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The Jewish Comedian Who Joked About Hasidic Women Being Physically Assaulted

On Sunday, as I made my way home from our Passover vacation, I received a troubling notification on Instagram. One of our readers tipped us off that a Jewish comedian named Judy Gold had posted a video of a very distasteful joke she made about a Hasidic woman not only being physically assaulted, but how Gold fantasized about doing it herself. To complicate matters, Gold is generally considered to be a proud Jew, who frequently speaks out against antisemitism.

The joke began by Gold noting that this Hasidic woman in Brooklyn, who was all of 25 years old, had nine kids and was pregnant with her tenth. These details were totally fabricated, but the audience found them to be hilarious, because you know – those Orthodox Jews, popping out all of those awful babies to add more backwards and extreme Jews to the world. Yuck!

But then the joke got worse. Gold referenced a series of actual events that occurred in fall of 2018 where an antisemitic man in Los Angeles was pulling wigs off of Orthodox Jewish women on the street. He began these assaults on Yom Kippur with his first victim – an 80 year old woman – and targeted numerous Jewish women after that, until he was finally arrested in November of that year. The police reported that these incidents were considered hate crimes.

In Gold’s joke, there is just one Orthodox woman, who is 25 and Hasidic and her wig is pulled off. But instead of the punchline being something about how bad antisemites are or how troubling it is for a woman to be undressed without her consent, Gold notes that the wig removal of a Hasidic woman is something she always wished she could do. She then goes on to imagine what exactly Hasidic women have under their wigs to make their heads so off limits to the public and something only their “hot Hasidic” husbands can see. Gold uses vulgar language to describe what might be under the wig.

Celebrities with large followings, like Cree Summers and Pamela Adlon commented with laughing emojis and “This is genius,” respectively on Gold’s Instagram Reel. The joke was neither hilarious nor genius. It was nasty and dehumanizing. But Orthodox Jews are likely not real to either of them, and no one cares when we actually get hurt, let alone merely get harassed online, so they commented without fear of any consequences.

I asked Cree on Instagram if the joke would have been funny if a Black woman’s wig was snatched off her head without her consent or if a Jew specifically has to be assaulted in order for the humor to work. She removed her comment after that. I asked Pamela if she’d find a joke about a hijab being removed to be funny or if it’s only GENIUS when a religious Jewish woman is attacked.

Some of our fans didn’t understand what I meant by “dehumanizing.” So I’ll explain. In the joke, the Hasidic woman has no agency or emotions. She exists first as a baby-making machine and then to not just be undressed by the actual assailant but to be fantasized about being undressed by Gold as well. The humanity of the actual women who were violated in these attacks doesn’t exist. They are simply objects for other people’s amusement. And for those of us who wear wigs, we are walking around with literal targets on our heads. That Gold is not just publicizing this sick type of attack, but bringing positive attention to it makes those of us who actually wear wigs feel a little less safe. Could we be next?

After sharing the joke with our followers on Instagram and Twitter, and my noting that apparently Gold thinks it’s hilarious for Orthodox Jewish women to be assaulted, Gold doubled down and Tweeted that while I may not like the joke, she speaks about antisemitism regularly and discusses that we are only 2% of the population but receive 60% of the religious hate crimes. At that point I Tweeted back that I too used to look down on Orthodox Jews and that if she’s committed to fighting antisemitism I’d love the chance to educate her because we need to stick together. Gold responded to that Tweet, saying she’d love to speak with me. She removed the video after that, which was a great development. Though as of the writing of this article, she has yet to respond to my messages to her to speak. I hope we will connect.

Today is Yom Hashoah  –  77 years since the Holocaust ended and countless times since we vowed “Never Again,” yet as attacks on Jews around the world are up everywhere, that sentiment is getting harder to utter in earnest. Antisemitic incidents increased 167% in 2021, according to new statistics published by the ADL. 2021 was the highest year of Jew-hating events that occurred in the U.S. since the organization began tracking such numbers in 1979. Those attacks are primarily targeted against the very Jews Gold joked about. And any Jew who cares about rising antisemitism needs to understand about the precarious place that visible Jews are finding ourselves in.

In only the last few weeks alone, Orthodox Jews in the New York area have been ganged attacked, kids have been jumped and threatened with machetes and crowbars, they’ve had to endure an attempting killing spree with a stabbing and car-ramming. And just this past Sunday, a 6 year old boy had his yarmulke snatched by a sick antisemite, an incident not too far removed from the wig-snatching joke Gold still had on her Instagram page on that very same day.

How can proud Jews, who are against antisemitism, show such blatant disregard for experiences their Orthodox Jewish brothers and sisters are enduring? While I can’t speak to the motivation of others, in my pre-Orthodox days, even as a proud Conservative Jew, I looked down on Orthodox Jews as backwards, extreme, misogynistic, and oppressed. If one of them was attacked, it hurt me, it felt like an attack on all Jews, but I wished they weren’t so weird, so Jewish, so not with the times. I held all this judgment without personally knowing a single Orthodox Jew.

I didn’t understand their motivation for how they lived, dressed or believed. I felt a general unity from afar, knowing we’d all be rounded up if another Hitler came around, but I never had the chance or made the effort to understand them up close. So while I didn’t want them to be hurt, I thought their lifestyle was fair game for mocking. I don’t know if Jews who have the privilege of blending in are quite aware of what it feels like to be so identifiable as crimes on Jews continue to rise and the world yet again stays silent. It’s time for their judgment to stop because we need each other more than ever.

