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Can We Talk About Hollywood’s White-washing of Jews Now?

Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman discussed the problem of casting non-Jewish actors in Jewish roles... and caught a lot of doo-doo for it!

Image source: Both images are from Wikimedia Creative Commons. I fused them together myself.
Jewish comedienne Sarah Silverman discussed the problem of casting non-Jewish actors in Jewish roles... and caught a lot of doo-doo for it! Image source: Both images are from Wikimedia Creative Commons. I fused them together myself.

NOTE: This is Part 2 of my “Jewish Representation Matters” series. If you have not seen Part 1 or would like to revisit it, please click here.

The first installment of this series covered the origins of Hollywood and the formative role Jews have played therein. Also discussed was the fact that, despite this outsized presence, Jewish representation in most facets of media has been and continues to be lackluster, if not terrible (a few exceptions notwithstanding), and conducive to amplifying antisemitic perceptions, stereotypes, and biases in mainstream audiences.

While Part 1 focused on the animation industry, Part 2 (this column) concerns live-action TV and cinema. Regrettably, Jewish representation in this domain follows most of the same contours as animation: 90% degrading stereotypes, whitewashing, or outright invisibility.

I will be focusing on the negatives first (and there is a lot to cover). I will not be including any superhero, comic book, or gaming related examples here. I’m saving that for Part 3.

The lists that follow are by no means exhaustive, but should be enough to give readers a gist of what the overall problem is.

Stereotypes And Overt Antisemitism

This section concerns any forms of Jewish representation that lean into denigrating stereotypes or myths about Jews.

Barring a handful of exceptions, Jewish characters who appear on screen typically conform to one or more of these antisemitic archetypes…

* Geeks/social lepers, or Woody Allen pastiches
* Hypochondriacs
* Neurotic
* Rich, and often right-wing
* Jewish American Princesses
* Bossy, loud, overweight, prudish mothers
* Gold diggers
* Bloodthirsty villains, often in accordance with antisemitic blood libels
* Terrorists
* Bankers

Either that or their Jewishness is used as a punchline, if not disparaged outright.

And when it comes to antisemitism in Hollywood, what better place to start than with Mel Gibson?

He still has an A-list career. Why?
Source: Creative Commons

Notwithstanding his well-documented disdain for Jews, Mel Gibson continues to receive steady employment and veneration as an A-list actor – even landing lead roles. According to his IMDB profile, he has no less than 10 projects in the works and may even direct Lethal Weapon 5.

That alone is a damning indictment of Hollywood and points to a serious problem of institutional Judenhass, but that’s not all. Hollywood has even allowed Gibson to wax antisemitic on the big screen – more than once, at that.

See, for instance, the 2004 film “Passion of the Christ” that Mel Gibson wrote and directed himself. It was a perverted, bare-faced attack on Jews that gleefully resuscitated the age-old libel that Jesus – the son of God himself – had been hunted and murdered in cold blood by an evil cabal of Jews.

It was precisely this storyline that helped galvanize 2 millennia of antisemitic blood-letting. The European continent to which we had been exiled is drenched in our blood, and a significant portion of the blame for that can be attributed to the deicide libel that Mel Gibson – and by extension, Hollywood, an industry said to be “controlled by Jews” – lovingly reproduced without so much as a scintilla of compunction or remorse.

This was allowed to air in theaters. Source: Times of Israel https://www.timesofisrael.com/mel-gibson-said-planning-sequel-to-passion-of-the-christ/

Not only was this blatantly antisemitic film allowed to air in theaters, it also received the endorsement of major Hollywood studios. 21st Century FOX continued to sanction it until an uproarious protest outside of its offices led by then-NYS Assemblyman Dov Hikind forced their hand.

It would seem that “Rothchild”, another of Gibson’s upcoming projects, is set to offer more of the same. According to the film’s producer, it is to be a dark satire of a certain wealthy clan of New York bankers – one that has been the centerpiece of Orientalist conspiracy theories about Jews for more than a century.

