On February 20, Saturday Night Live comedian Michael Che said, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
A week later, on Motzei Shabbos, February 27, dozens of protestors gathered opposite NBC’s 49th St. entrance in Manhattan demanding an apology. The protest was led by Dov Hikind, founder of Americans Against Antisemitism. He spoke to The Jewish Press on Tuesday.
The Jewish Press: Why did you organize this protest?
Hikind: Everyone was outraged – the Conference of Presidents, the AJC, the ADL, everyone. “The Jewish people only care about themselves” – it’s that kind of stuff that creates unbelievable hate. So everybody understood this was terrible.
And by the way, there was another Saturday Night Live episode months ago that was just as egregious, if not more so. They had a beauty pageant, a “Miss Hitler” pageant. It was the same comedian. And the punch line of that was “Guess who won the Miss Hitler pageant? Miss Israel.” How is that funny? How is anti-Semitism funny?
So I just felt that we had to do something. We’re talking about talking about NBC – one of the most important networks in America. Just recently you also had this “Nurses” episode on NBC [in which a chassid objects to a bone graft procedure since, as the chassid’s father says, the graft could come from “a dead goyim leg”]. When I saw that, I flipped out. I said, “What in G-d’s name is going on?” Who are the writers who think this is okay?
In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of what some people call “cancel culture” whereby people’s lives are destroyed over even mildly inappropriate comments they’ve made. You, interestingly, you didn’t call for this comedian to be fired. You said you just wanted an apology.
Look, we have enough enemies and we have enough people whom I have no problem calling anti-Semitic – whether it’s the Tlaibs of the world, the Omars of the world, etc. But in this particular case: I don’t know this comedian, and I’m not going to go around saying he or NBC is anti-Semitic.
I don’t think cancel culture is healthy for anyone. I mean, you look at someone the wrong way and you get canceled. They find something you said 20 years ago and you get destroyed. It’s insane what’s going on. So I don’t want to be part of that in any way.
We just wanted to say to them, “What you’re doing is harmful. What you’re doing is not funny.” Our message was: Anti-Semitism is not funny. It never is.
Imagine of they had made a similar kind of comment about blacks or transgender people. There would be such an outcry. There would be demonstrations and rallies. Actually, you wouldn’t even need rallies because NBC would apologize immediately. But when it comes to Jews, there’s a whole different standard, and that’s really dangerous.
In last week’s Jewish Press, Shmuel Sackett wrote an op-ed in which he argued that we shouldn’t criticize Saturday Night Live since Jews should, in fact, take care of their own first and therefore there’s nothing wrong with what the comedian said.
He’s entitled to his point of view, but I totally disagree, and I think what he’s saying is almost harmful. I’m a very proud Jew, but I’m proud of the fact that the Israeli government treats all its nine million citizens the same way. And that’s a fact. No one was treated differently in Israel in terms of the vaccine.
On Monday, you posted a video of yourself criticizing Frontier Airlines after an entire flight had to deplane over an alleged mask violation on the part of some chassidim. The chassidim deny the accusation, and, according to one passenger on the flight, Frontier staff high-fived each other and said, “Job well done to those Jews.” What’s your reaction?
I have now spoken to half a dozen Jews who are not charedi who were on that plane, and one of them told me that five African-American women were indulging in chants against Jews [in the aftermath of the incident] using expletives.
I did an interview with ABC yesterday, and I blamed Cuomo for part of this. Let’s not forget that it was Cuomo just a while ago who said Orthodox Jews don’t know how to follow rules. This seeps into the culture. People pick up on it.
Mask rules and other Covid regulations are supposed to keep us safe, but they also seem to have increased the level of nastiness in society.
The consequences of families being locked up in their homes is having huge repercussions in terms of setting people off. People are jumpy. It’s a very dangerous situation.