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Major Hollywood stars press Academy to include Jews in representation and inclusion standards

By Elizabeth Wagmeister, CNN

(CNN) — Some top stars in Hollywood are among those calling for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the body behind the Academy Awards – to immediately add Jews to the organization’s inclusion and diversity standards and are criticizing the group for the oversight.

Actors including Tiffany Haddish, Josh Gad, David Schwimmer, Debra Messing, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Ginnifer Goodwin, Iliza Shlesinger, Julianna Margulies and Mayim Bialik are among the nearly 300 Hollywood figures who signed an open letter to the Academy this week, demanding that Jews be recognized as an underrepresented group.

“While we applaud the Academy’s efforts to increase diverse and authentic storytelling, an inclusion effort that excludes Jews is both steeped in and misunderstands antisemitism,” reads the letter obtained by CNN. “The absence of Jews from ‘under-represented’ groupings implies that Jews are over-represented in films, which is simply untrue.”

In 2020, as part of its new diversity initiatives, the Academy unveiled new standards that requires films to submit confidential inclusion data to be considered for best picture. The upcoming 2024 Oscars are the first year that a film submitting for best picture will need to meet those inclusion standards.

At the time, the Academy said it identified “underrepresented groups” as including women, LGBTQ+, people with cognitive or physical disabilities or who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as racial or ethnic groups. The “underrepresented racial or ethnic groups” outlined in the Academy’s standards are Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

The omission of Jews in the list of protected groups “erases Jewish peoplehood and perpetuates myths of Jewish whiteness, power, and that racism against Jews is not a major issue or that it’s a thing of the past,” the letter asserts.

The letter was organized by the advocacy group Jew in the City’s Hollywood Bureau for Jewish Representation. The founder and executive director of the group, Allison Josephs, tells CNN: “Jews are a very misunderstood group, which means that while other communities have benefited from diversity, inclusion and authentic storytelling, Jews have been left out. Jews have historically stood with other marginalized groups, but unfortunately have not stood up for themselves, but this letter shows that something is changing. Top voices in Hollywood have been galvanized to demand equal treatment as a protected class, and I think this could move the needle.”

Actors, directors, producers, agents, screenwriters and Hollywood executives signed the letter, including “Friends” creator Marta Kauffman, producer Greg Berlanti, activist Noa Tishby and comedian Michael Rapaport.

“Jewish people being excluded from the Motion Picture Academy’s Representation and Inclusion Standards is discriminating against a protected class by invalidating their historic and genetic identity. This must be addressed immediately by including Jews in these standards,” the letter continues. “There is a duty for the entertainment world to do its part in disseminating whole and human depictions of Jews, to increase understanding and empathy in viewers in these dangerous times. We ask the Motion Picture Academy leadership to do its part in advancing a just cause that has been ignored for too long.”

CNN has reached out to the Academy for comment.

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