An Open Letter to Seth Rogen

Dear Seth,

We don’t know each other, but I just wanted to share some feelings I had, after reading about your interview with Marc Maron. Now I appreciate that you feel a Jewish identity, regardless of whether you feel any connection to your Judaism as a religion. I understand your parents met on a Kibbutz and you went to a Habonim Dror camp and were embraced in a Zionist environment from your earliest days. I recognize your MO of being a self effacing Jew in all of the roles you take in your acting career. However, I take issue with the platform on which you have chosen to share your feelings. By speaking in the way you did, you opened Israel and the Jewish community up to criticism from people in the BDS movement and other anti-Israel movements with the support of a famous Jew.

As an actor and a public figure, you are a role model. You were talking with a fellow Jewish actor, who is also known widely. You chose to share your opinions openly and freely. Your persona seems to be similar to that of your characters as someone who feels strongly in his identity, but questions what you have been taught. Again, I don’t deny your right and responsibility to question and think about your history. That’s what Jews have been doing for centuries. We are always questioning, and trying to make sense of things. But to say that you were lied to, by those who taught you to love Israel, is taking things a step too far. You were taught our narrative. A narrative that grew out of persecution. A narrative that developed the persona of the strong Jew instead of the meek Jew.

Let’s look at that history. You were taught that the Jews returned to the Land of Israel. I was taught that too. I don’t recall my teachers telling me the land was “empty”. I just knew the Jews went back. They were striving to return to the Land ever since the expulsion. In fact, I learned that some Jews didn’t leave. There was always a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, regardless of what civilization had taken control of the land.

Perhaps you missed the lesson about Moses Montefiore funding the first Jewish community outside the Old City Walls in the 1800’s. He funded it. That means he paid for the land and he supported the people who lived there. He helped protect them. Specifically because there were others living in the area that didn’t want them there. There was antisemitism just as flagrant in the 1800s, as today. Then there was the Baron Rothschild. He was known as “The Benefactor”. He bought the land for Zichron Ya’acov and Rishon Letzion. He supported the Jews who moved there to help them build an economy. He bought the land. He didn’t take it by force. He bought it. Then you can move on to the Jewish National Fund. You know, the “tree people” you seemed to mention in your interview? Jews in the early 1900s raised money, so that the Jewish National Fund could purchase land in Palestine for Jews to settle. They bought the land. They did not steal it. To this day, the JNF raises money, not just to plant trees, which is essential, but to build water aquifers, and schools, and playgrounds, and communities.

Did you pay attention in your American history classes? When the Europeans came to the New World, they did not buy the land, they took it by force. When the Pilgrims came, they were given land that was not theirs to give by England. When the United States grew by expanding westward, people may have paid for land, but they bought it from the American government, who didn’t own it, the Native Americans did. Do you think that America has no right to exist? Every civilization is built on the backs of the civilization that came before it. is it right, in today’s world? No, we say it is not, but it is how the world works. Israel was built on the history of living in the Land. Throughout the Torah, we read of the Land and the rules we must follow to live on the Land. You must have been taking a break in your Tanach class at your Jewish Day School to miss that fact. Jews were kicked out of their land and have been praying to return ever since.

Now getting back to the reason for Israel to exist, you said if it was about religion, you have no use for religion, you think its “silly”. So because you, personally, think religion is “silly”, the beliefs of the Jewish people around the world should be erased? You said you thought that putting all the Jews in one place is a dumb idea because then they can be destroyed easily. I have seen many threats to Israel, but I don’t see Israel being erased. Is it right that Iran constantly declares its intent to destroy Israel? Do you think Jews should be stateless? Trust me, without Israel, Jews would be in a much more precarious place in the world. Israel works hard to help and support Jews globally, so think again.

I read that your mother made you call Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency for Israel and explain yourself. Good for her! I think she probably wanted you to apologize for your words. When asked about it, you proclaimed that you didn’t apologize. We should read your words carefully. There are times when we “misspeak”, perhaps your intent was quite different. Perhaps you were just trying to show that you’re a “Jew” but not that “Jewish”. Bottom line, Seth, we Jews, are all that “Jewish” when it comes to anti-Semites from the left and the right.

If Nick Cannon is trying to educate himself, I think you should educate yourself too. You mentioned that your wife identifies with her Judaism. Why don’t you learn from her, with her and for your kids. Be proud that you have a nation dedicated to your people. Be proud that Israel exists, in spite of the many efforts to destroy it. Be mindful of your words because they have an effect that is much greater than you.

About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder grew up a Jersey Girl in the beautiful Garden State of NJ. She developed her deep love for Israel when her father first started talking to her about Israel when she was a little girl and then took the family on a trip to Israel for her bat mitzvah. Her love for Israel continued in her college years, when she studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Stephanie recently retired from her career as a general studies teacher at Golda Och Academy, a Solomon Schechter Day School in West Orange, N.J. In her volunteer hours, she is part of a 5 generation life member family of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. She currently is the National Chair of EVOLVE Hadassah: The Young Women's Network and a member of the National Board of Hadassah. Stephanie also works to educate adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest.
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