Unless you’re new around here, you know Jew in the City has been on a mission to fight AntiSemitism on screen. It seems like a simple ask — authentic representation of Jews in TV and in movies — yet is an uphill battle that sometimes feels like quite the slow climb.
This past Sunday, however, one step was taken in the movie industry, when Jew in the City hosted a panel called, #MeJew: Antisemitism, Authentic Representation, and Jewish Identity in Hollywood alongside Variety Features Editor Malina Saval who wrote the award-winning article, Too Jewish for Hollywood: As Antisemitism Soars, Hollywood Should Address Its Enduring Hypocrisy In Hyperbolic Caricatures of Jews.
The two discussed the major issues that both Orthodox and secular Jews have on-screen. Jewish roles are often cast with non-Jewish actors (enter “Jewface”), storylines featuring “Jewish law” make Orthodox Jews look like horrific people and the law they discuss is completely false. Jews are often stereotyped to look like money-hungry animals or referred to as “good looking, for a Jew,” just to name a few examples.
The room was packed — more than 100 squeezed in to hear what Allison and Malina had to say, and to ask questions of their own. When the floor opened up during the last 20 minutes of the 90-minute panel, at least 50 hands flew into the air.
One important takeaway that Allison and Malina agreed on, is that it’s not a competition with other minorities. Jews aren’t trying to take down anyone else in order to get fair representation. We just want a seat at the table — the same seats that are offered to other minority groups in entertainment.
We want to appear on screen as the happy, real, people that we are — not caricatures of the negative stereotypes we’re trying to get away from — the ones that actually have no basis in reality and are a real threat to so many Jewish lives when people believe them.
We want stories that show positive representation, a side that is rarely, if-ever depicted. We want Jewish actors to play Jewish characters and know that their own Jewish soul is an asset to that work, not a deterrent.
The Jew in the City Hollywood Bureau is about to commission an impact study with a leading academic entertainment group about these tropes and the effect they have on audiences. This is a top priority because in order to create real change, studios need data to work off of. The data can ideally convince them of the importance of more authentic content creation.
While the Sundance Panel proved successful in getting conversation started, it unfortunately had its hecklers and while it’s par for the course, also just shows how much more work needs to continue to be done.
To watch the full event for yourself and learn more, click here.