Jewish Group Assails Film Academy’s Diversity Efforts

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More than 260 Jewish entertainment figures — including the actors David Schwimmer, Julianna Margulies and Josh Gad, and the producers Greg Berlanti and Marta Kauffman — signed an open letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Tuesday, criticizing the organization for excluding Jews as an underrepresented group in its diversity efforts.

In 2020, the academy issued a set of standards as part of its diversity initiative that recognized a number of identities as “underrepresented,” including women, L.G.B.T.Q. people, an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, or those with cognitive or physical disabilities.

Religion is not one of the categories considered.

These initiatives will become part of the standards required for a film to compete in the best picture category beginning this year. For a film to be eligible, at least one of the lead actors or a significant supporting actor must be from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. The academy has said that includes actors who are Asian, Hispanic, Black, Indigenous, Native American, Middle Eastern, North African, native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

“An inclusion effort that excludes Jews is both steeped in and misunderstands antisemitism,” said the letter, which was organized by the Hollywood Bureau of the group Jew in the City. “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.”

The letter added that Judaism was not just an issue of faith, but also an ethnicity.

This is not the first time in recent years that the academy has faced criticism from the Jewish community. When the organization opened its long-awaited museum in Los Angeles in 2021, the contributions of Jewish immigrants like Jack Warner and Louis B. Mayer, who were largely responsible for the founding of the Hollywood studio system, were barely acknowledged. In response, the academy said it would open a permanent exhibition dedicated to the birth of Hollywood and the Jewish filmmakers who established it. Called “Hollywoodland: Jewish Founders and the Making of a Movie Capital,” the exhibit will debut on May 19.

According to Allison Josephs, the founder and executive director of Jew in the City, the letter has been in the works since the summer, months before the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7, as the new academy standards were being discussed.

“It feels like a very big mistake to not recognize that we are maybe the most persecuted group throughout all time,” she said in an interview.

The academy declined to comment.

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