“Anti-Semitism is never funny” was the theme this past Saturday night at a rally outside NBC studios in Rockefeller Center, the broadcast home for “Saturday Night Live” (SNL). Some 150 demonstrators were on hand to brace the cold chill and join former Assemblyman Dov Hikind – now head of the Brooklyn-based Americans Against Antisemitism – in denouncing the now infamous joke by comedian Michael Che. The noise seems to not bother the head honchos at the network, as no statement or apology has surfaced. Was it anti-Jewish or simply anti-Zionist is a question on people’s minds. The reality is that the comedian indulged in unwarranted hatemongering that brought out even more Jew-hatred from others. For those unaware, he joked that “Israel is reporting they’ve vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.” The joke to many Jews is seriously unfunny and anti-Semitic.
“It is the traditional stereotype that is so dangerous to the Jewish people,” said Hikind, adding that it creates unnecessary harm and pain.
Steven Marcus, who attended the event, shared with the Queens Jewish Link: “NBC is being insensitive. Sharing this kind of material in a world that still does not understand the plight of the Jewish nation is not acceptable.”
The joke sparked an uproar by several Jewish organizations and leaders, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. These groups emphasized that the poor attempt at a gag crossed a line based on the reported facts and that it played into anti-Semitic tropes.
The American Jewish Committee went further, disseminating a petition demanding an apology from NBC. Hikind added, “We need one standard for hate, not for it to be ignored when it’s directed at Jews.”
Hikind asked those in attendance, “How many Jews are there in the world?” There are 8.5 billion people in the world, and just 14 million Jews. “That’s the whole story.” Hikind elaborated on the World War II era, when his mother lost much of her family to the gas chambers. “They were Jews; that was their crime. So, when NBC plays with the Jews, they push and create the stereotype of the Jewish people that we don’t care for anyone except ourselves.” Ari Kagan, a Brooklyn Democratic district leader, spoke of his grandmother and her two children who were killed in 1942. “They were guilty because they were Jewish,” he said.
Whether NBC meant to cause hurt, the damage is done. “They need to apologize; then we can move on,” said Hikind.
Nachum Segal, a popular Orthodox radio host, brought attention to the issues in a different way. “Shame on Lorne Michaels, Michael Che, for one reason and one reason only,” Segal said. “Nobody takes care of their own and nobody takes care of everyone else like Israel does. If Lorne Michaels’ family was in a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or natural disaster that got international attention, the first group of people that would want to help him and his family would be the folks from the State of Israel.”
Hikind added that Michaels is a Jew and that this would never occur in the Black community. The barricaded groups loudly chanted, “Shame on NBC!,” “Anti-Semitism is not funny!,” “Apologize NBC,” among others.
A nurse at the rally referenced a recent episode of the Canadian-based show “Nurses,” where a young chasidic patient was told he would need a bone graft to heal his broken leg. This led to his devout father to withdraw at the possibility of a “dead goyim leg from anyone. An Arab, a woman” being used on his son. “NBC was disrespectful to us Jewish nurses,” the female nurse told the gathering. NBC acknowledged the mistake and pulled that episode, but the question of how it ever made it to the air still lingers.
Queens Assemblymember David Weprin, an Orthodox Jew and a candidate for NYC Comptroller, as well as an ally of Hikind’s from his 38 years in the Assembly, demanded that the audience speak up. “Look, it’s not just a joke. It’s something symbolic, we are a small minority in the world and if we don’t speak up then we are complicit!” “NBC should be shamed!” added Weprin.
District 29 City Council candidate Michael Conigliaro also protested. “NBC should apologize for allowing such comments to have been made on the air. Anti-Semitism has no place in our world, as it normalizes anti-Semitic cliches through clearly false charged statements.”
When NBC says Israel only vaccinates Jews, this is not what American television should be saying, as this lie both encourages and incites attacks against Jews while promoting a premise that Jews only care about themselves. To many present, NBC is guilty of spreading American propaganda and needs to apologize to the American public. Some signage at the event called NBC racist. Others read, “Fake news, fake comedy at NBC,” “Hate isn’t funny, SNL,” “End NBC hate,” “NBC incites terror,” “Words matter! Apologize, NBC and SNL!” and, “If they keep using Jews for punchlines, Jews will start punching back.”
The protest was co-sponsored by End Jew Hatred, Liberate Art, and Yad Yamin New York.
On Monday, Hikind shamed Frontier Airlines, which he accused of anti-Semitism after they forced a chasidic family off their flight. “I spoke directly with a passenger who happens to be non-Jewish and was on the flight. He witnessed it all firsthand. Everyone was wearing masks except for the baby who is under two years old and isn’t required to wear a mask, per the CDC. He and others also overheard the crew talk about “doing a good job with those Jews.” This incident clearly exemplifies that anti-Semitism played a role. “What all the facts are we don’t know, but we’re calling upon Frontier Airlines to right this wrong, investigate fully, and ensure such an incident never occurs again. We cannot tolerate Jew-hate at any level,” said Hikind.