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Bishop Strachan School fires head and issues apology after production of Merchant of Venice criticized for being anti-Semitic

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One of Toronto’s most prestigious private schools for girls has fired its head and issued an apology in the wake of a controversial and deliberately provocative touring adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

The performance, by a U.K. theatre company, offended students at Bishop Strachan School (BSS), and sparked fury amongst parents who described it as blatantly anti-Semitic. A group of two dozen unnamed parents expressed outrage in a letter to the board over the “demeaning, derogatory and highly inappropriate language” in the play, including an audience participation element with students urged to chant “Hallelujah” in response to statements like “Burn the Jews” and “Take away their holy books.”

On Monday, BSS issued an apology, admitting “it was an error to present that particular version of the play” and “appropriate context was not provided to students to prepare them.”

“For that, BSS is deeply sorry,” according to an emailed statement from the school. “An internal review is underway to establish guidelines and procedures to ensure this will not happen again.”

The school has “parted ways” with its head Judith Carlisle in the wake of the controversy, citing “an inability to align on a strategy for moving forward for the future.” She is replaced by the deputy head, Angela Terpstra. Carlisle is the school’s 19th head and was appointed last year after BSS hired her away from Oxford High School in England.

Carlisle is currently represented by law firm Henein Hutchison LLP, which released a statement Friday on her behalf. In it, Carlisle states that the play, which was performed at the school for Grade 11 and some Grade 12 students on Oct.17, “draws attention to the enduring and insidious impacts of anti-Semitism in Shakespeare’s time and since then.” She noted it had been previously performed and well-received at Oxford High School, when she worked there.

“I would never deliberately offend students entrusted to my care or their parents,” said Carlisle, who could not be reached for comment Monday. “That was not my intention. I deeply regret that there was not a plan in place to ensure that teachers were fully prepared to engage the students on the play.”

The adaptation by Box Clever Theatre, where Carlisle previously volunteered as a director or “trustee,” is a modern interpretation of the 16th-century dark comedy that incorporates Hitler and the Holocaust. Shakespeare’s classic play has long been critiqued for anti-Semitic elements, particularly its depiction of the character Shylock, a Jewish money lender.

Stagings of The Merchant of Venice regularly provoke controversy, according to Allen MacInnis, artistic director of the Young People’s Theatre in Toronto. He was not involved in the play but watched a public evening performance at the school that was primarily attended by adults.

“Every time a production is done of it, people ask the question of whether it should be done anymore,” he says. “Lots of times, people interpret it in a way to try and make us understand something more of what’s there… but from my experience, it’s almost always failed.”

According to Box Clever Theatre’s website, the play “fuses classical text with modern language” and was produced with “support” from BSS. It is scheduled to perform the play Nov.14 at the Supreme Court in London, England.

In an emailed statement, Box Clever said the play was first produced in 1998 and has been staged in the UK, Ireland, and in Israel and “none of these productions have prompted any complaints.” But Box Clever said it is “opposed to anti-Semitism and all other forms of discrimination” and is “sorry if any students at (BSS) were upset.”

Box Clever said its adaptation seeks to “challenge hatred in all its manifestations and remind audiences of the dangers and consequences of unchallenged discrimination.” But according to the letter written by 24 BSS parents, dated Oct. 22, the play fell woefully short of this goal and “materially exaggerated the anti-Semitic sentiment of the original version” while minimizing the Holocaust’s impact.

“Many Jewish students whose families were personally affected by the Holocaust were made to feel extremely uncomfortable and alienated as the production encouraged their fellow students to laugh at the horrific events and cheer anti-Semitic chants,” the letter stated.

The parents said they didn’t watch the play but its contents were confirmed and corroborated by “numerous students.”

The letters says they appreciate the “educational value” of controversial and racially charged subject matter. While this adaptation may have intended to provoke discomfort and “meaningful dialogue on the dangers of conformity and mob psychology,” it was presented without any “necessary preamble and debriefing” to “highly impressionable teens.” According to the letter, many students couldn’t understand why the content was hurtful, or failed to recognize misstatements about the Holocaust, and Jewish students were further hurt by their classmates’ comments that the play “was amazing” and “Jewish students are ‘overreacting.’”

“Despite its intentions, without any advanced preparation and the necessary interpretation and perspective provided to young teens, the important message is lost and replaced with the perpetuation of dangerous anti-Semitic stereotypes,” it said.