Whitelaw, the greedy patriarch of the Rothchild family, is the film’s villain and will be portrayed by Mel Gibson himself. Aside from the fact that this film is a naked exercise in antisemitism and a bad idea overall, casting an avowed anti-Jewish racist in the role of a villainous Jewish banker is so utterly disrespectful as to be depraved.

Evidently, they think changing some of the names around and dropping the ‘s’ from Rothschild will be enough to throw people off, and that’s ludicrous. Anecdotally speaking, it would be akin to Mel Gibson disguising his identity by buying a cheap mustache at the dollar store and changing his name to Kel Gisbon.

Hollywood’s continued embrace of this suppurating pustule of antisemitic filth is proof that Jews are utterly expendable and, despite our outsized presence therein, control absolutely nothing.

Talented as he may be, there have been far too many actors whose careers were terminated for offenses far less numerous and far less egregious than those on Gibson’s rap sheet. I accept no excuses here.

In a cultural moment rife with what many have termed “cancel culture” and inquisitions targeting anything perceived as even remotely racist, there are no excuses for this man. That he still enjoys mainstream acceptance is a damning indictment of Hollywood, of movie-going audiences, and the throngs of sneering pseudo-progressive bien pensants who purport to be champions of the oppressed. The silence is deafening.

Alas, Gibson is but one, albeit prominent, symptom of the antisemitic cancer that has wracked Hollywood. Countless others are waiting to be explored.

“You” – A psychological thriller series based on Caroline Kepnes’ novel of the same name. Joe Goldberg, the series protagonist, is a stalker and serial killer who preys on women – a characterization that, at bare minimum, hews uncomfortably close to medieval blood libels and the antisemitic stereotype of Jewish men as sexual predators. While it is never outright stated that Goldberg is Jewish, it is very likely. At any rate, his surname alone is more than enough to suffice as an antisemitic dogwhistle.

It also doesn’t help that he’s whitewashed (i.e., portrayed by a white actor; more on that subject below).

“The Goonies” – A comedy movie from 1985. Lawrence “Chunk” Cohen, the only Jewish character in the film, is portrayed as a clumsy, overweight, food-obsessed slob. Jewish actor Corey Feldman was also in the movie, but in a non-Jewish role.

“New Girl” – A sitcom from the 2010s. Winston Schmidt, the only Jewish character on the show, leans into several antisemitic tropes – namely, Jews as rich and conservative. Not the most egregious example on this list, but still worth noting.

“Friends” – A sitcom from the 90s; popular in its prime, but reviled in retrospect for its casual homophobia, generally unlikable characters, and dearth of minority presence. To wit, all of the main characters on the show are white, save for Rachel Green (who was portrayed by a white actress, i.e., not Jewish or even Middle Eastern at all), Monica Geller (who was also portrayed by a white actress), and Ross Geller (portrayed by David Schwimmer).

Although it is never stated on the show that Rachel Green is Jewish, co-creator David Crane commented: “In our minds, I guess she was Jewish. You can’t create a character with the name ‘Rachel Green’ and not from the get-go make some character choices”.

That must be why she was written as a shrill, spoiled, materialistic, wealthy, gold-digging “Jewish American Princess”. Monica and Ross, the other characters on the show, are portrayed as neurotic.

“The Nanny” – Another sitcom of the 90s. Protagonist Fran Fine (portrayed by Jewish actress Fran Drescher) is presented as an opportunistic gold-digger who makes romantic overtures towards a noticeably older English Broadway producer primarily because of his wealth.

“Snow White” – An upcoming live-action remake in which Gal Gadot is set to portray the villainous Dark Queen.

The film isn’t out yet, but given what we know of the original story, educated guesses can be made of the film’s probable trajectory. To wit, Disney’s decision to cast an Israeli Jew as the Dark Queen is an augur of something antisemitic.

Disney: “LET’S MAKE HER A JEW!”
Image source: Wikipedia

For those who may be unfamiliar with the 1937 animated feature, Snow White is based on a German fairy tale about a beautiful young maiden whose purity and ‘fairness’ attracts the jealousy of the Dark Queen – an evil black-hearted witch who desires to be the fairest of them all.

