The Culture and Sports Ministry has demanded that the administration of Jerusalem’s Khan Theatre investigate claims reported in Haaretz that its longtime artistic director Michael Gurevitch met individually with actors and acting students in his home and touched them and spoke to them inappropriately.
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The ministry, under direct instruction from Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, has told the Khan it must look into the matter by the end of the Passover holiday, and if it does not, the ministry will order an external investigation. The ministry has also demanded that Tel Aviv’s Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, where similar allegations have emerged against Gurevitch, conduct an investigation.
The ministry said in a statement that Regev wants to personally see the findings of the investigation.
According to some of the allegations reported in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition, Gurevitch conditioned future employment of actresses or the receipt of certain roles, on continuing to meet with him in his home in what were termed therapy sessions.
No police complaints or lawsuits have been filed against the Khan.
The actors union yesterday asked the theater’s executive director, Danny Weiss, to look into the claims raised in the article by actors and actresses, which presents...”an ostensible picture of improper behavior by Gurevitch in his work with actorsincluding repeated references to their sexuality on the pretext of working on the role.”
According to the Haaretz article, two actresses left the Khan in 2014 after complaining to Weiss about Gurevitch’s actions. A sub-committee, headed by executive board chairman Amos Unger, examined the allegations and determined that “there was no sexual harassment, no criminal offense had been committed and no disciplinary infraction.” Although the theater’s legal counsel determined that Gurevitch’s actions had been improper, the board approved his continued employment for two and a half more years, until the end of 2018 when he reaches retirement age. Gurevitch has been artistic director of the repertory theater since 2001.
Most of the members of the executive board did not see the sub-committee’s report, nor did Weiss, who opposed extending Gurevitch’s employment. At a meeting in February, Unger said he had sent a letter to Gurevitch prohibiting him from meeting with actors in his home outside of working hours.
Gurevitch published an article in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition responding to the allegations. “I have never, overtly or implicitly, presented my work as ‘therapy,’” he wrote. “I do theater work, the purpose of which is to enhance the work of the actors, and therefore there is no way to avoid work that is also physical. One of the means is physical touch. This work does not deal with sexuality. It is not ‘nighttime meetings and touching actresses.’” Gurevich said individual meetings could “among other things create a kind of intimacy, which is so essential in the theater, between director and actor and between an actor and his partners.”
The Khan Theater has not yet responded to the Haaretz report.
The Jerusalem Municipality, one of the main financial backers of the Khan said the theater “was not subordinate in any way to the municipality and receives financial support according to criteria determined by law.”
Haaretz also reported on testimony by students and graduates of the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio in Tel Aviv, about alleged nighttime meetings with Gurevitch during their studies, at his home or in a room in the studio, which included touching them and requests he made of a sexual nature. Two months ago, three complaints were filed against Gurevitch with the school’s ombudsman for sexual harassment. The school subsequently published new directives prohibiting individual meetings between students and teachers except in the teacher’s office and after informing the secretariat.
Nissan Nativ conveyed the findings of its probe to the Culture and Sports Ministry and said the investigation had been completed.
The students who complained have not been informed of the outcome of the investigation.
Gurevitch said in response to the allegations: “I have never asked to discuss with a student his sexuality or his sexual habits. If a student raises the matter I discuss it with him.”
The Tel Aviv Municipality, one of the bodies supporting Nissan Nativ, said that “the school is not a municipal body; it is an independent entity ... and the municipality has trusted the school management all through the years, as it does in this case.”
Shlomit Havaron, a founder of the support group for victims of sex crimes One of One, called on anyone who witnessed or heard about Gurevitch’s alleged actions to support their colleagues. “The management of the theaters must take responsibility for actions committed in them. Acting schools must also look thoroughly and seriously at themselves,” she told Haaretz, adding that teachers and students should attend workshops about the prevention of sexual violence.