Yes, Casting Non-Jewish Actors In Jewish Roles Is Cultural Appropriation. No, It's Not OK

Yes, Casting Non-Jewish Actors In Jewish Roles Is Cultural Appropriation. No, It's Not OK

Let us tell our own stories.
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I’ve been trying to figure out how to phrase this article for a long time, because it deals with a sensitive subject, and people tend to get touchy when you start telling them what they should and shouldn’t do, but I’ve decided the best thing is to come out and say it. I’m tired of non-Jewish actors playing Jewish characters. For now, let’s set aside the question of whether or not Jewish people are generic western-European white (we aren’t) and the question of whether or not Jewish people are still oppressed (we are). Instead, let’s move on to the reasons why non-Jewish people playing Jewish characters need to step off.

First of all, there aren’t a lot of Jewish characters floating around the theatre world. When picking up a new play to read, you can be fairly sure that all of your leads are Christian, and that if any character happens to be Jewish, they’ll be a caricature of a person and their religion will be a punch line (“Merchant of Venice,” I’m looking at you). Now, if you should find a play where that isn’t the case, look back at its performance history, and I’ll bet you anything that nine times out of 10, the Jewish characters were played by non-Jewish actors. The biggest examples of this — and the ones I’ve been frustrated about since day one — are the stage plays of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Both of these plays feature predominately Jewish main characters, and neither are the sort of stories where the main characters’ religions don’t matter. In both plays, the characters’ religions are the only thing that matters. Religion drives the plot. Religion creates conflict. Remove the characters’ Judaism from either play, and you no longer have a story. So why do directors the world over keep removing Judaism from the characters?

And make no mistake, that is what they’re doing. There’s a massive difference between simply playing a character and knowing that, had you been born in a different time period, you would be that character. Take “Fiddler on the Roof” as an example. The main plot deals with the increasing difficulties of being Jewish in the world of imperialist Russia, and it ends with the main characters being forcibly expelled from land they’ve lived on for generations. My ancestors lived in imperialist Russia during the same time period as the play is set, and like Tevye and his family, they fled the country or were forced out. When I read the play or watch it performed, I can imagine my family in the same situations, and any Jewish person can do the same (if you go back far enough, we’ve all been kicked out of somewhere). It’s an understanding that non-Jewish people don’t have, and it weakens the play as a whole to have the story performed by people who don’t get it.

The same goes for “The Diary of Anne Frank.” All of the main characters in the story are Jewish, and if one followed the story to its conclusion, they’d see that all but one of the characters is murdered for that very reason. The premise of the play wouldn’t exist without the characters’ Judaism, and there isn’t a Jewish person alive today who’s not intimately familiar with the horrors of the Holocaust. Again, there’s a difference between watching a play and thinking about how horrible it must have been, and watching a play and knowing that you and two-thirds of your family would have met the same fate.

There’s a connection to these stories that non-Jewish actors lack. There are complex personal feelings surrounding these characters and experiences that non-Jewish actors can’t possibly understand. I want to see these plays presented by Jewish actors. So this is a message for actors and directors. Stop erasing characters’ Judaism. Stop appropriating our stories by casting non-Jewish actors in roles written for and about us.

And for the love of all that’s holy, if you’re going to persist in casting goyim in Jewish roles, teach them how to pronounce Hebrew correctly.

Cover Image Credit: The Mirisch Production Company

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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All People Should Be Aware Of The Social Injustice Regarding Difference In Skin Color

How having a different skin color means that society looks at you different.

hannahd
hannahd
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Do you ever sit in class and just kind of look out into the distance, and sooner or later you find yourself not paying attention and then whoops you're on your phone? Well, I did in class (don't tell my mom) but I was scrolling on Twitter and came across this tweet. It read:

"My best friend has to work TWICE as hard as I do to receive the SAME opportunities I get just because of the differences in the color of our skin. That is an issue. And shame on me for not using my voice sooner. Shame on me for not bringing attention to the subject. This isn't for clout this isn't for likes this based of the fact that I'm so PISSED OFF at the way I have seen society treat my best friend. If I call you my brother I will fight this fight with you until I am blue in the face. Don't add to the problem be apart of the solution. Skin is just skin at the end of the day people who look different than me have helped me through some of my toughest times. Open your heart to love and acceptance this is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave… let's try and act like it."

In our society, today, if you truly think that people with a different skin complexion, take a step back and really look at our world today. This guy noticed one of his very best friends, same age, has to work just as hard even harder then he does to obtain the respect and things that he deserves. In one of my classes, we talked about the "public opinion after" blacks and whites see differently.

People of color see the world in a completely different light then white people do. A white parent tells there kid to go have fun and be safe and a person of color parent says the same thing but might add be home before the street lights come on, be home before sundown something like that. I am not saying that white parents might not say that but black kids have to be more cautious about staying out in the dark after certain times. People say that a person of color is less likely to finish high school and if they do they are more likely to drop out of college, and I have heard people say that about their peers.

Now, what gives YOU the right to determine someone else's future other than your own?

The point is that people of color have to be more cautious and work twice as hard as a white person. People are held to a different standard, there is more expected out of them. They have harsher punishments than a white person. A white person can do something far worse than a person of color and the white man gets the slap on the wrist and six months and the person of color gets at least ten years. Or a person of color can do nothing at all and a white person can feel "threatened" and completely kill the person of color and never see time behind bars.

Society needs to change. People need to change and open up their eyes and see what type of world we are living in. Is it really changing or are you just picking and choosing what you want to see?

hannahd
hannahd

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