Casting an Israeli Jew in the role of a vain evil witch who thirsts for the blood of a pure white maiden. Where have we seen this before?

Ah, yes, now I remember.

Granted, the actress they cast as Snow White is a woman of color herself (albeit one who could presumably pass as a “fair white maiden” with enough makeup), but one could easily see Disney inverting the dynamics to suit today’s social justice zeitgeist, i.e., using Snow White as a conduit for a “colored is beautiful” message while casting Jews/Israelis as the archetype of the evil, vain selfishness of “whiteness”.

It remains to be seen how this will turn out, but current prognostications do not appear to be edifying.

“Gossip Girl” – An ongoing drama series that was rebooted just last year. One episode features a rich Jewish man in his 60s who works in the media. The main character enters his home and describes it as being akin to a “villain house”. A later more serious scene describes him as “practically owning the media”, an obvious antisemitic stereotype.

“Bosch” – A detective fiction series that ran for 7 seasons and ended in 2021. In the final season, there is a white-collar criminal Ponzi schemer who was written as stereotypically Jewish. His attorney even tried to establish rapport with him by using Yiddish words and calling herself a shiksa.

“Mo Better Blues” – A Spike Lee film from the 90s. Features two “villainous” Jewish club owners who lean into antisemitic stereotypes, namely greed.

“Big Bang Theory” – A popular sitcom that ran for 12 seasons. Jewish character Howard Wolowitz is written as an unappealing, unlucky “dork” while his mother, Debbie, is every obnoxious “Jewish mother” stereotype magnified a thousand fold.

“Quantico” – An FBI drama series that has dipped its toes in political antisemitism/far-right Arab nationalist waters several times. One notable occasion is when Simon Asher, who is portrayed by Tate Ellington (yet another white actor who was cast in a Jewish role), reveals that he is an ex-IDF soldier who experiences PTSD from “all of the atrocities he committed in Gaza on behalf of the Israeli Defense Forces”.

In other words, the creators of Quantico believe (and want audiences to believe) that Israeli soldiers are instructed by higher-ups to slaughter civilians and, essentially, commit genocide.

Without delving too deeply into Middle East politics, the claim that Israeli soldiers are a bloodthirsty gang of war criminals who wantonly target civilians is untrue, myopic, and leans heavily into blood libels and anti-Jewish demonization.

“Unorthodox” and “Good Doctor” – In both series, assimilation and rejection of Judaism are presented as a good thing. Both feature Jewish characters who, at one point, belonged to Hasidic sects, but ended up leaving due to how “oppressive” these “cults” are.

Are you sensing a pattern here?

I also wanted to write brief sections detailing the problems of Seinfeld, Mrs. Maisel, and The Goldbergs, but those would be entire articles in themselves.

Inevitably, some readers will point out that many of these shows were produced by Jews. The fact that something is directed, produced, and funded by Jews does not mean that the final product won’t be antisemitic. To briefly reiterate what I covered in Part 1, Jewish executives/producers have always faced – and continue to face – enormous pressure to tailor their products to suit the biases of gentile-majority audiences, both for business reasons and out of very real fear for their safety. For instance, a movie that is exceedingly centered on Jews, or is Jewish in a way that gentile audiences find bothersome, would not only risk a box office bomb, but also a racist backlash – maybe even a violent one. It would also inflame the already deeply held antisemitic sentiment that Jews “control” Hollywood and are using it as a conduit for “Jewish/Zionist propaganda”.

Antisemitism is too pervasive, too powerful, and too globally ingrained for Jews – an ethnic minority that comprises less than 0.02% of the human population – to feel comfortable rocking the boat too hard, or at all. Their instinct will almost always be to pander to antisemitic feelings.

Whitewashing Galore

Whitewashing is when an ethnic minority is portrayed by white actors in an effort to either portray said minority as interchangeable with whites, or to bleach out the character’s non-whiteness altogether. Jews have been and continue to be victims of both.

