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August 10, 1990 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-08-10

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ADL Says 'Rio Better' No Better
For Its Stereotyping Of Jews

New York (JTA) — Film-
maker Spike Lee's portrayal
of two Jewish jazz club
owners in the new film Mo'
Better Blues is being called
anti-Semitic by the Anti-
Defamation League of B'nai
B'rith and some leading film
critics and a jazz musician.
In his previous three
movies, including last year's
Do The Right Thing, Lee
vividly explored the black
experience and the effects of
racial prejudice in America.
In Mo' Better Blues,his cen-
tral character is a black
trumpet player who tries
unsuccessfully to wheedle a
raise from the two Jewish
owners of the jazz club where
his band performs.
The two-dimensional
depiction of the two
brothers, named Moe and
Josh Flatbush, who appear
in brief scenes throughout
the movie, was sharply
criticized by Abraham Fox-
man, national director of the
"Spike Lee's characteriza-
tion of Moe and Josh Flat-
bush as greedy and
unscrupulous club owners
dredges up an age-old and
highly dangerous form of an-
ti-Semitic stereotyping," Mr.
Foxman said. "ADL is dis-

appointed that Spike Lee —
whose success is largely due
to his efforts to break down
racial stereotypes and pre-
judice — has employed the
same kind of tactics that he
supposedly deplores."
Mr. Foxman told the Jew-
ish Telegraphic Agency that
he issued the statement in
the same spirit that the Na-
tional Association for the
Advancement of Colored
People and the Urban
League have protested
stereotypical portrayals of
"Here's a man who's
creative," Mr. Foxman said
of the black filmmaker, "yet
he falls back on these stereo-
types that are so simplistic
and crude. There are many
ways to portray greedy peo-
ple. He had all kinds of
choices. That's the choice he
Susan Fowler, a spokes-
woman at Mr. Lee's Forty
Acres and a Mule production
company, said the
writer/director was not issu-
ing a statement in response
to the ADL's charges. Mr.
Lee feels that "the movie
speaks for itself," Ms.
Fowler said.
On Monday, the Los
Angeles Times surveyed

leading film critics. While
many agreed with the ADL
charges, some also defended
Lee's right of free artistic
David Ansen of Newsweek,
describing the Flatbush
brothers' characterization as
"villainous Shylocks," said
that, coming "from a self-
proclaimed enemy of ethnic
stereotyping, this is inex-
David Denby, New York
magazine critic, said Lee
was feeding the currently
"fashionable" anti-Semitism
among blacks. But he warn-
ed it was dangerous to pin
labels like "misogynous,"
"racist," or "anti-Semitic"
on films because "you get to
the point where you can't
say anything."
Time magazine critic
Richard Schickel panned
Lee for constantly stereotyp-
ing characters in all his
films but said he didn't
think the Flatbush
characterization was anti-
Semitic. They are "fringe
characters . . . with a shrewd
eye to the main chance. The
type is familiar to anyone in
show business . . . and not
particularly Jewish."
Mr. Lee told Variety
columnist Army Archerd

Spike Lee in a scene from Mo' Better Blues.

last week that his own
father played for jazz clubs
that were owned by Jews
and that he did not intend
the Flatbush brothers as an
indictment of all Jewish club
"But the facts are that
black artists have always
had to struggle to be paid
what their white counter-
parts were paid," Mr. Lee

Lee also questioned
whether Lou Wasserman
and Sidney Sheinberg, the
Jewish top executives at
Universal Pictures, would
have released the film if
they felt it were obviously
anti-Semitic. The two execs
defended Lee's right to
creative freedom in the
Variety article.
Mr. Lee defended the por-
trayal. ❑

which lobbies in support of
Israel government policies.
The organization was run
by one person until last year;
now, 15 board members
serve Americans for Peace
Now and offices exist in Los
Angeles, New York and

sity students have completed
the course, they will serve as
liaisons between the new


Holocaust Museum
Seeks Artifacts
The Museum of Jewish
Heritage's Living Memorial
to the Holocaust, scheduled
to open in 1992 in New York,
is in search of artifacts,
documents, photographs and
film footage for its exhibi-
tions, and books for its refer-
ence library.
The museum will be
located on the Manhattan
shoreline, opposite the
Statue of Liberty and Ellis
Island. It will focus on four
main themes: Jewish culture
before the Nazis; the Holo-
caust; the aftermath of the
Holocaust, including the
search for Nazi war
criminals and the estab-
lishment of Israel; and Jew-
ish immigration to the
United States since 1654.
Among the artifacts in the
museum's collection is a
dress, made in Dachau by
Frania Bratt Blum shortly
after the death camp was
liberated in 1945. U.S. Army
liberators brought bolts of

dinator, A Living Memorial
to the Holocaust-Museum of
Jewish Heritage, 342
Madison Ave., Suite 717,
New York, N.Y. 10173, (212)

Frania Blum's dress in the Muse-
urn of Jewish Heritage.

blue-and-white checked fab-
ric to the women prisoners,
who had only camp uniforms
to wear. A friend of Mrs.
Blum's cut the cloth; Mrs.
Blum then sewed the dress
by hand. She fashioned her
dress in the peasant style
she had admired as a girl in
Poland before the war.
Those with items related
to Jewish life before the war,
the fate of Jewish com-
munities during the war, or
immigration to the United
States, may contact Esther
Brumberg, research coor-

Peace Now Branch
Targets Politicians
Americans for Peace Now,
the sister organization for
Peace Now, an Israeli
movement calling for an end
to Israel's presence in the
territories and for immedi-
ate dialogue with the Pales-
tinians, has launched a
campaign to convince U.S.
politicians to adopt its peace
Californians Jerry Bubis
and Ahavia Scheindlin told
The Jerusalem Post the
organization has begun a
campaign to enlist 100,000
members throughout the
United States. Mr. Bubis
called Americans for Peace
Now an alternative to
AIPAC, the American Israel
Public Affairs Committee,

Women Train
To Aid Immigrants
Fifty women soldiers are
training for positions as non-
commissioned "absorption
officers" in a new course at
Tel Aviv University. Jointly
sponsored by the Israel
Defense Forces and the Jew-
ish Agency, the course will
prepare the women to work
as aides to social workers in-
volved in immigrant absorp-
Israel's social services
have been severely strained
by the current flood of new
immigrants primarily from
the Soviet Union, but also
from Ethiopia and Latin
Once the Tel Aviv Univer-

Moore Donates
Funds To Causes
Michael Moore, producer
of the documentary Roger &
Me, will give away about
$100,000 to various reci-
pients, including two groups
seeking to end Israel's oc-
cupation of the West Bank
and Gaza.
Also receiving funds are
Flint-area politicians, three
independent film makers
and the Flint Voice, Mr.
Moore's alternative news-
The Michigan native is
putting away 1 million
dollars — half of his produc-
tion company's Roger & Me
after-tax profits — for his
next film, reportedly a satire
about Israel's occupation of
the territories.

Compiled by
Elizabeth Applebaum



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