Panelists include Julian Edelman, retired NFL wide receiver and co-founder of Coast Productions; Josh Kraft, president of Kraft Family Philanthropies (which spearheads its Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism initiative); “Fauda” and “Hit and Run” co-creator and star Lior Raz; Emmy-winning actor David Strathairn; and Assaf Swissa, founder, Superdigital and co-founder of Coast Productions. Variety features editor Malina Saval is moderator of the panel, part of the center’s PaleyImpact series dedicated to combating antisemitism.
The panel will bow on the Paley Center’s YouTube Channel at 10 a.m. ET Oct. 27.
“There’s no room for antisemitism or any other hate. We have to do better, most of all digitally, where hate can spread so quickly,” says Edelman, a three-time Super Bowl champion who played for 12 seasons with the New England Patriots. (Edelman made his inaugural voyage to Israel in 2015 with the Boston-based org Combined Jewish Philanthropies, touring Jerusalem with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.)
“I’m proud to be Jewish just like I’m proud to be American,” Edelman continues. “America is at its very best when it’s tolerant, patient and understanding — let’s aspire to be our best.”
According to the FBI’s 2020 statistics, crimes targeting Jews comprised 57.5% of all hate crimes, more than any other religious group. With social media, film and TV being primary sources of education and information about the Jewish people, and portrayals of Jewish life often lampooned and reduced to damaging ethnic stereotypes, the program underscores the dire need for authenticity and diversity when it comes to representation of Jews in media. The series, created in collaboration with several prominent organizations within the Jewish community such as the USC Shoah Foundation and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was launched in January of this year.
Kraft, son of the Patriots’ owner, stresses the need to recognize the multiplicity within the global Jewish community. He notes that there “are all kinds of Jews, and everyone has different stories and experiences: Jews in America, Israel, Jews of color, LGBTQ Jews. We need to share these personal narratives because there are so many different people that represent Judaism. Personalizing and humanizing the Jewish experience is what will educate people.”
Raz, an Israeli whose parents emigrated to the Jewish state from Iraq and Algeria, speaks to the power of “art, of movies and TV shows” as tools through which “[society] can combat antisemitism.
“This is how we can show the other side, how we live and why we do what we do,” says the co-creator and star of “Fauda.” “We can approach this gently, but do not be afraid.”
The most egregious misconception about Jews, says Raz: “That Jewish people are in control of the world.”
“There are all these conspiracies about Jews and money — it is such a large topic,” says Raz. “How can we convince the world that we are not what they think we are?”
Strathairn, whose one-man show about Polish WWII resistance-fighter Jan Karski, “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski,” is being adapted for screen, points out: “It doesn’t take a Jew to defend a Jew.
“It takes a human to defend a human,” says Strathairn, who, like Karski is not Jewish.
“Jan Karski said there are no such things as good nations, bad nations,” adds the actor. “There are only good people and bad people, and everybody has infinite capacity to do good or infinite capacity to do evil. We have a choice.”
To that end, the Paley Center is currently developing additional programs under its Combating Antisemitism umbrella, including panel discussions on combating antisemitism in the workplace and the role of technology in combating antisemitism.
“The panels will continue until there’s no longer antisemitism,” says Maureen J. Reidy, president and CEO of the Paley Center.
The Paley Center for Media has long committed itself to programming that debunks racial and ethnic stereotypes permeating both the United States and countries abroad, from panel discussions focused on Hispanic voices in journalism to its annual Pride Month celebration of LGBTQ+ figures in the television world. Since 2019, it has partnered with Viacom CBS chair Shari Redstone and LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff and his wife Elana on the antisemitism initiative, which examines what role members of the entertainment industry can play in effecting positive systemic change.
“Our mission is to preserve our media history and explore media’s powerful shaping-influence on our culture, and I truly believe that never before has Paley’s mission been more vital,” says Reidy. “Since we’ve entered this once-in-a-century pandemic, media has been the undisputed connector to a nation and a world in these unprecedented times. When you look around at society today, Paley is uniquely positioned to convene these conversations needed to shine a light on different societal issues.
“We have that unique ability to bring people together across the media spectrum — in television, sports, music, journalism, social media. The Paley Center for years has been hosting programs that explore these powerful influences on our culture. And I believe, as a human being, that there’s no place for hate, discrimination and prejudice.”
The quarterly panels are an outgrowth of a gruesome attack at a 2019 Hanukkah party in New York state where one Jewish man was murdered and four others were injured, including the son of a prominent Hasidic rabbi. The attack followed a wave of hate crimes against Jews in and around New York City. The day following the Hanukkah party attack, Reidy sat down with Diane Lewis, Paley’s executive vice president of programming, and told her, “We need to do a quarterly series on antisemitism,” Reidy recalls.
Paula Zahn, news anchor and host of Investigation Discovery’s “On the Case with Paula Zahn,” moderated the inaugural panel on combating Holocaust denial and misinformation. Two other panels on the topic of Antisemitism followed.