Treating Ashkenazi Jews, or any non-convert Jews for that matter, as interchangeable with whites (defined as “people of European descent”; note that descent means ethnic origins, not “my family recently spent exile/diaspora in that place”) is insidious for an array of reasons.

First, it implies that Jews – particularly Ashkenazim – are people of European descent, as opposed to people of Middle Eastern descent whose families were exiled in Europe. This is done to attack our minority status, deny our identity and roots (and by extension, our indigenous rights in Israel), and to retroactively fit us into the European colonial system of white supremacy that Jews never benefited from, and were in fact horribly victimized by, so as to hold us “accountable”/put us in the dock for the legacy and crimes of European colonialism/white supremacism. In this respect, treating Ashkenazi Jews and whites/Europeans as one and the same – erasing our distinct Levantine ethnic identity and reducing us, racially and ethnically, to a subcategory of our former diaspora hosts (as Whoopi Goldberg recently had) – can be said to constitute a soft form of Holocaust denial. At bare minimum, attempting to force Ashkenazim – a non-European population victimized by European colonialism – into the white-European mantle is certainly a form of normalization of colonialism.

Doing this to Jews is no less a form of whitewashing, and no less wrong, than doing it to any other non-European ethnic minority, absolutely regardless of how antisemites on either side of the spectrum feel about us.

How many times have Jews been whitewashed in Hollywood? More times than anyone could possibly count.

Some choice examples…

* White-British actress Helen Mirren is set to play Golda Meir in her upcoming biopic. They even went as far as to give her a prosthetic nose. No, seriously, that’s not a joke.
* Geoffrey Rush, an Australian actor who is entirely of European descent, portrayed Albert Einstein (an ethnic Jew) in season 1 of ‘Genius’.
* Jewish-American lawyer William Kunstler was portrayed by Mark Rylance – a white-English actor – in ‘The Trial of the Chicago Seven’ (2020).
* White actress Felicity Jones portrayed Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Jewish-American judge, in ‘On the Basis of Sex’ (2018)
* In ‘Red Sea Diving Resort’, a 2019 film based on the Mossad’s rescue of Ethiopian Jews, nearly every single non-Ethiopian Jewish character is portrayed by a white actor. The only exceptions are Ethan Levin (portrayed by Ben Kingsley, who is half-Indian), Barack Isaacs (portrayed by Mark Ivanir, who is Jewish), and Sarah Levinson (portrayed by Alona Tal, who is Israeli Jewish, albeit incredibly white-passing)
* Both versions of ‘Raid on Entebbe’ were overwhelmingly whitewashed, although the 1977 version was worse
* Lead character of The Pawnbroker (1964) is a Jewish Holocaust survivor and was portrayed by Rod Steiger, a white-American actor
* A recent Dutch recreation of Anne Frank’s memoirs, entitled “My Best Friend Anne Frank”, features Aiko Beemsterboer (a white/ethnic-Dutch actress) in the role of Anne Frank.
* The sole Jewish character in ‘Wyatt Earp’ (1994) is portrayed by white actress Joanna Going
* The aforementioned sitcom ‘Friends’ whitewashed us twice. Rachel Green and Monica Geller are both unflattering Jewish stereotypes who were portrayed by white actresses. Lisa Kudrow, who is actually Jewish (albeit white-passing), was cast as a white character.
* Jewish actor Ron Perlman recently portrayed a white supremacist leader. In case anyone here has forgotten, white supremacists hate Jews and, seeing as we are not ethnic Europeans, they sure as hell don’t consider us white. Casting a Jewish actor as a white supremacist is erasive and only a half-step away from casting us as Nazis (“because Jews/Israelis are the new Nazis GET IT?!”).

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. Once we add in superhero movies, the list becomes even longer.

