For the second time this year, the D.C. Jewish Community Center’s role as an arts programmer is chafing against its Jewish identity.
For months, the Shondes, the Brooklyn-based “klezmer-punk” band, were set to headline the center’s Washington Jewish Music Festival this June with a show at the Black Cat. But the band got a surprise phone call from DCJCC CEO Carole Zawatsky last week: Because of lead singer Louisa Solomon’s support of Palestine, Zawatsky said, the Shondes were being kicked from the show.
According to Solomon, Zawatsky cited the DCJCC’s policy of withholding platforms from those advocating a boycott of Israel (Solomon has previously voiced her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement). Solomon clarified that the Shondes intended their performance to be a concert, not a rally, and offered her word that they wouldn’t mention the boycott onstage. That wasn’t enough for Zawatsky, according to Solomon, who said that some of the Shondes’ songs, like “I Watched the Temple Fall,” which brings up “blood all over our hands” and “colonial hate,” could be inflammatory. Solomon told her that the song refers to Abraham Joshua Heschel's writings on Jewish ritual as architecture of time. Zawatsky wouldn’t budge. (WAMU reported the news last night.)
“We were aware of the JCC’s position on Israel…and we took the invitation as a sign that they understood their community includes people with lots of different views on Israel,” Solomon said in an email. “We were heartened at their gesture toward inclusivity and were really sad that they then reneged on it.”
Zawatsky, in a statement, said the band simply went too far for her organization: “This band, which embraces boycotting Israel, exceeds the redline limits of the DCJCC’s open policy.”
The June 2 show at the Black Cat will still go on, but without the DCJCC’s imprimatur.