There are real people under those wigs, yarmulkes and beards. Many of us are in fact on social media. And we are feeling increasingly vulnerable. Respect is a two way street and secular and religious Jews must both work to see each other’s humanity and love one another like family.

Sometimes family members say things they shouldn’t. If the family is healthy, they will call out the problem, discuss it and make up. So here’s to all of that, Judy Gold, and to all of my fellow Jews.

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13 comments

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  • Pearl Saban says on April 28, 2022

    I watch Judy. She is funny. And crass. And outspoken. And funny. Yes, Judy might’ve hit the wrong mark with what you’re pointing out, but she did do a show today on her podcast to draw attention to Yom HaShoah, visiting her friend’s mother, a survivor, and learning about her past, sharing it with her audience. Judy isn’t all bad. She is a tall woman and she has a loud voice and strong stage presence. Maybe you will help convince her to use her strengths in other ways.

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 29, 2022

      Thanks for your comment, Pearl. Of course Nidt isn’t all bad. She has a blind spot towards her orthodox brothers and sisters. I hope she’ll correct it.

      Reply
      • Debra says on May 2, 2022

        good answer. and more importantly, excellent article. I am also a brass, humorous, big mouth. I happen to be frum and I straddle many worlds. But I take lashon hara seriously because I know how much it can hurt, incite others to hurt, etc. I have really worked on not using sarcasm, onat devarim on another’s expense for humor. We can laugh with or at.

        I once was at a play put on by a very frum girls’ high school. I don’t remember much about the play except there was one intended satirical moment when a character mimicked the way a particular subgroup in our community speaks. Its is the way members would say, “You are Jewish? I’m Jewish too!,” as a way to network. Yes, people misuse and abuse connection and heartstrings. But this is how Jews have survived in galut for millienia! This is how a refugee Jew finds comfort when on the run or displaced.

        Anyhow, there were a few knowing laughs at the joke. But it was also a groan moment.

        Reply
  • Marlene says on April 29, 2022

    When my daughter was shlepping our family down this Torah observant road over 20 years ago, I went along with it more willingly, at the time, than my husband. But the one thing that scared me was being identifiably Jewish. I feared for my children, my husband, my future grandchildren and myself.

    It definitely is a very tenuous line we frum Jews walk, but I personally feel so blessed and fortunate to have found my way home. I know that my bubba and zeida…and my husband’s and my parents…are shepping so much nachas from how we live and how our daughters and “sons” are raising their children with such exemplary middos to be loving, caring humans who will add to this world instead of detract from it. Our world is becoming more frightening and less human by the moment and we can use more quality people in it. Torah teaches this to us.

    Reply
  • Mahmoud El-Yousseph says on April 29, 2022

    Bravo to Alison Joseph. Give them Hell, cousin. This Muslim observer feels your pain. Keep up the good work

    Reply
    • Allison Josephs says on April 29, 2022

      Thanks so much, Mahmoud. I saw a wonderful tweet from a Muslim woman after My Unorthodox Life came out noting she’d be super uncomfortable if her community was treated this way. And the best article I’ve seen written about bad orthodox jewish representation was by a Hijabi woman. https://www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/netflixs-my-unorthodox-life-perpetuates-harmful-jewish-stereotypes-some-say/

      So grateful for your solidarity. Salaam and shalom.

      Reply
      • Debra says on May 2, 2022

        Yes, Judy Gold would never have the chutzpah to utter, “I would love to just whip off the hijab of those Muslimahs!”

        Self-hate, shame? Fear? There is a woman in my community I have known for years who started wearing the haredi shawl. It bugged me so much. I stopped to examine why is my reaction so full of disdain? why do I feel the impulse to ignore her and not say “hi?'”

        I don’t agree with this way of dressing outside. I do have political views about it. It is triggering for me. But I take responsibility to not indict her whole person because of her choice and that I disagree with it.

        Reply
    • y says on April 30, 2022

      Somehow it seems that various groups of Jews have yet to figure out how to get along with each other.

      Reply
    • y says on April 30, 2022

      I wish we can all live together in peace and be safe. I wish there was no hell.

      Reply
  • Rebecca says on April 30, 2022

    Thanks for posting this article. Personally, I’ve wondered why there is this need to put down other Jews at all and here, a Hasidic wife and mother… Is it more about envy – a woman choosing to marry and raise a family that bothers Gold to the point that she must exaggerate the situation and admits she wishes she could just humiliate the woman by pulling off her wig…? And what she thinks is under it? Something very creepy about Gold’s humor…

    Reply
  • Sara O says on May 2, 2022

    I agree with you Allison and thank you. There is too much hate and dehumanization and no comedian ( no matter how crass) should hide behind ‘they are only 2% of jews” thereby further *othering* blameless Hassidic women and men.

    Reply
  • Debra says on May 2, 2022

    It is interesting that there is an echo of Chris Rock and Will Smith here: violence in reaction to what is or is not on a woman’s head.

    Reply
  • Heather says on May 3, 2022

    It’s so horrifying to me to see how Jews are fair game nowadays. Fair game for physical attacks and fair game for verbal and written attacks, many times by liberal folks who speak about human rights all the time. For some reason, actions and words which would be totally unacceptable in reference to other ethnic groups, are OK when they’re about Jews. Judy Gold takes it to a new low. She is a Jew who is aware of the rise of antisemitism, but still thinks “Other” Jews are fair game for the same kinds of attacks. Your replies, Allison, to Judy and those other “human rights supporters” were right on the mark. Yes Jews are included in humanity too!

    Reply

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