Journalist Rebecca Eckler, who is Jewish, was “appalled” by reports of the play at BSS, where her daughter is a Grade 10 student. “I was stunned that something could even happen like that,” said Eckler, who has freelanced for the Star in the past. She read accounts of a Grade 11 drama student who participated in the production being instructed to make a nose “as large and offensive as possible” for the play. “In this day and age, how could someone say that?”

Eckler is particularly saddened by reports of the play creating division amongst students. While she believes BSS eventually did the right thing by apologizing and firing its head, she thinks the school can still do more.

On Monday morning, BSS held an assembly to address Carlisle’s firing and apologized to students for not better preparing them for the play. According to Eckler’s daughter, the school announced plans to hold a Holocaust education week in February — but Eckler wonders why this can’t happen sooner, especially in light of the deadly synagogue attack in Pittsburgh that killed 11 worshippers on Saturday.

Eckler won’t be pulling her daughter from BSS, as some friends and acquaintances have urged her to do. But she and her husband have been donors for the past seven years and these recent events have her rethinking her financial support. At BSS, where more than 900 students are enrolled, annual tuition fees for domestic students are as high as $58,000.

Jewish advocacy groups, such as the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) and B’nai Brith Canada, have reached out to the school. FSWC offered to run educational sessions on the Holocaust and B’nai Brith said it could provide sensitivity training and education to teachers and administration. Neither offer has so far been accepted.

“We were outraged,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of FSWC, adding that whenever students are taught about literary works that deal with racism or anti-Semitism, “context has to be provided.”

“We’re not in favour of censorship of historical works of art,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, who applauds the school for taking action. “This was not The Merchant of Venice… This (was an) anti-Semitic modern interpretation that was very wrongly brought before students.”

For MacInnis with the Young People’s Theatre, he walked away from the performance at BSS questioning how he would have felt about the play if he were a Jewish person. He also asked himself if he would have programmed this play at his theatre and decided the answer was no. “It feels like one of those things that really had lots of good intentions, but may have really missed the mark,” he said.

Jennifer Yang is a Toronto-based reporter covering identity and inequality. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar

Isabel Teotonio is a Toronto-based reporter covering education. Follow her on Twitter: @Izzy74



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These US entities partnered with the Wuhan Institute of Virology — time for a criminal investigation?

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(Natural News) The Wuhan Institute of Virology from which the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is believed to have “escaped” has a number of questionable partnerships that are worth looking into in light of the pandemic.

Most of them are universities, including the University of Alabama, the University of North Texas, and Harvard University. There is also the EcoHealth Alliance, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Wildlife Federation.

While the relationships between these entities and the Wuhan Institute of Virology may be completely innocent, there is no way to really say for sure without a proper investigation. And this is exactly what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is calling for, as is the nation of Australia.

Pompeo and the folks down under, along with millions of Americans, would really like to know the true origins of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). An increasing number of people simply are not buying the narrative that the novel virus originated in bat soup at a Chinese wet market, and this even includes mainstream media outlets like Fox News.

The only way to really determine what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and who else might have been involved. is to open the place up for an international investigation. But communist China is against this, of course, accusing Australia of “petty tricks” and collusion with the United States.

“Overnight, I saw comments from the Chinese Foreign Ministry talking about a course of activity with respect to Australia who had the temerity to ask for investigation,” Pompeo is quoted as saying in response to China’s aggression against a proposed investigation.

“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?” he added.

As the U.S. aims to get back on track economically speaking, Pompeo believes that now is the time to hold communist China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and whoever else may have been involved accountable for unleashing this pandemic on the world.

“Not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus,” Pompeo further stated. “There will be a time for this. We will get that timing right.”

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New U.S. analysis finds that lab in Wuhan, China was “most likely” origin of coronavirus release

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(Natural News) While American Leftists and most of the Democrat Party continue to serve as apologists for the Chinese Communist regime over its role in creating and then perpetuating the coronavirus pandemic, a new U.S. government analysis concludes that COVID-19 “most likely” escaped from a lab near Wuhan city.

The Washington Times reports that the analysis cataloged evidence linking the outbreak to the Wuhan lab and has found that other explanations for the origins of the virus are not as credible.

