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Kulturen und Künste, Jan. 01, 2000
Denken + Glauben, Jan. 01, 2000
www.jta.at, Dec. 01, 1999

AJT Newsletter - June 30, 2007

Tikun Olam in Vienna

By Warren Rosenzweig

The Jewish Theater of Austria has contributed a long absent impulse to culture and has set the stage for positive renewal in place of the lip service, commemoration, and contrition that has been fashionable since the 1990s in the discussion of Austrian Jewish experience. The story of how it has persevered for the past eight years in a largely hostile environment is too complex to summarize briefly, yet it forms the foundation for the events that took place in March 2007 in Vienna under the banner “Tikun Olam – Repair the World”. Here, where the world began to crumble in the 20th Century, “renewal” still implies “tikun olam”.

Alone, the story of the “Nestroyhof Initiative” is hard to explain in few words. But ever since the concurrent “World Congress” of the Association for Jewish Theater and the associated “Tikun Olam” festival of the Jewish Theater of Austria, I have frequently been asked to report on the effects, if any, that these events may have had on the long-standing initiative concerning the stolen theater in the Nestroyhof, the former home of the Jüdische Künstlerspiele until it was taken by a Nazi family whose children and grandchildren continue to profit from its possession today. Our international gathering of theater professionals in Vienna was, after all, a response to this true-life drama.

There have been at least 40 articles covering the congress and festival, many of which are now posted online (some in translation) under “Press” at www.jta.at, including the personal accounts of several international participants. While it was not possible for any one person to attend all the events, each writer has highlighted specific parts of the rich program. Several of the articles reflect on the Nestroyhof Initiative in particular, or illustrate some of the many connections between the Tikun Olam program and the initiative, and the reports are typically thoughtful and accurate in the presentation of facts.

A notable exception occurs in a lengthy article, entitled “Posse mit Hakenkreuze” (Farce with Swastikas), that was timed to appear at the start of the festival and congress. In that article, the writer boldly attempts to make a mockery out of the Nestroyhof debate and freely distorts, or even invents information intended to harm the credibility of the discussion. But the article is important in that it demonstrates, in black and white, the real risks involved in confronting certain Austrians with the promise of living interaction, and even a small measure of justice, in place of the silence and lingering Judeophobia that has prevented cultural renewal in Austria for more than sixty years. The article is included on the Jewish Theater of Austria website (in German and English translation), along with a few responses. (All of my own attempts to respond to the malicious report were rejected by the Editor-in-Chief.)

I am forever grateful for the partnership and support of the Association for Jewish Theater, under the proactive leadership of Mira Hirsch and Kayla Gordon, and for the generous participation and cooperation of many international colleagues and sponsors. I hope that the congress and festival may have helped to impart an understanding of the broad diversity of form, content, and style that may inspire Jewish theater. But I also see “tikun olam” as an optimistic appeal that is basically inherent in the work of Jewish theater in all its diverse manifestations. Certainly, this common principle has played a significant role in uniting creative individuals from six continents on behalf, in part, of damage still in need of repair in contemporary Vienna.

There will be an international Jewish theater in the Nestroyhof – it’s only a matter of time. And the Association for Jewish Theater has already made a significant contribution to this end.

Warren Rosenzweig
Artistic Director, Jewish Theater of Austria
2007 Conference Chair, Association for Jewish Theater

Please send your statements of support to office@jta.at and include “Billboard” in the subject line.

Copyright © 2007 Association for Jewish Theatre
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