Theatre sorry for Hillel rejection

Shailee Mendelevich outside The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville. Photo: Noel Kessel.
Shailee Mendelevich outside The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville. Photo: Noel Kessel.

THE employee who told a Jewish group that a theatre in Marrickville would not host a Jewish organisation because it does “not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine” is expected to tour the Sydney Jewish Museum and meet with communal leaders.

Hillel assistant director Shailee Mendelevich contacted The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville to hire the venue for a performance, noting that Hillel is a “not for profit that supports Jewish students and young adults”.

The response from the Red Rattler’s employee read, “Hi, Our policy does not support colonialism/zionism [sic]. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine. The Red Rattler Team.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff wrote to the manager of the Red Rattler and said that he was “extremely taken aback”.

“To categorically reject an approach by a Jewish organisation to hire your premises because of a political position that your team holds in relation to an overseas conflict is at best ill-informed and at worst racist and discriminatory,” Alhadeff said.

The email exchange was leaked to media and the theatre’s board quickly back-tracked.

“We would like to apologise for the email that was sent to you by one of our staff members,” Red Rattler’s board said to Mendelevich and Alhadeff.

“The email was inappropriate and not the reflection of the values of the community board of the Red Rattler Theatre.”

The board said it condemns racism of any kind.

“We welcome organisations from all cultures and walks of life and actively encourage cultural diversity. Our content policies refer to ensuring a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for LGBTQI, culturally diverse and Indigenous members of our community which includes creating a safe space for members of the Jewish community.”

Hilton Immerman, CEO of the Shalom Institute which incorporates Hillel, said he was shocked by the original email from the Red Rattler employee.

“The event that my staff wished to book for is called Moth which is about the third generation of Holocaust survivors learning lessons from the Shoah,” Immerman said.

“It involves live performances by young adults. It is apolitical and has nothing to do with Israel.”

He said denying a Jewish group the right to make a commercial booking is “clearly anti-Semitic and discriminatory”.

“What would be the response if an Indigenous or an Islamic group were denied use of facilities? No doubt there would be justifiable outrage.”

The AJN understands that the Red Rattler’s board is taking steps to ensure that the situation is not repeated.

That includes a new process for approving events, education for the staff member who sent the response, including a visit to the Sydney Jewish Museum, and a meeting between Mendelevich, Alhadeff and employees and board members from The Red Rattler.

Mendelevich welcomes the proposal.

“I am very glad that they have apologised and it would be a great suggestion to educate more people about what it means to be a Jewish person,” she said.

“That is exactly what the event was supposed to be about.”


Shailee Mendelevich outside The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville. Photo: Noel Kessel

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