The paper reported:

The document, compiled from open sources and not a finished product, says there is no smoking gun to blame the virus on either the Wuhan Institute of Virology or the Wuhan branch of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both located in the city where the first outbreaks were reported.

However, “there is circumstantial evidence to suggest such may be the case,” the paper says.

“All other possible places of the virus’ origin have been proven to be highly unlikely,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Times.

ChiCom officials have claimed that the virus’ origin is unknown. However, Beijing initially stated that coronavirus came from animals at a “wet market” in Wuhan where exotic meats are butchered and sold in disgusting conditions.

Chinese officials claim that COVID-19 went from bats to animals sold in the market last year, then infected humans.

U.S. intelligence officials have increasingly dismissed that explanation, however, as attention has begun to focus on evidence suggesting that Chinese medical researchers were working with coronavirus in the country’s only Level 4 facility, which is in Wuhan.

U.S. Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that intelligence agencies are investigating whether the virus escaped from a lab or was the result of a naturally occurring outbreak, but that analysts have ruled out reports that COVID-19 was manmade.

‘The most logical place to investigate the virus origin has been completely sealed off’

“At this point, it’s inconclusive, although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural,” the general said on April 14, “but we don’t know for certain.”

The analysis said that the wet market explanation does not ring true because the first human diagnosis of coronavirus was made in someone who had no connection to the wet market in question. And according to Chinese reports, no bats were sold at that particular market.

At the same time, several questionable actions and a growing paper trail provide clues that the virus actually escaped from a lab, even as China begins to clamp down on those information streams.

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The biggest media lies about the coronavirus: Origins, treatments and vaccines

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(Natural News) If there is one thing that most everyone can agree on concerning the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is the fact that there is no shortage of conflicting information out there about the nature of it. And the mainstream media is certainly doing its part to steer the narrative as part of a larger agenda, using plenty of misinformation along the way.

The following are among the most commonly parroted lies about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that aim to distort the facts and deceive you into believing falsehoods about this pandemic:

Media LIE: The virus is not man-made

From the very beginning of this thing, the official narrative was that the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) came from a Chinese wet market where bats and other “exotic” animals are sold as meat. But the world later learned that it actually more than likely “escaped” from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The mainstream media and social media platforms went nuts trying to censor this information and even called it  “fake news.” But eventually it became undeniable that bat soup was not responsible for spreading the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) around Wuhan and eventually to the rest of the world – hence why we continue to call it the Wuhan coronavirus rather than just COVID-19.

We have even seen attempts by the media machine at making the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) a racial issue because there are supposedly more “people of color” coming down with it than people with fair skin, which further detracts attention away from the source of this virus.

Media LIE: Hydroxychloroquine is extremely dangerous and doesn’t work

The minute that President Donald Trump announced that hydroxychloroquine may be an effective, and very inexpensive, remedy for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), the mainstream media immediately began decrying this claim as fake news, even though Anthony Fauci himself praised hydroxychloroquine back in 2013 under Barack Obama as being some type of “miracle cure” for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

There have even been studies conducted that were designed to intentionally smear the drug as both ineffective and dangerous, though one in particular purposely left out zinc, which appears to be a critical co-factor in supporting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine – in other words, politics as usual.

Media LIE: Only a vaccine can save us from coronavirus

Many politicians and public health officials are parroting the lie that the only way America can come out of lockdown and go back to “normal” is to get vaccinated with some future vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that does not even yet exist. A vaccine, we are repeatedly told, is the only thing, or perhaps some new “blockbuster” antiviral drug, that can cure the world of this scourge and make everything happy and wonderful once again.

Meanwhile, not a peep is being made about things like intravenous (IV) high-dose vitamin C, which is being successfully used in other countries to stem the tide of infections without the need for new drugs and vaccines.

By omission, nutrition is pointless

Speaking of natural approaches to overcoming the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) that are being systematically ignored by the mainstream media and most in politics, have you heard anyone mention the importance of nutrition in all of this? We did not think so, and this is intentional.

Regular readers of this site over the years should know by now that the single-most important thing you need to do to stay healthy besides exercising regularly is to feed your body the nutrition it needs to naturally ward off illnesses, including those associated with the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

Research compiled by the Lewin Group reveals that nutritional remedies such as calcium, vitamin D, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and more all play a critical role in fortifying the immune system, which, if properly nourished, should have little problem fending off disease.

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