Don’t close the door on kids’ singing by censoring Jewish history

June 19, 2017 by J-Wire Staff
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Artsplash Co-ordinator Mary Prichard has reinstated three songs from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat into its programme for the September festival in Wellington, using the correct words including “Israel”.

David Zwartz

“An apology for changing one word without permission has been made to the librettist, Sir Tim Rice, and he has accepted the apology, so there is no reason why the performance of the song with the correct words shouldn’t go ahead” said David Zwartz of the Wellington Regional Jewish Council.

In the song “Close Every Door,” the line “Children of Israel” had been replaced with “Children of Kindness”…a change not accepted by Sir Tim Rice.

“As we see it, the ‘trouble’ Mary Prichard refers to is an attempt to censor without explanation an event in Jewish history that took place about three-and-a-half thousand years ago.

“It is wrong to indicate to primary school children that something in the Jewish Torah – also included in the Christian Old Testament, and the Koran – needs to be altered, or avoided altogether,” Zwartz stated.

“It also undermines a strong move in New Zealand society for better understanding of every religion, as shown by the National Statement on Religious Diversity and the work of the Human Rights Commission.

“Far better to teach the children, and their parents, that each religion’s historical background is something to be treated respectfully, not censored or banned.

“In the case of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, it is obviously something that inspired Sir Tim Rice and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber to create uplifting and enjoyable words and music.

Its universal acceptability is shown by the more than 20,000 performances of the work worldwide. 

“As a Wellingtonian, I don’t want our city to be branded as a place that refused to perform this popular adaptation of Jewish history,” David Zwartz said.

The Regional Jewish Council has offered to meet Mary Prichard and others from Artsplash to discuss and explain its opposition to censoring Jewish history.

But Mary Prichard wrote to David Zwartz telling him: “I agree with your sentiments and your request to go ahead with the performance of the songs in question with the correct original wording.  Below is the text of the response sent to other people who have raised this issue with me:

 ‘As Artsplash Co-ordinator I must take full responsibility for this unfortunate and regrettable error. 

 You have my complete assurance that this was an unintentional and innocent error on the part of one of my team, and I apologise for it.  The person concerned, and myself for that matter, are religious people and would never consider intentionally doing anything racist or anti any religion.    

 I have run Artsplash for 30 years and have always included children of all sorts of backgrounds including Jewish.  There has never before been an incident of this sort, and I don’t expect there will be again.

Action has been taken over the weekend to ensure that the original song words are all reinstated, with immediate effect.

I look forward to a very successful Artsplash event again this year for the  10,000 primary school children taking part’.”

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