Anti-Semitism is at an all time high. In 2019 the Anti Defamation League “tabulated 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents throughout the United States. This is a 12% increase from the 1,879 incidents recorded in 2018 and marks the highest number on record since ADL began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979.” It is important to know this statistic. As we have seen a rise in anti-Semitism, we have to question where and why it is perpetuated. As Jews, we are no strangers to the defacing of our synagogues as a display of hate. We have sadly read of Jews being harmed in synagogues, walking home on Shabbos, or even in schools. Many of us, undoubtedly, have our own experiences with anti-Semitism. Orange County has made the news numerous times in the past two years due to ignorance and intolerance.
Recently, Seth Rogen had an interview on a podcast entitled WTF with Marc Maron to promote his movie, The American Pickle. It is imperative to point out that both of these men are Jewish. Much of the press has commented on Rogen’s lack of knowledge concerning the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He mentioned he had no idea that people inhabited the area we now refer to as Israel prior to 1948. This lack of information is clearly not the narrative that many of us have received nor is it one a responsible historian would provide. Rogen did meet with Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog in a Zoom meeting. Israel’s, Channel 12 reports Rogen apologized for his comments yet insisted that the conversation not be recorded. Many of you may have already read of Rogen’s incognizance in the many sources of media that have covered this very slim segment of this particular interview. However, his 30 seconds of ignorance regarding Israel should not overshadow the other bits of toxic content in this podcast interview that many media sources have discarded.
“I am afraid of Jews.” stated Rogen. Rogen was unable to conduct the interview with Maron in an educated and articulate way. Rogen’s concern was that the community would lash out at him due to his unpopular stance on Israel. Rogen seemed afraid he would lose a fan base or not obtain jobs in Los Angeles if he expressed his opinions regarding Israel, but certainly he did not appear to be fearful of his thoughts on cultural Judaism, referring to Jewish summer camps as a breeding ground for Jewish reproduction. Rogen and Maron also categorized Jews in groups, including “soft Jews, math Jews, [etc…]”
These two men continued to discuss that Israelis are “leathery” and “don’t put up with our [American] Middle Class, ya know, Jew bullshit.” This comment was followed by Rogen and Maron agreeing that they had never met an Israeli they liked. This commentary is equally, if not arguably, far more important to discuss than Rogen’s lack of knowledge regarding modern day Israel’s development.
As the podcast continued, Rogen and Maron discussed Eastern European heritage. Both Maron and Rogen talked about the physical and genetic aspects of Jews, despite neither one being any authority. When referring to Hassidic Jews, Maron claimed that “their gene pool is so tight, they’re producing Jews that don’t even look like Jews.”
Who needs late 1930s-1940s propaganda when we can listen to members of the Jewish community making comments like that? Rogen chimed in with, “They’ve mutated beyond Jew… They aren’t doing us any favors.” Rhetoric like this makes the Hassidic community sound subhuman. It is repulsive. Rogen has an incredibly large and malleable audience; when Jews themselves describe other Jews in this manner it provides a green light for other communities to articulate such absurd descriptions of Jewish individuals.
As he continued to joke about the Jewish community trying to replenish the six million Jews lost in the Holocaust, Rogen chuckled, “What’s our endgame?” He clearly has not made the connection that the rise in anti-Semitic crimes can be attached to ideologies that perpetuate many of the same concepts he introduced himself during WTF. Ironically, Rogen disseminates commentary we would not accept from someone outside of our community. When words that belittle the Jewish community have the wide-span audience that Rogen has, there is no telling what he has confirmed to individuals that are not familiar with the Jewish community. He is not the Jewish world’s spokesperson, but Rogen does need to recognize he inadvertently is representing the Jewish community when he is consistently discussing his Jewish identity.
It cannot be impressed enough, Rogen has a huge fan-base of both Jewish and non-Jewish followers. His self-depreciation is funny until it becomes covertly anti-Jewish for an extended portion of his hour-and-thirteen-minute interview. He is capitalizing on the Jewish community by making a film with Jewish undertones and then making these absurd comments when he is not on screen. The Jewish community cannot benefit from this dichotomy. I am not directly blaming Rogen for any direct damage and rise in anti-Semitism, but his words are like feathers. Feathers are hard to catch when released into the wind.
The Jewish community is no stranger to such absurdity, however, we have no idea what hateful ideology some of his words solidified, and the mass media should have covered much more of this particular interview. We cannot be afraid as a Jewish community to identify bigotry, defamation, and disdain, even if it is from someone who identifies as Jewish.
Rachel Schiff is a contributing writer to JLife magazine.