For Immediate Release – February 22, 2021, Jerusalem Israel… Gilda Radner is doing flips in her grave. If she were alive, the former star of Saturday Night Live (SNL) who died in 1989, would be crying, but not from laughter.
Radner is one of many young comedians who got their start on SNL. She created and became famous for characters including Emily Litella, Roseanne Roseannadanna, Lisa Loopner, and Baba Wawa. Radner was also among a number of Jewish comics whose careers took off on and following SNL. Others include Billy Crystal, Jon Lovitz, Ben Stiller, and comedian-turned Senator, Al Franken.
Today, NBC’s Saturday Night Live is under fire for a recent skit that’s perpetuated a variety of anti-Semitic stereotypes and needs to be called out. During the SNL “Weekend Update” segment, correspondent Michael Che thought he was being funny when, “reporting” on Israel leading the world in vaccinations against COVID-19, he said, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
No, Mr. Che and SNL, anti-Semitism is never funny.
Jonathan Feldstein, President of the Genesis 123 Foundation, called out NBC’s use of anti Semitic tropes, “Other than the factual disregard for the reality that almost half of Israeli Arabs, along with many diplomats, foreign workers and others have been vaccinated in Israel’s widely successful and lauded vaccination campaign, including nearly half of the country’s total population of nine million, the SNL/Che comment also perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews carrying disease and infecting others. Stereotypes like this have been used widely, throughout the generations, to persecute, and attack Jews, and even as triggers for genocide.” Feldstein added, “The comment wasn’t funny, wasn’t necessary, and was entirely inappropriate. Where were the writers, editors, cameramen, or other comedians to stand up and say, ‘No, this is neither funny nor appropriate.’”
The Genesis 123 Foundation has launched a petition to call out and appeal to NBC, SNL, the writers, and Mr. Che, calling for appropriate apologies, including on camera live, and abundantly needed sensitivity training. The petition notes that if the word “Jewish” were changed to any other ethnic or minority group, it’s hard to imagine anyone on (NBC’s) staff not catching it.
Feldstein continued, “Anti-Semitism cannot be allowed to creep into popular culture as being acceptable. There’s more than enough blame to go around. Our point is not to point a finger as much as to highlight this as an egregious and unacceptable mistake, one which can never happen again.”
The Genesis 123 Foundation is appealing to all good people of conscience to join and sign the petition, the full text of which appears below, and can be seen and signed online at https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/cu/2GmZ3SV/NoToSNL.
The Genesis 123 Foundation is a US based nonprofit dedicated to building bridges between Jews and Christians and Christians with Israel in ways that are new, unique, and meaningful. Its programs like Run for Zion, and Verses for Zion make connections at a grassroots level.
For further information, contact the Genesis 123 Foundation at Gen123Fdn@gmail.com.
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Full text of the petition is as follows:
Dear Mr. Shell and the producers, writers, and actors of Saturday Night Live,
We write with distress, saddened by the recent skit of SNL and Michael Che making fun of Israel’s successful COVID-19 vaccination program. When attempting humor that focuses on Jews, as this skit did distastefully, it is appropriate to be careful not to cross into territory that’s dangerously and inappropriately anti-Semitic. One would expect that as a matter of decency, and accuracy. Between your writers, editors, producers, and Mr. Che himself, you failed.
You have perpetuated age-old anti-Semitic tropes about Jews carrying disease and infecting others, falsehoods used for generations and which have been catalysts for assaults upon and murder of Jews, including genocide.
You failed a basic test of decency in that if you replace “Jewish” and the allegations attached to it from Mr. Che’s inappropriate words with any other ethnic or minority group, it’s hard to imagine anyone on your staff not catching that as being offensive, and it never being deemed suitable for TV, even in a (bad) attempt at humor.
We call upon you and all involved to issue an immediate apology, including one aired live on the next SNL episode.
It’s sad to even have to think of it being necessary in the 21st century, but we call upon you to require all your writers and staff to undergo necessary sensitivity training. One person with the awareness, good sense, and decency could have stopped this offense. That nobody did is unimaginable.
The offensive comments cannot be taken back. The damage is done. But let NBC and SNL take immediate and proactive steps to be sure that such offensive remarks never happen again.