UPDATED: May 3, 2018 at 9:38 p.m.
Harvard is “reviewing” reports that University employee Eric Clopper made anti-Semitic comments and stripped to the nude during a public performance he gave in Sanders Theatre Tuesday evening, according to Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Rachael Dane.
Clopper, a systems administrator at the language resource center located in Lamont Library, offered these remarks as part of his one-man production “Sex & Circumcision: An American Love Story,” an event advertised on three separate Harvard websites—though as of Wednesday evening, a listing for the production had been deleted from the Harvard College site.
Videos obtained by The Crimson show Clopper pacing around the Sanders stage—a Harvard-owned space where some of the College’s largest and most popular classes are taught—and offering denunciations of circumcision that at times morphed into attacks against Judaism more broadly.
“The Jews—I know, I’m one of them—are an unmasked genital mutilation cult,” Clopper said, according to the videos. “That is why we are so clannish. It is our shared delusion of superiority that we must uphold to maintain our perverted tribal identity.”
At other points in the videos, Clopper claimed “the Jews” had “raped” him and that Judaism has a “demonstrably evil influence” on the United States. He also vowed he would “expend every breath in my body” to tear “this covenant to pieces,” likely referencing the bond individuals of the Jewish faith believe they hold with God—a bond signified in part by circumcision.
Clopper said in the videos his speech Wednesday marks his “official declaration of war on our fucking covenant” and promised he would recruit an “army from our generation to wage it.” He also said he will “force” Jewish individuals to “comply” with his demand they stop circumcising their children.
Clopper said in an interview Thursday that the controversial comments and acts occurred during the last half hour of a two-and-a-half hour performance.
“My play was about a two-hour lecture on the topic of circumcision, about a 30- minute artistic expression of my Jewish identity and sexuality,” Clopper said.
He also defended his criticisms of Judaism.
“In terms of the anti-semitic comments, early on in my play, as a Jewish man, I noted that it is very likely that people will conflate criticism with discrimination, and if I, as a Jewish man, am not allowed to criticize Jewish culture, who is?” Clopper said.
At one point, the videos show Clopper—with all his clothes removed—repeatedly mimicking various sexual acts with an inflatable sex doll while Britney Spears’s “Toxic” played in the background.
Dane wrote in an emailed statement that Harvard has been “made aware” the performance “concluded in full nudity” and is currently examining the situation.
“We take seriously a report of this nature, as it appears to violate the terms of Sanders Theatre’s entertainment license with the City of Cambridge,” Dane wrote. “We are currently engaged in a review of these reports to determine whether Harvard was provided with an accurate account of the content of Mr. Clopper’s show, prior to its production.”
Clopper said the performance was advertised as being intended for a mature audience.
“In terms of the nudity, that was about the last 20 seconds and that was meant as the punchline of a recurring trope throughout,” Clopper said in the interview. “Whether appropriate or not, this was always marketed as an adult play with explicit content, so I think there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about sexuality, nudity, or these kinds of outrageous jokes.”
Dane also acknowledged the University has received reports that “this production included anti-Semitic content.”
“We wish to make clear that Harvard does not condone the behavior or any viewpoints expressed by Mr. Clopper during his production, as such comments would be in direct conflict with the University’s values and principles of non-discrimination,” Dane wrote.
Dane declined to answer a question asking whether Harvard plans to discipline Clopper for his actions.
Clopper is a former spokesman for Foregen, the organization in whose name he booked Sanders Theatre for the show Tuesday. Foregen is a “non-profit organization founded to research and implement regenerative medical therapies for circumcised males,” according to its website.
Performances are allowed at Sanders Theatre through an annual entertainment license Harvard signs with the Cambridge License Commission. The application for the license must indicate whether the owners of the venue will permit public exposure of “the pubic area, anus, or genitals, or any simulation thereof,” according to Massachusetts General Law.
Bright-yellow posters announcing Clopper’s production went up across campus—plastered around both student residential Houses and public spaces—in the days leading up to the event. In another promotional effort, several individuals wearing inflatable full-body suits meant to resemble penises roamed Harvard Yard and Harvard Square Monday and Tuesday.
Roughly a week ago, Clopper self-uploaded videos to YouTube in which he sought to “recruit” people to “invade Harvard Yard” wearing the suits, according to the video’s title.
In the video, he offered to pay people $20 an hour to dress up in penis suits and hand out flyers advertising his show.
This article has been updated to reflect the following correction:
CORRECTION: May 3, 2018
A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated Eric Clopper is a current spokesman for Foregen. In fact, Clopper resigned from his position at Foregen in April.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22.
—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@MichaelEXie1.
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Employee Planned Show Containing Anti-Semitism, Nudity in Harvard Workplace During Work Hours
Against 'Sex and Circumcision: An American Love Story'Campuses should be places of free speech and open dialogue. Clopper’s tirade put this principle to reprehensible ends.