A group of Jewish actors have signed a letter calling for Jews to be included in the new diversity standards implemented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, arguing that such exclusion constitutes anti-Semitism.
The letter, signed by 250 actors, including prominent names like David Schwimmer, Mayim Bialik, and Josh Gad, declared “Jewish people being excluded from the Motion Picture Academy’s Representation and Inclusion Standards is discriminating against a protected class by invalidating their historic and genetic identity.”
The letter asserts that “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.” Instead of considering themselves to be white, the actors postulated that “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 added that “there is a duty for the entertainment world to do its part in disseminating whole and human depictions of Jews, to increase understanding and empathy in viewers in these dangerous times.”
The Academy diversity standards, which will officially come into effect this year, include a variety of stipulations for including quotas of ethnic, sexual, and ability minorities. This includes a mandate that “at least one of the lead actors or significant supporting actors is from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group in a specific country or territory of production,” or that, “at least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles are from at least two underrepresented groups.”
Other requirements include quotas for marketing team members and members of the production crew.
The regulations, discriminatory in their own right, still do not include a religious category that would allow for Jews to be included as an underrepresented group. As a result, it cannot be said that Jews specifically are being excluded from Hollywood diversity standards compared to other minorities.
As a matter of fact, some individuals like journalist Joel Stein have noted that Jews have long had outsized representation in prominent positions in Hollywood, with Stein quipping in a Los Angeles times article in 2008, that “the Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies,” and one of those six ‘Gentiles,’ “turned out to be Jewish.” If anything, it looks like Jews are suffering from success in Hollywood, rather than exclusion.
It seems that, even with such extensive diversity requirements, the Academy Awards will still fail to meet the expectations of equity held by some in Tinseltown.