Woody Allen, Ariel Zilber, and more: Two opinions

Image by Shay Charka

At last Sunday’s ACUM awards ceremony (Israel’s Emmy’s), the singer-songwriter Ariel Zilber was awarded the prize for “Contribution to Israeli Music”. This prize was given to him instead of the prize for “Life’s Work” he was meant to receive, following the protest of Achinoam Nini and Dalia Rabin-Philosof (the daughter of Yitzhak Rabin z”l). They were protesting at Zilber’s extreme comments against gays, leftists, Arabs, and the incarceration of Rabin’s assassin. This last week gave us a few interesting examples of the connection between the artist and his environment – from Eyal Golan’s letter to the Israeli public following his father’s arrest for supplying him with underage sexual fodder, the Woody Allen saga, and now the alteration of the prize for Ariel Zilber.

A stormy debate has ensued, throughout the internet and throughout Makom’s offices, over the connection between the artist and their environment, politics, and society, and whether it is every really possible to separate between artists and their art?

Here we present two opposing views on the same issue. 

From Wagner to Zilber – Dikla Rivlin-Katz


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Some eighty years ago this discourse arose about whether an artist’s creation stands on its own without reference to the beliefs of the artist – with the refusal of the Israeli Philharmonic to play the compositions of Richard Wagner.

On 12th November 1938 the Philharmonic Orchestra had planned to perform “Lohengrin”. Since Kristallnacht had taken place only three days previously, the conductor Eugene Shenkar decided not to play Wagner. This was not an official or institutional decision: Just the gut feeling of the conductor and the fellow members of the orchestra about the connection between Wagner and the Nazi Party. There were no anti-Semitic lyrics, or anti-Jewish names of the works. The Philharmonic decided not to play the works because of their human connection. Since then the Israeli Philharmonic has never played Wagner in a publicized event. To Full Post

From Pomegranates to Woody – Robbie Gringras


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My favorite character from the Chazal period, the Rabbis of the first and second century, is Rabbi Meir. He was a smart cookie. He was married to a strong and smart woman, and was an original thinker. At the same time, his superior intellect made him slightly suspect in the eyes of his contemporaries. It was said, (admiringly or disapprovingly) that he could argue a point of law one way, and then argue it equally fluently the other way. When you’re talking sacred law, being a master of spin is not necessarily an admirable quality.

 When you’re talking sacred law, being a master of spin is not necessarily an admirable quality.


Meir’s most famous moral and intellectual choice was in his ongoing friendship with R. Elisha Ben Avuya. Ben Avuya had been the top scholar of his generation until he lost his faith and was excommunicated. In the moral universe of Chazal, to renounce one’s faith was disgraceful. Like being a child abuser in our days. In the Talmud his name was obliterated, his teachings were accredited to “the other”, and no one was allowed to come near him, let alone study with him. R. Meir, my hero, totally ignored this ban. He continued to study with his old friend and teacher, arguing: “When one eats a pomegranate, one can spit out the seeds yet still gain sustenance from the juice.” Quite apart from the fact that this is actually more difficult that it sounds (ever tried it?), it is also more morally complicated than Meir admitted. To Full Post

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