The City University of New York has voted not to honor playwright Tony Kushner with an honorary degree at its commencement after a board member objected, citing the Pulitzer Prize winner's anti-Israel statements. The New York Jewish Week reported that the request by CUNY's John Jay College to recognize Kushner was turned down at a board of trustees meeting Monday after board member Jeffrey Wiesenfeld objected. Kushner would have been eligible to speak at the graduation ceremony.
When the "Coloreds Only" sign disappeared from a water fountain at the train station in Tony Kushner's hometown of Lake Charles, La., one day in the early 1960s, it was a sign of the dawning civil rights movement, which had emerged elsewhere in the South but only subtly in Lake Charles.
In Kushner's liberal Jewish home, relatives spoke excitedly of the changes while an African American maid, Maudie, washed and ironed all day in the hot basement. In her starched white uniform, she toiled as black domestics had done for generations of white families in Lake Charles.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner tells of the time he brought a nursery-school class into the synagogue sanctuary for a tour. He showed them the bimah, the ner tamid, the cantor's and rabbi's lecterns. Finally, the tiny kids stood before the huge doors of the Holy Ark.