The DC Jewish Community Center did not fire Ari Roth, the artistic director of its Theater J, over his politics on Israel, CEO Carole Zawatsky said in a statement.
“Ari Roth’s dismissal related to a pattern of insubordination, unprofessionalism and actions that no employer would ever sanction,” Zawatsky said in the statement addressed to members of the Israel Arts Community and posted on the group’s Facebook page.
Roth, the artistic director of Theater J for 18 years, was fired on Dec. 18. In recent years, Roth and the JCC had clashed over several plays criticized for being anti-Israel.
Zawatsky said in the statement that Roth had been planning his departure from the DCJCC for several months, already indicating to management that the current season was his last, and that he had begun a new venture while still employed by the JCC.
Roth “was offered an amicable separation with generous severance of six months, positive references and a joint press statement praising his work. He immediately violated this agreement,” Zawatsky said.
“Ari’s creative vision – which included significant works of a political nature – was always defended and supported by Theater J and the DCJCC. Our commitment to challenging theater never wavered. But Ari’s failure to maintain basic professional conduct and standards made it impossible to continue his employee relationship of the DCJCC,” she said.
Sixty-one artistic directors of U.S. theater companies denounced his firing in an open letter last week.
Zawatsky said in her statement that the DCJCC “will continue to support Theater J as a vibrant, creative and provocative outlet for great theater. Our commitment to Theater J is as strong as ever, and we will resist any efforts to politicize our creative output.”
Roth in an interview published on the website of DCMetroTheaterArts acknowledged that he was working to identify stakeholders and a board of directors for a not-for-profit theater company called Mosaic, which he said will have “a lot of continuity with what we’ve had at Theater J.”
The new theater’s mission and vision “is all going to be refined through a group process over the next months,” Roth said.