July 20, 2024
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Jew in the City Launches Bureau for Better Representation in Hollywood

(Courtesy of Jew in the City) If you take a look at the majority of TV shows and movies that feature an Orthodox Jew in some way, you’ll usually find the depiction to be pretty negative or at best, stereotypical.

Jew in the City, the only nonprofit dedicated to changing negative perceptions of Orthodox Jews, led by founder and executive director Allison Josephs, is determined to change that, and has been for the last 15 years. Now, their hard work is starting to pay off in new ways.

JITC recently launched a Hollywood bureau to advocate for better representation of Jews in the media. The launch was celebrated on March 21 at the Florence Gould Hall Theater in NYC

The event kicked off with elevated movie concessions and cocktails and then everyone moved into the theater to see an original mini-documentary made with PhilmCo Media about Hollywood’s Orthodox Jew problem, as well as a movie featuring the first-ever JITC Media Awards recipient, David Fishof.

Fishof is a famed music agent who has worked with Ringo Starr and The Monkees, just to name a couple. He’s also a proud Orthodox Jew and son of a Holocaust survivor. In the documentary “Rock Camp: The Movie,” which can be seen on Prime and Apple TV, his Judaism and passion for his religion and personal history is woven into the storyline naturally. It follows him through a week at Rock N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, a program he started for individuals who have a passion for rock music and want a place to both grow and express it.

He groups participants into different bands and then places a famed vet into each one to help coach them through each day, all leading to a final performance at the end of the week. He naturally talks about things like praying every day and hosting Shabbat dinners.

Fishof’s Judaism is a winning example of how so many wish it would look in mainstream media. While many Jews sit in writers’ rooms, they might contribute storylines that reinforce more extreme Jewish stereotypes simply because they’re not familiar with those communities. The only observant Jews pictured on screen are those from the most extreme sects; and the storyline is about them being ostracized or cut off from society in some way. In reality, there are so many observant Jews living happy, beautiful lives that they love. It’s just that those are rarely, if ever, shown.

“We’re a tiny people and that overrepresentation of religion or orthodoxy as a thing to leave, sends a very clear message that the way out is the only way for the Jew to complete him or herself,” Josephs said in a launch video for the bureau.

In the past couple of months, Josephs has met with top executives at NBC, CBS and Disney to discuss the issue. The organizations responded positively and have agreed to make changes in their programming and work with JITC’s new bureau to learn how to better represent the Jewish population.

The other notable part of the success is just how long this took to come to light. As she was working on the cause, Josephs learned that nearly every other minority group already has a bureau of its own. There is the Muslim Pac Hollywood Bureau, the NAACP for the Black community, and CAPE for the Asian community. They’re working, too. Josephs shared in her speech at the event that she’s noticed representation getting better for those groups.

It’s not just something nice to see either, it’s actually a life-saving cause. All of the negative Jewish depictions in the media are directly contributing to the rise in antisemitic acts being reported today and cases are rising. Josephs and her team hope that seeing more positive views of Jews on screen will make life as an Orthodox Jew more accepted in mainstream society.

“Where are the proud Jews? Where are their stories getting green-lit? There are people certainly writing those stories. Is there an opportunity for proud Jewish stories to be told?,” she shared. “I’m hoping now that we’re raising the issue, [the right people] will hear us, they will listen, and they will change.”

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