The point is that we almost never get to play ourselves on screen, and Hollywood seems hellbent on making audiences believe that we are religious white-Europeans, not a distinct ethnic minority of Levantine/West Asian descent, by more or less treating us as interchangeable with whites. While much ado has been made of the fact that ethnic Jews have a variety of appearances, the same can be said of Arabs, Persians, Latinos. These groups experience whitewashing, and so do we.

For all of our variations, we do have a median look – Levantine/East Mediterranean. Filling up Jewish roles with Brady Bunch-looking actors is textbook whitewashing because the vast majority of us do not look like that, and it sends an inaccurate (if not deliberately malicious) message about who we are. It also further marginalizes “Jewish-looking” Jews and feeds right into antisemitic narratives.

I am far more concerned about unambiguously Jewish Jews who must bear the weight of antisemitic racism and exclusion from any form of positive representation, than I am about the white-passing among us who might have to hear more “that’s funny, you don’t LOOK Jewish” quips from gentiles. The former is clearly worse and more pressing than the latter. And I say that as a Jew who is both white-passing and a product of recent intermarriage.

One counterpoint I want to touch upon is Uncut Gems, a crime-thriller movie released 2019. The plot of the film centers on the Ratners – an impoverished Jewish-American family from New York whose patriarch (portrayed by Adam Sandler) is a jewelry store owner who is struggling to pay off his gambling debts.

What sets this film apart from nearly every other film that features Jews at all is that the casting directors used Jewish actors to fill all of the Jewish-American roles. The difference that this makes is immediately apparent. One gains a sense that Ashkenazi Jews (i.e. Jews who spent diaspora in Germany and Eastern Europe) are a West Asian community of color and not the white-European Orientalist LARPers that the media – and our enemies – want to believe that we are (and want others to believe that we are).

Exclusion from other Middle Eastern roles

What I’m referring to here is, in essence, the media’s tendency to vilify Jewish actors – Ashkenazi Jewish actors especially – as “whitewashers” whenever we are cast in non-Jewish Middle Eastern roles.

This, of course, is done for one reason and one reason only: to make us feel like foreigners/unwanted guests in our own indigenous home region and to disenfranchise us from our identity and heritage. In this respect, it can be seen as a microcosm of the broader anti-Zionist campaign to delegitimize Zionism by obfuscating/denying Jewish roots in the region, thus normalizing accusations of “colonialism” and allowing them to flow forth more easily.

Two notable examples of this spring to mind…

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” – I know I said I wouldn’t deal with gaming-related examples until Part 3, but screw it.

Based on Jordan Mechner’s game of the same name (it even had his involvement), Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” was hit with whitewashing accusations the moment Jake Gyllenhaal was announced for the titular role as Prince Dastan of Persia.

Critics claimed that, by casting Gyllenhaal, Disney was guilty of “whitewashing” Middle Easterners. This claim is untrue and antisemitic for the obvious reason that Jake Gyllenhaal is Middle Eastern. His mother is an Ashkenazi Jew. Moreover, he looked almost exactly like the Prince from the games.

Doesn’t look particularly un-Persian to me. Even in this lighting.
Image source: Creative Commons/Openverse

One could reasonably argue that they should have cast an actual Persian actor, and that perhaps they shouldn’t have cast a half-Swedish actor (his father’s side is Swedish), but acting as though Jake Gyllenhaal is/was a white-European guy being represented in a region to which he has “no roots” and “does not belong” is pure, unambiguous antisemitism.

“Cleopatra” – This upcoming biopic was hit with similar accusations when Gal Gadot was announced for the titular role. I discussed these accusations at length when they emerged, and dismantled them in another article a day later, but I felt it was worth noting here.

Given the pattern of casting white actors in Jewish roles, relegating Jewish actors almost exclusively to degrading stereotypes, and shaming us whenever we are enfranchised within the tapestry of Middle Eastern representation, the intended messaging is clear: “Jews, Ashkenazim at least, are not a distinct West Asian community. They are shrill, irritating, quirky oddball religious white-European, distinct from their respective European super-categories only in how annoying, intolerable, rich, privileged, and untrustworthy they are. They’re not minorities and they don’t belong in Palestine. They’re just white people who need to learn the good sense to give up their stupid religion and delusional LARPing and make themselves invisible. Assimilate. Disappear already.”

