions, performers, artists and community organizations are now withdrawing their support of Koffler events:

· Sarah Polley, film director/actor, has pulled out of the Artful Dish fundraiser

· Artist/Professor Yvonne Singer has stepped down from the Koffler Centre of the Arts Board of Directors

· Gwen McGregor, artist, has withdrawn from the Wrecking Ball fundraiser

· Artist/professor Nina Levitt has withdrawn her touring exhibition 'Thin Air'

· Pages Bookstore has withdrawn from a Koffler event

Cueball Cueball's picture

Good.

remind remind's picture

Excellent news!

Jaku

Yes but will they continue their funding?

remind remind's picture

Who?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Jaku wrote:

Yes but will they continue their funding?

 

Fuck them.

Unionist

Jaku wrote:

Yes but will they continue their funding?

They should choke and die on their dollars. Inshallah.

 

Cueball Cueball's picture

Maybe the title of the thread so that "blacklists" is replaced simply with the word "blackmails", in keeping with Jaku's sagacious question about finance?

Jaku

It was a simple question.

Maysie Maysie's picture

The simple answer is no, the Koffler Centre will not continue their funding of this project. That seems obvious.

I'm certain Katz will find alternate funding sources, and her project will be mounted at some point in the future.

Unionist

Jaku wrote:

It was a simple question.

Did you not find my reply and Cueball's reply sufficiently "simple"?

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

I know I've contributed to the thread drift, and while it's been lovely, let's try to stay on topic, okay?

Unionist

Maysie wrote:

While this thread drift has been lovely, let's try to stay on topic, okay?

What's the topic, Maysie? In my opinion, the topic is how our society dictates models of thought and behaviour, of political conformity, and uses every means of reward and punishment - including granting or withholding of money - to enforce that conformity. The fitting reply is for people to get together and rely upon their own resources, so that they don't have to genuflect before wealth and power in order to make their political, artistic, and other voices heard. Self-reliance is an important principle which we have tried (not all that well) to implement in the trade union movement, as have many other social and political movements.

It's not just about this one artist. It's about all of us. That's why people need to stand up and publicly tell the "benefactors" to choke on their dollars. Only then will change be possible.

aka Mycroft

Jaku wrote:

Yes but will they continue their funding?

Are you referring to Koffler's funding of Reena Katz or the donations to Koffler by various groups that have pulled out of the Koffler fundraiser? If the latter, I assume not. If the former, I think Koffler is contractually obligated to though the UJA's sabotage of the project by apparently urging Baycrest and others to withdraw may make them legally liable.

NDPP

Catchfire wrote:

'Toronto city-funded theater shouldn't stage anti-Semitic play'

Quote:
B'nai Brith Canada has contacted Toronto Mayor David Miller to ask that he use his authority to ensure that the city-funded Theatre Passe Muraille does not become a staging ground for the drama, "Seven Jewish Children."

The Jewish human rights organization has characterized the play as "blatantly propagandist" and "aimed at de-legitimizing not only Israel, but its Jewish supporters worldwide." Seven Jewish Children is scheduled to run from May 15 ­to May 17th.

"The City of Toronto should not allow a venue that it funds to be the staging ground for a divisive play that promotes anti-Jewish hatred," said B'nai Brith Canada's Executive Vice President Frank Dimant. "As its name denotes, 'Seven Jewish Children' does not even pretend to target Israel exclusively. It is clearly aimed at maligning Jews, depicting them as oppressors of Palestinians, blood-thirsty aggressors and child killers. It disturbingly inverts history, using Holocaust imagery to allege that the Jews, once the victims, are actively teaching their own children callous disregard for the suffering of others.

"We call on Mayor Miller to ensure that our tax dollars are not inadvertently being used for the promotion of a play whose thrust is anti-Semitic. It is unthinkable that the City would allow this communal theater to be used as a venue for promoting hatred and discord amongst its citizens, as this play threatens to do," he said.

Anti-semitic? See for yourself.

 

NDPP

An Open Letter to Caryl Churchill from a Palestinian Mother

http://palestinethinktank.com/2009/05/03/an-open-letter-to-caryl-churchi...

