Rabbi protests ‘terrorism at the Met Opera’

Associated Press

A globally prominent rabbi-led Jewish teenagers in a prayer vigil Monday outside the Metropolitan Opera to protest an opera they say glorifies Palestinian terrorists.

Rabbi Avi Weiss and youths from several faith-based schools later planned to join former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other big-name politicians at a rally against the Met’s premiere of “The Death of Klinghoffer.”

Midday Monday, youths sat at their makeshift prayer spot opposite the Metropolitan, discussing Hebrew scriptures in shifts of about a dozen throughout the afternoon.

“We’re here because the Met is glorifying the killing of a Jew and we must speak out — we’re the next generation,” said Shabbos Kestenbaum, 15.

A placard read: “We pray for Leon Klinghoffer’s soul.”

The disabled 69-year-old New Yorker was shot in his wheelchair aboard the Achille Lauro Italian cruise ship when it was hijacked in 1985 by four men from the Palestinian Liberation Organization who then pushed him into the sea.

“The language is explosive. It’s radioactive. It’s dangerous,” the rabbi said. “It inspires violence.”

Politicians who are part of the growing firestorm against Adams’ 1991 opera include former New York Gov. George Pataki and U.S. Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Peter King.

Organizers said 100 symbolic wheelchairs would be brought to the rally at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

The Met canceled the international movie theater and radio broadcasts in November amid pressure from Jewish groups, especially the New York-based Anti-Defamation League. Met General Manager Peter Gelb, who is Jewish, said the decision was made “as a compromise gesture.”

But the Metropolitan Opera issued a statement, saying that “the fact that ‘Klinghoffer’ grapples with the complexities of an unconscionable real-life act of violence does not mean it should not be performed. ‘Klinghoffer’ is neither anti-Semitic, nor does it glorify terrorism.”

In response to demands that the performance be canceled, the company said: “The Met will not bow to this pressure.”

“The Death of Klinghoffer” first premiered in Brussels in 1991, with little controversy, then in various European cities as well as at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where it was greeted with both praise and anger.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the rights of cultural institutions like the Met to put on works of art have to be respected.

“We don’t have to agree with what’s in the exhibit, but we agree with the right of the artist and the cultural institution to put that forward to the public,” he said.

De Blasio, who has not seen the opera, added that anti-Semitism “is a serious problem today in the world that has nothing to do with this opera.”

“The Death of Klinghoffer” runs through Nov. 15.