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Oct. 7 is ‘deeply personal,’ says American actor Michael Rapaport

The comedian has emerged as a leading voice for Israel in Hollywood at a time when many of his Jewish colleagues in the film industry have remained silent or politically neutral.

Michael Rapaport addresses the "Pulse of Israel" conference in Jerusalem on June 30, 2024. Photo by Alex Traiman.
Michael Rapaport addresses the "Pulse of Israel" conference in Jerusalem on June 30, 2024. Photo by Alex Traiman.

American Jewish actor Michael Rapaport said on Monday that the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre and the wave of antisemitism that it triggered across the United States were deeply personal for him, and enhanced his connection with Judaism.

The comedian has emerged as a leading voice for Israel in Hollywood, at a time when many of his Jewish colleagues in the film industry have remained silent or exhibited politically correct neutrality.

“How could I not take it [Oct. 7] personal?” he responded in an interview with JNS. “How could you not take it personal that, you know, immediately after that people were celebrating it? How could you not take it personally immediately after the celebrations that people were ripping down posters of the hostages?”

He continued, “How could you not take it personally that there are five Americans still being held? How could you not take it personally that any Jew of any category, any denomination, if they were here on Oct. 7 and in the line of fire, something bad could have happened to them?”

A native New Yorker, he was offended by the response of some in the Big Apple which, along with Los Angeles, has seen some of the most violent antisemitic protests, beginning on campuses but quickly spreading out across the city.

He noted that pictures of those missing after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City were never taken down nor were there overt protests in support of terrorists.

“They stayed up until nature took ’em down. You never would’ve seen them ripped down—ever,” recalled Rapaport, adding that if someone had celebrated the 9/11 terrorists back then, “they would get killed, they literally would get beaten to death if they did that in New York.”

“So all those things, you know, build up in me and resonate with me,” he said. “It pushed me to a different place spiritually, emotionally and in regards to my Jewish identity.”

The actor has been to Israel several times since Oct. 7 and skewered Hollywood in a highly acclaimed skit on a top-rated Israeli satirical TV show over its silence about Hamas and failure to advocate for the 120 hostages still being held in Gaza.

In an earlier show, he lampooned the infamous performance of Ivy League presidents during a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism.

He was also one of 450 Jews in the entertainment industry to sign a letter denouncing the speech film director Jonathan Glazer gave at the Academy Awards ceremony this March. Accepting the Oscar for Best International Feature Film for the Holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest,” he said he refuted his Jewishness.

A comedy show he was scheduled to perform in Madison, Wis., in May was canceled due to pro-Palestinian rioters.

‘I’m not backing away’

Rapaport told JNS that while his vocal support for Israel had cost him some friends, it had endeared him to many others.

“The friendships I’ve gained and the relationships that I’ve gained are more important than the ones that have gone,” he said.

He voiced concern that the antisemitic rallies in the United States would become only more violent and lead to terrorism, which, he said, would wake some people up.

Rapaport spoke to JNS on the sidelines of the annual Pulse of Israel conference in Jerusalem, where he received the “Leadership of Zion Award” from the hands of CEO and founder Avi Abelow.

Rapaport’s recent visits to the Jewish state were marked by “incredible, inspiring, heartbreaking, demoralizing, beautiful experiences,” he stated.

The actor said he keeps coming because of “the urge and the pull to be amongst my people, the urge and the pull to be supportive, the urge and the pull to continue to deepen my connection with my Judaism.”

His unequivocal message to Israelis who stop him on the street to express their gratitude for his very public support: “I’m here with them.  I’m with them. I’m Jewish. I always speak out on behalf of Israel. I’m not backing away. … We’re all together.”

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