Broadway Makes Inspiring Statements Against Antisemitism At Tonys, ‘Leopoldstadt’ and ‘Parade’ Win In Major Categories 

During Sunday night’s Tony Awards, Broadway made a defiant statement against antisemitism, as two major shows that thematically embodied the subject pulled in major categories: “Leopoldstadt” and the musical revival “Parade.”

Some of the members of both plays’ casts’ utilized the opportunity to make statements regarding antisemitism, as well as its connection to other forms of bigotry, such as homophobia and transphobia, during a time where, politically, all the groups are under attack. 

“Leopoldstadt” won four of the six Tonys it was nominated for, including best play. Tom Stoppard’s semi-autobiographical play takes the audience through three generations of Viennese Jewish families before and after the Holocaust. 

Brandon Uranowitz of “Leopoldstadt” won for the featured actor category, and thanked Stoppard for writing a show about antisemitism and “the false promise of assimilation,” discussing how members of his family were murdered by Nazis in Poland. 

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“When your child tells you who they are, believe them,” Uranowitz, who is gay, stated.

“Parade” is about the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, and took home two awards on Sunday, including best revival of a musical. Alfred Uhry, who wrote the book to the original play in 1998, wore the Star of David lapel pin when he came up to accept the award. 

The show’s director, Michael Arden, discussed Leo Frank in his speech, and how he had “a life that was cut short at the hands of the belief that one group of people is more or less valuable than another, which is at the core of antisemitism, of white supremacy, of homophobia, of transphobia, of intolerance of any kind.”

Arden also warned the audience to take in and learn the lessons that these plays are providing, “or else we are doomed to repeat the horrors of our history.”

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The Importance of Remembrance

It is an obvious statement to say that time moves forward. Particular events move further and further away as we accelerate into the future but one can always find threads of the past woven into the present day. Every new year brings with it another marker on the tally of memorialization and 2020 in particular yields some rather relevant anniversaries. January saw the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, whose memorials brought the horrors of the Holocaust back to the forefront of the public mind. September this year will also mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the second world war. Both occasions mark an “ending” but hold with them the weight of trauma and horror that cannot be undone or turned away from.

Many of us believe, on a personal level, to try not to live in the past. Indeed, it is the basis of many mindfulness practices. The past cannot be changed and it is the present moment that is important. Nevertheless, acts of remembrance and memorialization are an important part of our culture. Each year we celebrate days dedicated to public figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. (January 20th), days celebrating the country’s history such as Independence Day (July 4th) and days that deliver respect for those who have suffered for the country, Memorial Day (May 25th).

Public memory is short-term and with our faces turned to the future, we understandably get lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Yet, some events shook the world so undeniably that they are remembered not only on designated public days, but in the teachings of histories, literature’s and physical memorials in our cities. The after effects of events such as the holocaust and World War 2 resonate clearly into the future.

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It can be argued that regularly remembering these events can stop history from repeating itself, recognize where we have evolved and where we have yet to change. Unfortunately, the Holocaust, although a chilling warning against fascism, is not a stand-alone event or a blip in human nature. We have seen it again and again throughout history and since, with Apartheid and most recently the coordinated attacks on the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Sadly, therefore, the Holocaust has important messages that still need to be repeated today.

The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz relived the historical fact, shared the narratives of survivors and told the stories of those lost. The importance of remembering such an event not only pays homage to those affected, understanding that even after seventy-five years the damage has not lessened, but it holds a scrutinizing mirror up to society as we recognize the depths of evil that humankind is capable of.

The honoring of the victims of the Holocaust prompted important discussions of Antisemitism to come further forward. Like racism and many other forms of prejudice Antisemitism is still not a thing of the past and concern is mounting due to a rise in this form of discrimination. An article from the BBC noted that the Anti Defamation League had recorded 1879 incidents of Antisemitism in 2018 which, although down from the previous year, demonstrates a growing trend. Worldwide studies of Antisemitism indicated a rising level of prejudiced crimes overall.