Putting aside the messy politics of the Israeli-Arab conflict, denying Ashkenazi Jews – a Middle Eastern population victimized by endured centuries of forced displacement and exile in Europe, and one of the oldest continuous victims of European colonialism in existence – the right to even feel Middle Eastern, or to even feel a part of the region’s heritage or community, is nothing less than antisemitism.

Whitewashing in Biblical movies

As a corollary to the above, Jewish actors are scarcely permitted to portray our own forefathers (namely, 2nd Temple Judeans) on screen. Typically, casting directors will seek out non-Jewish Middle Eastern actors to fill these roles (thus giving weight to the lie that “*insert non-Jewish MENA group* are the TRUE descendants of the Israelites”), or they will simply whitewash all of the characters.

Yes, that’s our civilization, and those are our ancestors (like it or not).
Image source: Wikimedia

In both cases, it amounts to yet another institutional, systemic attempt to disconnect modern Jews from their roots – from their own ancestry. It is, quite literally, a form of erasure and supercessionism.

A few examples…

* Every character in “The Ten Commandments” (1956) was whitewashed, save for the villainous Dathan (who was portrayed by Jewish actor Edward G Robinson).
* Likewise, “Exodus” (2014) features only one Jewish actor (Ben Mendelsohn, who is half-Jewish). The rest are either white, non-Jewish Middle Eastern, or South Asian.
* “The Chosen”, a TV series from 2017 set in Israel during Jesus’ lifetime, boasts a grand total of one Jewish actor: Robby Benson. The rest of the cast (save possibly for Shahar Isaac, although no bios confirm that he’s Jewish) are gentiles. Not *white* gentiles, but still gentiles i.e. the end result is still the same: Jews are disenfranchised from their roots.

Exceptions To The Rule

Although Jewish audiences looking for positive – or, at bare minimum, accurate – representation have been left out in the cold time and again, there have been exceptions to the rule. Paltry and infrequent as they may be, their existence sets a positive example and lays a possible blueprint for undoing at least some of the damage that has been done.

“Barney Miller” – A detective sitcom from the 1970s that ran for 8 seasons. One of its most notable features is a main cast that is almost entirely non-white – unusual for the time. Only three of the main cast members (James Gregory, Ron Carey, and Max Gail) were white men. The rest were ethnic Jews (Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Barbara Barrie), black (Ron Glass), East Asian (Jack Soo), and Latino (Gregory Sierra).

The titular character Barney, portrayed by Jewish-American actor Hal Linden, is a level-headed police captain who boasts a sense of humor without ever sliding into Seinfeld-esque stereotypes. Phil Fish, portrayed by Abe Vigoda, serves mainly as the old, wizened mentor.

In other words, not a single disparaging stereotype, antisemitic myth, or blood libel to be found.

Oded Fehr – It may seem strange, in this context, to highlight an actor’s entire career as opposed to emphasizing specific high points, but it’s impossible to do that with Oded Fehr. As an actor, Fehr alone almost single-handedly demolishes every postmodern antisemitic myth about Ashkenazi Jews that anti-Zionists have spent decades laboring to inculcate.

For you see, despite anti-Zionists’ insistence that Ashkenazi Jews are “white-Europeans” (thus, foreign to the Middle East), Oded Fehr – whose parents are both German Jews – has played Arab and Latino roles almost exclusively since his career began. He even portrayed Jafar on Disney’s “Once Upon A Time” series, and was (allegedly) in talks to portray Jafar in the recent live-action remake of Aladdin.

There are other examples of Ashkenazim who have shattered this antisemitic myth, to be sure, but Fehr is by far the most prominent. Ordinarily, the careers of Ashkenazim who are more visibly Middle Eastern tend to go nowhere. Either that or they are stuck with only the most stereotypical and degrading of Seinfeld-esque roles. But not Oded Fehr. His career should be a blueprint that all casting directors follow in the future.

