Sarah Silverman explored Jewish representation in Hollywood on a recent edition of The Sarah Silverman Podcast, focusing on how non-Jewish actors and actresses are routinely cast as Jewish characters. “There’s this great tradition of non-Jews playing Jews, and not just people who happen to be Jewish but people whose Jewishness is their entire being,” she said, adding, “For example, a Gentile imitating Joan Rivers perfectly would be doing what is truly termed Jewface.”
Silverman is referring to Kathryn Hahn, who is not Jewish, being cast in a Showtime series as famed comedian Joan Rivers, who is Jewish. “It’s characterized as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with Jewishness front and center, frequently with cosmetics or alteration of features, a large false nose, and all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection,” she explained. And why, in a time when representation is considered as so important and front and center, does ours continue to be breached even now in the midst of it?” Other notable examples of Jewface, according to Silverman, include Felicity Jones’ portrayal of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex and Rachel Brosnahan in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
The School of Rock actress pointed out common anti-Semitic tropes that so often get thrown around like “Jews run Hollywood,” “Jews are rich,” and “Jews are powerful,” which she said then “renders people very righteously unsympathetic toward Jews.”
“I wish they would realize that that is by design,” she said.
Silverman doesn’t have an answer for “how to fix this,” but “representation f*cking matters, so it has to also finally matter for Jews as well. Especially Jewish women.” You can watch a live taping of The Sarah Silverman Podcast above.