After Israel controversy, Tony Kushner to accept honorary degree

Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner will accept an honorary degree from New York's City University (CUNY) today, a month after one of its board members attempted to block him from the award because of his stance on Israel.

The Jewish playwright, who is currently enjoying off-Broadway success with his play The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, is well-respected in and beyond his industry and has won several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for the epic Angels in America.

He also holds more than ten honorary degrees from universities across the United States, including Brandeis University, which has a significant number of Jewish students.

But last month he accused the Board of Trustees of CUNY of allowing a "grotesque caricature" of his views on Israel and condemned them for relying on internet gossip rather than giving him the chance to defend himself.

His comments came after trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld encouraged the board to remove Mr Kushner from the list of candidates for a honorary degree.

Mr Wiesenfeld claimed Mr Kushner supported a boycott of Israel – something the playwright denied – and said giving him an honorary degree would be wrong because of the level of "disingenuousness and non-intellectual activity directed against the state of Israel on campuses across the country".

The ensuing controversy prompted the board to reconsider at a second meeting, where all but one of the trustees voted in favour of honouring him.

Mr Kushner will be given his award today as part of the graduation ceremonies of more than 2,000 students of CUNY's John Jay College.

He said he would not refer to the controversy in his acceptance speech. "That would be inappropriate," he said.

Last updated: 11:48am, June 3 2011