Sarah Silverman called out Hollywood’s tendency to cast non-Jewish actors to play Jewish characters, referring to the practice as “Jewface.”
The comedian, 50, pointed to Kathryn Hahn as the most recent example after the Catholic-raised actress, 48, was tapped to portray the late Joan Rivers, who was Jewish, in an upcoming limited series.
“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,” Silverman said in Thursday’s episode of her eponymous podcast, adding, “One could argue, for instance, that a Gentile [a non-Jew] playing Joan Rivers correctly would be doing what is actually called ‘Jewface.'”
She continued, “It’s defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection. And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”
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 expressed her belief that if there is a female Jewish character who is “courageous or deserves love, she is never played by a Jew.”
She then listed other examples, pointing out that Felicity Jones played Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rachael Brosnahan plays fictional Jewish character Miriam Maisel, Margo Martindale portrayed Bella Abzug and Tracey Ullman was Betty Friedan.
While Silverman noted that she thinks none of the actresses she named are “doing anything wrong,” she said that the theme is “f–ked up.” She added that she understands that identity politics is “annoying” and “acting is acting,” but then doubled down, saying, “Right now, representation f–king matters.”
“It has to also finally matter for Jews as well,” she added. “Especially Jewish women.”