Shailee Mendelevich is the Assistant Director of Hillel in Sydney, Australia. She is currently completing her Masters in Law, Media and Journalism. You can contact her at Shailee@hillel.com.au or tweet her at @shaileem.
Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine.
This is the email response I received two days after inquiring to book a space at The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, Sydney.
I was shocked, of course. I remember feeling a deep sense of injustice and indignation.
As the Assistant Director of Hillel, a Sydney-based not-for-profit, I explained to The Red Rattler that we create events for “Jewish students and young adults” and that we enable “meaningful performances to educate the audience on the theme of the evening.”
From this information, somebody on The Red Rattler Team read my email and put “Jewish” together with their preferred buzzwords such as “Colonialism” and “Zionism” and “Occupation of Palestine”.
They took a grand moral stand against an ‘evil’ they believed would be diminished by denying a Sydney-based Jewish community group the right to do business and create art with them. They revealed in the process the superficiality of their morality, ultimately falling hard upon the pedestal they built for themselves.
On the same day that the reply email was sent to Hillel, we reached out to Vic Alhadeff, official spokesperson for the Jewish Community in NSW. He sent an official email addressing the manager of The Red Rattler to resolve misconceptions that the team seemed to hold as well as acknowledge the categorical rejection of a “Jewish organisation to hire your premises because of a political position that your team holds in relation to an overseas conflict.”
A week passed and we still had no response and the decision was made to escalate our story to the national media. The Australian ran an article on Monday morning called ‘No to Zionism: theatre rejects Jewish act’, page 3 with my photo in accompaniment. I received numerous inquiries from journalists, was interviewed on the radio and received lots of feedback from my social networks that began to share and engage with the issue.
On reflection, a highlight from the many profound experiences I had came out of a reader’s comment made in response to the article in The Australian. The user showed outraged that The Red Rattler was “politicising the arts”. Surely the arts have always been political? John and Yoko in bed, Dylan’s ‘Times They Are A Changin’, the Flower Power movement…
We do not live in a world where any single industry is free of politics. However, we can choose how we act when greeted by the ‘other’. If we are the kind of people that use the pen before the sword then we must embody all that it represents; leaders that imagine a world where people of all creed, colour, faith and opinion live and learn together and are not diminished because their values do not match your own.
I am proud that the Australian people were as shocked as I was and applied social pressure that ultimately led to an apology from The Red Rattler management. We live in a country with a reasonable and fair minded majority who have shown that for today, people come before politics.
Hillel has since accepted their apology and is in communication to meet with the Red Rattler Management.