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Although many of the year’s anniversaries fall under the title of “seventy-five years since the end of World War 2” scattered through 2020 are many anniversaries of importance within that cohort. Notably, August will mark seventy-five years after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A subject which is fraught with moral complexities but the true atrocity of which is undeniable. Sadness and respect and for the 70,000 innocent Japanese people is still felt today and is very important to memorialize. In today’s society the fear of Nuclear warfare has a firm placement at the precipice of the worlds mind as countries attempt to avoid conflict. Dubbed “the bomb that shook the world,” the unprecedented and unpredictable volume of its devastation still shocks and scares us today.

Memorialization is a crucial and cathartic pillar of society that allows both a communal grief, respect and solidarity. After times of such devastation this is important. Although seventy-five years may have passed there are still those alive who directly experienced World War 2, the Holocaust or the atomic bomb and those who dealt with loss or witnessed the after-effects and struggles of their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandparents and so on. 2021 will mark twenty years since the Twin Tower Attacks. A memory that is painfully held in the minds of many, the losses of which still play a significant role in many of our lives today. Memorializing such events spread awareness and understanding in the public sphere. Just as teaching children in history classes can, in a controlled environment, appropriately educate and inform in order for a public evolvement to take place. Clear rights and wrongs can be underlined and through understanding prevent history from repeating itself.

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Thousands March In NYC In Support of Jewish Community

This Sunday (1/7/20), thousands of individuals took to lower Manhattan to show their love and support for the Jewish community of New York and the United States as a whole. The massive demonstration was in response to the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes within the past year, and past few months especially. 

The march started in Foley Square in Manhattan, and continued onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The New York Police Department (NYPD) stated that they estimated just over 20,000 people participated in the march, including government officials. Based on NYPD statistics, there’s been a 24% increase in anti-Semitic incidents from 2018 to 2019. Jewish individuals are also the number one group who fall victim to hate crimes in the United States as well. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke at the march, where he told the crowd of 20,000 angry and passionate New Yorkers that he plans to label all hate crimes as domestic terrorism in the future, so that civilians feel confident that these matters are taken extremely seriously. 

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“These are terrorists and it should be punished as such. The state will increase funding for security and for the presence of security forces in vulnerable communities. While we’re here today in the spirit of solidarity and love, government must do more than just offer thoughts and prayers. Government must act,” Cuomo said.  

“No hate, no fear, our Jewish families are welcome here,” echoed in the streets of New York City all throughout Sunday. The march itself felt especially important after the recent news of an attack on five Jewish individuals inside of a rabbi’s home, where the rabbi’s son was one of those wounded. The attack happened in a New York suburb, and the attacker was intending on going to the synagogue next door, but luckily those inside got a warning and locked all of the doors. This incident has been one of over a dozen of anti-Semitic driven attacks to occur in New York alone since December 23rd. These hate crimes have not only always been an issue, but have been especially apparent within the past few months, alongside political tensions. 

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According to a study conducted by the California State University of San Bernardino, anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined have reached an 18-year high within the past year. With this stat being a driving force of inspiration, New Yorkers knew that they had to use their voices to tell America to look at what’s happening and take it all in. Individuals’ lives are being taken by domestic acts of terrorism, but it hasn’t been treated as such, until hopefully now. 

Alongside Governor Cuomo was New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, all of whom participated in the march. They also all spoke on what legislative changes need to be done in order to turn anti-Semitism into a thing of history, and no longer a part of our reality. 

Senator Schumer stated that he wanted an increase in federal funding to specifically protect houses of worship. “They need to be protected, and so our proposal, we were able to get a $30 million increase in a grant to protect houses of worship last year. I am now proposing that it quadruple to $360 million. When people of good will saw anti-Semitism in Germany in the 20s and 30s, they did not do enough. We are standing strong.”