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Friday, June 21, 2024

Entertainment Figures Criticize Oscars for Excluding Jews in Diversity Efforts

Over 260 prominent Jewish figures in the entertainment industry, including David Schwimmer, Julianna Margulies, Josh Gad, Greg Berlanti, and Marta Kauffman, signed an open letter addressed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Tuesday. The letter criticizes the organization for omitting Jews from its diversity initiatives, labeling them as an underrepresented group.

In 2020, the academy introduced diversity standards that acknowledged various identities as “underrepresented,” encompassing women, LGBTQ individuals, those from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, and individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities. Notably, religion was not included among the recognized categories.

These diversity initiatives are integral to the standards for films vying for the best picture category, starting this year. To be eligible, a film must have at least one lead actor or a significant supporting actor from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. The academy specified that this includes actors of Asian, Hispanic, Black, Indigenous, Native American, Middle Eastern, North African, native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander descent.

The open letter, organized by the Hollywood Bureau of the group Jew in the City, expresses concern that the academy’s inclusion efforts exclude Jews, characterizing it as both rooted in and misunderstanding antisemitism. The letter argues that such exclusion erases Jewish peoplehood, perpetuates myths about Jewish whiteness and power, and downplays the significance of racism against Jews.

Emphasizing that Judaism is not solely a matter of faith but also an ethnicity, the letter calls attention to the oversight in recognizing Jews within the diversity framework. It contends that ignoring Jews as an underrepresented group fails to acknowledge their historical persecution and the unique challenges they have faced.

This is not the first instance of the academy facing criticism from the Jewish community. When the academy inaugurated its museum in Los Angeles in 2021, the contributions of Jewish immigrants crucial to the founding of the Hollywood studio system were scarcely acknowledged. Responding to the criticism, the academy committed to establishing a permanent exhibition titled “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital,” dedicated to the contributions of Jewish filmmakers. The exhibit is scheduled to debut on May 19.

Allison Josephs, the founder and executive director of Jew in the City, revealed that the letter had been in preparation since the summer, preceding the Hamas attack on Israel in October. She stressed the importance of recognizing the historical persecution of Jews, asserting that they might be the most persecuted group throughout history.

The academy has chosen not to comment on the matter. As the entertainment industry grapples with issues of representation and inclusion, this open letter adds another layer to the ongoing conversation about diversity in Hollywood.

David Faber
David Faber
I am a Business Journalist of The National Era
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