The students boycotting Shakespeare

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In the London Borough of Hackney, Jewish secondary-level students at Yesodey Hatorah School who boycotted an exam on The Merchant of Venice because they found it anti-Semitic were backed by their head teacher, Rabbi Abraham Pinter, despite damaging their National Curriculum assessment results and demoting the school from 1st to 274th place in performance league tables. An ex-teacher of the school blogging on the Talkback message board for the online edition of Israeli newspaper Haaretz opposed Rabbi Pinter's decision to support the students' veto, advocating instead closer textual reading, but there were plenty more who supported the students. The play David Jays once called a"nasty piece of work" here in the New Statesman was pronounced"one of the liveliest, toughest and most necessary conversations about art, prejudice and performance in Western culture" by Boyd Tonkin in the Independent."What could be more pitiably prejudiced than to refuse to engage with it?" he asked, a view shared by Haaretz's editor, Simon Spungin. Tonkin cited critic Harold Bloom and playwright Arnold Wesker as examples of how Jewish engagement with the text could rescue the play from pound-of-flesh stereotyping.

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