Sky Captain Sky Captain's picture

Unionist wrote:

Maysie wrote:

While this thread drift has been lovely, let's try to stay on topic, okay?

What's the topic, Maysie? In my opinion, the topic is how our society dictates models of thought and behaviour, of political conformity, and uses every means of reward and punishment - including granting or withholding of money - to enforce that conformity. The fitting reply is for people to get together and rely upon their own resources, so that they don't have to genuflect before wealth and power in order to make their political, artistic, and other voices heard. Self-reliance is an important principle which we have tried (not all that well) to implement in the trade union movement, as have many other social and political movements.

It's not just about this one artist. It's about all of us. That's why people need to stand up and publicly tell the "benefactors" to choke on their dollars. Only then will change be possible.

 

If you really want to make a statement, boycott Shopper's Drug Mart; that's still owned by the Kofflers, IIRC. Maybe if we all get together and do so, the Kofflers can feel what being without money to do what they do.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

You're only about 25 years out of date, Cap'n!

[url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoppers_Drug_Mart]When Koffler retired in 1983, he sold the chain to Imasco, formerly Imperial Tobacco, at that time Canada's largest tobacco company.[/url]

Maysie Maysie's picture

Update from Reena Katz and Ann Simon.

Quote:
August 5, 2009

Dear friends and colleagues;

We are pleased to update you regarding the status of Katz's performative project in Kensington Market, each hand as they are called.

As many of you know, The Koffler Centre for the Arts dissociated from Katz and the commissioned project in early May, 2009 because of her political work for Palestinian human rights, and subsequently sent a defamatory press release across the country, falsely claiming that Katz supports the extinction of the State of Israel. Since late May, we have been in legal negotiations with the Koffler about moving forward with the project and we have now reached an agreement. While the specific terms of this agreement are confidential, we are happy to continue discussions about our experience and understanding of the Koffler "dissociation" as well as the project itself.

Simultaneously but independent of our legal negotiations, the Toronto Arts Council (TAC) Board of Directors has been involved in internal discussion, as well as in consultation with the Koffler about their decision to dissociate as well as their professional and ethical conduct. The TAC has determined that the Koffler was in violation of the City of Toronto's non-discrimination policy regarding an individual's right to freedom of political association. As it is not TAC general policy to release public statements regarding such matters, for a more detailed statement regarding the decision, the TAC invites you to contact Executive Director Claire Hopkinson directly at [email protected].

It is our understanding that while the TAC will not be withholding funding from the Koffler, they have approached this situation in a productive gesture of stewardship. This includes working nonpunitively with Koffler around issues of anti-discrimination policy development, transparency of mandate, curatorial and board structure, as well as accountability and eligibility where public funds are concerned. We are heartened by the TAC's official acknowledgement that Koffler violated Katz's right to freedom of association, and by extension violated one of the terms of the City of Toronto's public funding. We are sincerely encouraged and hopeful about the TAC's strategies for addressing this matter.

Finally, we are thrilled to announce that we will soon share details about the presentation of a revised version of each hand as they are called, to be presented in Kensington in the fall of 2009. We consider this presentation a positive outcome of a very difficult situation, and look forward to seeing you at the exhibition. We also encourage continued personal and public dialogue around Israel/Palestine and the role of cultural institutions in relation to discussion and dissent. The events of these last few months have embodied the extreme need for such dialogue in all our intersecting communities, and we are deeply thankful for the threads of discussion arising from the support, suggestions, and questions you have offered.

Please contact us for further information on each hand as they are called, and check out our website for continued regular updates. www.eachhand.org

Reena Katz, artist
Kim Simon, curator

 

writer writer's picture

I am over the moon about this. Thanks for posting!

Jaku

What can it all mean...??? BTW is there anything else on babble that has captured more attention than Jews, israe, and Zionists?

Unionist

South Africa also used to be a universal topic of discussion, struggle, and solidarity - until the racist colonial apartheid system was defeated. Be patient, Jaku.

 

Maysie Maysie's picture

Please read the happy ending and follow up to the story of Reena Katz and each hand as they are called in this thread.