Vancouver, BC – January 12, 2024 – Yesterday, the PuSh Festival canceled presentations of the award-winning, Canadian-made and widely acclaimed drama The Runner by playwright Christopher Morris.
“This is a disappointing decision,” said Nico Slobinsky, Vice President Pacific Region, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). “Freedom of speech and artistic expression are important Canadian values, especially during times when our society is divided. We need to have the hard conversations that allow us to coexist and support our neighbours.”
This is a reversal of PuSh’s initial decision “to have complex and nuanced conversations; to challenge ourselves and each other not only to think differently, but to feel differently,” by including both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives in their programming.
“Canadian Jews have had to have many complex and nuanced conversations with friends, family, and those curious about how the October 7 terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas have affected the local community,” said Slobinsky. “At a time when antisemitism and hate crimes have risen significantly, we would have welcomed the opportunity to use art as a gateway to foster conversation and an exchange of perspectives. Rather than giving both communities space to engage in dialogue, the festival has chosen one community over another.”
In their January 11 statement, the PuSh Festival claimed that they made this decision after “conversation with various members of our community.” Staff from CIJA, which represents the largest number of Jewish community members in Vancouver, reached out to festival organizers on January 9 to offer an opportunity for engagement and dialogue with the Jewish community, but has received no response.
PuSh is the second festival in B.C. to bow to external pressure and pull The Runner from their program. On January 2, the Belfry Theatre announced they had canceled their plans to present the play as part of their 2024 SPARK Festival line-up.
“The PuSh Festival is going to have to win back the trust of those who praised their original decision to continue with their presentation of The Runner,” said Slobinsky. “We should all be worried about the message that this sends to diverse communities who are trying to share their lived experiences.”
About the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing Jewish Federations across Canada. CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and protect Jewish life in Canada through advocacy and to advance the public policy interests of Canada’s organized Jewish community.
For more information or to coordinate interviews, please contact:
Associate Director, Policy and Communications, Pacific Region
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
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