Sarah Silverman calls out Hollywood's use of 'Jewface'

Sarah Silverman has shared her anger at the ‘long tradition’ of non-Jewish people being cast in Jewish roles in Hollywood.

Calling out the casting of Kathryn Hahn as Joan Rivers, while also singling out Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the comedian accused Hollywood of ‘Jewface’.

She said on her podcast: ‘There’s this long tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just playing people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their whole being.

‘One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile playing Joan Rivers, correctly, would be doing what is actually called “Jewface”.’

She explained ‘Jewface’ is defined as ‘when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and centre’, often with make-up, or ‘a big false nose’, and using a ‘New York-y or Yiddish-y’ accent.

Mentioning the casting of Kathryn (who also played Rabbi Raquel in Transparent) as the late Rivers in Showtime’s limited series The Comeback Girl, Sarah went on to say the star ‘did nothing wrong, she’s a brilliant actor and she’s gonna be great as Joan’, insisting ‘singularly I have zero problem with it’.

She listed off an extensive list of non-Jewish stars who have portrayed Jewish women, including Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan in Mrs. America, adding: ‘None of these actresses are doing anything wrong, but collectively it’s f**ked up, little bit.’

Sarah called out the ‘perpetuated anti-semitic tropes’, such as the claim that ‘Jews run Hollywood’.

In sharing her thoughts, Sarah addressed her wearing of blackface on The Sarah Silverman Show in 2007, in which she wore minstrel-like make-up.

Speaking about how it saw her fired from a recent film role, she said: ‘I was going to play a very Jewish, Jew-y character, but a wonderful character. I got fired because the producers…saw a still shot of me in blackface.

‘It was literally an episode about race and racism and ignorance, I was the ignorant one…also I was the ignorant one in life.’

Replaced by a non-Jewish actress, Sarah said it felt ‘I don’t want to say ironic, ironically-fitting, maybe? I guess it showed me’.

Casting director Jen Rudin previously defended the practice of casting non-Jewish peple in Jewish roles, telling Forward: ‘Acting is a profession and our goal and job as casting directors is to hire the most qualified actor for the role.

‘Kathryn Hahn is wonderful as Rabbi Raquel in Amazon’s Transparent and my close friend Grant Shaud is hilarious as Miles Silverberg on Murphy Brown.

‘Neither are Jewish but both gave fantastic performances of characters who are Jewish.

‘[…]If we are only casting Jewish actors for Jewish roles, it feeds into a racist or religious stereotype that Jews all look a certain way and then we are not open-minded in our casting searches.’

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