Does Jewish representation actually matter in film and TV? A Jewish casting director weighs in

Bradley Cooper donned a prosthetic nose to play Leonard Bernstein in the upcoming film 'Maestro'. (Photo credit: Netflix)

On Jan. 9, a group of Jewish Hollywood entertainers—among them David Schwimmer, Amy Schumer, Debra Messing, Jason Alexander and Michael Rapaport—published an open letter, signed by hundreds of Jewish media industry professionals, that slams the Motion Picture Academy for ignoring Jews in its “Representation and Inclusion Standards“, unveiled in 2020. The standards call for representation from underrepresented groups throughout the cast and crew of film and TV productions, clearly defining “underrepresented groups” in a list of identities that include Asian, Indigenous, Hispanic, Hawaiian, LGBTQ+, women and people with cognitive or physical disabilities—but, notably, not Jews.

The open letter is the latest splash in the ongoing conversation about how Jews are represented in the arts. Jewish roles routinely go to non-Jews, and while Jewish stories are more common today than they were 20 years ago, many still feel superficial, sometimes off-the-mark and written by non-Jewish writers. Given the rise of antisemitism and assumptions about Jewish people in a post-Oct. 7 world, media representation matters more than ever.

But how easy is it to always cast Jewish actors in Jewish roles? Not as easy as you think, according to Jess Greenberg, head of the Montreal-based Greenberg Casting agency. As she explains, productions are bound by budget constraints, physical geography and sometimes the financing company’s own goals. She joins Ilana Zackon to pull back the curtain on casting Jewish on The CJN’s arts podcast, Culturally Jewish.


Culturally Jewish is hosted by Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Our producer is Michael Fraiman, and our theme music is by Sarah Segal-Lazar. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To support The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here.