'We are tolerant, but we have our limits," says a city official. Somehow 17th-century Amsterdam sounds oddly familiar, especially when it comes to immigrants, religious broad-mindedness, interfaith romances, and radical new ideas. And so this play by David Ives, New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656, at Lantern Theater, launches an absorbing, 2½-hour theological debate.
The Portuguese Jews had fled persecution and found refuge in Holland, but their safety came at a price: obedience and silence. In this community that necessarily had to defend itself against any threat to the status quo, a young Jew named Baruch de Spinoza - a philosopher who would change the course of civilized thought - rocked the boat. Whether his ideas were misunderstood and thought a danger to both the Jews and the Christians, or whether the latent anti-Semitism of the Dutch motivated his trial, he was threatened with excommunication from the Jewish community.