update deskJewish & Israeli Culture

Open letter about Oscars calls out diversity initiative exclusion of Jews

“This must be addressed immediately by including Jews in these standards,” the more than 260 signers write.

Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. Credit: Thomas Wolf/www.foto-tw.de via Wikimedia Commons.
Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. Credit: Thomas Wolf/www.foto-tw.de via Wikimedia Commons.

New rules by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—known for presenting the annual Oscar awards in Hollywood, Calif.—go into effect this year to qualify for the Best Picture category. Potential winners need to feature a minority character in a prominent role; however, one group has notably been excluded from that requirement, prompting an open letter signed by more than 260 people in the entertainment industry.

“While we applaud the Academy’s efforts to increase diverse and authentic storytelling, an inclusion effort that excludes Jews is both steeped in and misunderstands antisemitism. It erases Jewish peoplehood and perpetuates myths of Jewish whiteness, power, and that racism against Jews is not a major issue or that it’s a thing of the past,” the letter begins. 

Those listed as leading signatories include Brett Gelman, David Baddiel, David Schwimmer, Debra Messing, Josh Gad, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jonathan Lipnicki, Juliana Margulies, Mayim Bialik, Michael Rapaport, Noa Tishby, Tiffany Haddish and Marta Kauffman.

“While many mistakenly believe that Judaism is only a religion, Jews are actually an ethnic group, with varied spiritual practices that not all observe,” the letter stated. “Jews are an indigenous people to the Middle East with a continuous presence there for over 3,000 years. This is not negated by the fact that Jews, like all marginalized groups, have white-passing members.”

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