GOLDA OCH ACADEMY in West Orange is the first Conservative Jewish day school to mount a production of The Laramie Project, a play about the 1998 murder of a gay student.
Written by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project, the work is a compilation of interviews company members conducted following the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyo. It premiered in 2001.
C.J. Prince, executive director of North Jersey Pride, attended a GOA performance and said that although there has been progress, there is still work to be done to end hatred and bigotry toward the LGBTQ community. “Sadly, so much of the intolerance we see in our culture continues to come from organized religion,” Prince said. “That is what makes this production of The Laramie Project so extraordinary. That students of a Jewish day school chose to bring this particular play to the stage, that they chose to take such a clear, committed stand against bigotry and bullying, gives all of us renewed hope for a future in which religion can be a foundation for, rather than a barrier to, acceptance and love for all people.”
GOA director of student life Jordan Herskowitz, who directed the play, said, “Together, we are ensuring that this generation and generations to come will grow and learn in a safe environment, giving the Matthew Shepards, Tyler Clementis, and all other victims of hate and bias crimes the voice they so desperately deserve.”
Three performances took place Nov. 7-10 at the Baird in South Orange. The student actors participated in post-show talkbacks with the audience.