Kvetch N Kvell: Discussing ‘Jewface’


Non-white Jews Often Overlooked
I appreciated Manishtana’s piece, “The ‘Jewface’ Debate About Casting Non-Jews as Jews Betrays an Ashkenazi Bias” (Oct. 21), which sheds light on Ashkenormativity. Ashkenazic

Jews tend to forget that there are many Jews in the world who are not white.
I’m a playwright, and when my play, “A Modest Suggestion,” opened in New York, one critic asked why we didn’t cast a Jew in the Jewish role. The role was, in fact, played by a Jew of Middle Eastern descent.

I’m a Yemenite Jew, and I can’t tell you how many family functions I’ve attended in which relatives turn to my Ashkenazic wife and ask if I’m Jewish, even though I’m typically a more observant Jew than the person asking. I’ve also had many horrible experiences of walking into an Ashkenazic shul holding a tallis bag, only to be asked by security, “Can I help you?”

Ashkenazic Jews would do well to remember that Judaism was not born in Europe, and their white skin makes the authenticity of their Jewishness just as dubious as anyone else’s.

Ken Kaissar | Yardley

Not So Fast
Manishtana’s piece on the “Jewface” debate (“The ‘Jewface’ Debate About Casting Non-Jews as Jews Betrays an Ashkenazi Bias,” Oct. 21) quoted comedienne Sarah Silverman as saying: “if the Jewish character (portrayed in a Hollywood film) is courageous or deserves love, she is never played by a Jew. Ever!”

Not quite.

The actress Rachel Weisz, who is Jewish and whose parents are both Jewish, portrayed Emory Professor Deborah Lipstadt in the 2016 award-winning film “Denial.” In the film, Lipstadt, who had courageously singled out David Irving as a “dangerous spokesperson for Holocaust denial” in her 1993 book “Holocaust Denial,” successfully defends herself in a trial against Irving’s accusations of libel and defamation.

Jerry Stern | Merion Station


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