Jeff Goldblum – Although he is noticeably Jewish, Goldblum has landed several major roles throughout his career that didn’t involve self-disparaging humor or antisemitic stereotypes. He has portrayed Malcolm in Jurassic Park (1993) and Seth Brundle in The Fly (1986), among other things. Most Jewish actors (barring those who, like Harrison Ford or Scarlett Johanssen, are only partially of Jewish descent and mostly present as gentile) are not nearly as prominent or as versatile as Goldblum has been, because they’re never allowed to be. Again, he is an exception to the rule.

What Needs To Be Done

Less disparaging stereotypes, myths, libels, and vilification of Jewishness – Obviously. “Less” is an understatement. The grand total of these should be zero.

Stop portraying Ashkenazi Jews as white and/or nerdy – Technically, this falls under 1, but I felt it warrants its own separate mention.

Cast Ashkenazi Jewish actors in non-Jewish Middle Eastern roles more often, not less – This will force on antisemitic audiences the reality – intolerable as it is to them, and as much as they don’t want it – that Ashkenazi Jews are indigenous Middle Eastern natives, not “European” outsiders. The lie that we are white-Europeans is just that: a lie.

Cast Ashkenazim in Biblical Israelite/Judean roles, especially. Doing so will help combat the myth that Ashkenazim have nothing whatsoever to do with the Israelites and that we are merely religious in-laws or something.

Represent ancient Israel/Judea more – Actually educate people about Jews. Show audiences our civilization and culture in their unmolested form (could also be a useful reference for Jewish decolonization efforts) – show them how we lived and thrived before colonial powers drove us off of our land. Show them how and why we ended up in Europe, North Africa, Iran, and so on. Show them how we were treated in Europe – the racism, the massacres, the corralling into tiny bantustans, the active prevention by Europeans of our return home before the 19th century.

Show them that antisemitism – and Jewish history by extension – go well beyond the Holocaust.

Stop casting white actors in Jewish roles – Refer back to the section on whitewashing.

Change how Jews are categorized at the Oscars – We are not a subcategory of white people. We are an ethnic minority of Middle Eastern descent. Therefore, Jewish actors and actresses must be included in the Middle Eastern/North African representation category at the Oscars. In case readers are confused as to what I’m referring to, click here.

Holocaust films – Holocaust movies are by no means a bad thing. In fact, I’d say they’re necessary (now more so than ever, insert statistics). But the Holocaust isn’t the entirety of our history, nor did it occur in a vacuum.

By treating the Holocaust as the sum total of Jewish history or, worse yet, the only antisemitic paroxysm to ever occur, film producers are promoting a narrative (inadvertently or otherwise) that antisemitism is nothing more than an unfortunate, isolated freak incident caused by bad men in jackboots during WWII – and ceased to exist in any meaningful fashion when it ended. This is, of course, a lie.

It erases the fact that we were never equal or even at peace in Europe. We were brought there in chains, against our will, and prevented from leaving until the 19th century.

Europe is in no way our homeland. It has been our prison, our graveyard. It is where we were exiled. The entirety of our time in Europe was spent wandering from land to land and being locked in virtual bantustans, unable to return to our homeland, struggling to preserve our identity and culture in the hope of one day returning home.

Holocaust films also need to be more accurate by explaining that it was a white supremacist genocide that targeted us explicitly for not being white/European. They must explain that the Nazis targeted us (and the Romani) for being Asian – West and South Asian, respectively.

Less comedy roles/typecasting – Comedy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would be great if visibly Jewish actors were allowed to do other things too. It would be great if they were given roles that allowed us to present to audiences the full scope of our humanity and depicted as capable of enjoying the full range of human experiences.

That wraps up Part 2. Part 3 will discuss Jewish representation in comics, gaming, and their respective TV/live-action adaptations. And, of course, Star Wars and Star Trek. Been waiting to delve into that for quite a while.

About the Author
Half-Irish/half-Jewish American activist, musician, and writer.
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