Their anger was directed at NBC, which has received significant backlash in the Jewish community for airing programming on two recent occasions that has been labeled by many as promoting “classic anti-Semitic tropes.”
One of the two offending incidents occurred on Feb. 9 airing of the drama, “Nurses,” which featured a young hasidic or Orthodox boy named Israel who injured his leg and is warned by his father not to accept a bone graft because it might come from a woman or Arab donor; and the Feb. 20 airing of the Weekend Update segment of Saturday Night Live (SNL) where host and chief writer Michael Che quipped, “Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
In the “Nurses” episode Israel asks, “You want to put a dead leg inside me?” and the father responds, “A dead goyim leg from anyone—an Arab, a woman” and tells his son that the “Creator” will heal him. The son ultimately refuses the graft. There are no prohibitions in Judaism against receiving a bone graft from a cadaver.
In response to the controversy, NBC has pulled the “Nurses” episode from all its digital platforms but has not commented on either show.
“Nurses” is a Canadian series that was picked up by NBC in late 2020 to fill holes in its original programming schedule caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two incidents engendered swift and strong response from both national and local Jewish organizations that accused the network of spreading lies about Jews and Judaism, particularly Orthodoxy and Israel.
“There needs to be recognition and sensitivity in media outlets to the Jewish community and community practices,” Mariaschin told The Jewish Link in a phone interview from his Washington office. “It’s not humor and it’s not even good drama.”
He said NBC pulling the “Nurses” episode was insufficient and the network needed to apologize for its portrayal of the Orthodox community and its failure to research Jewish practices, although he said there is an industry-wide problem of insensitivity to the concerns and practices of the Jewish community.
“This is a blood libel and what Michael Che was able to do was what has been done since the Middle Ages about blood libels, that what we want to do is harm others,” said Mariaschin of the SNL piece. “There are millions of people in those audiences. What they heard was not only wrong, but outrageously wrong and we don’t want them learning about our community through off-handed comments.”
However, he expressed optimism the negative publicity resulting from these incidents might serve as a wake-up call to the industry.