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February 24, 2021 2:11 pm

NBC Faces Jewish Community Furor Over ‘Dangerous, Pernicious’ Attack on Orthodox Jews in Show ‘Nurses’

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A scene from episode 8 of “Nurses,” season 1.

For the second time this week, NBC is facing broad condemnation from top Jewish organizations, for a scene in the television show “Nurses” that features an Orthodox Jewish character who refuses a bone graft because it might have come from “goyim” —  a Yiddish word for non-Jews — an Arab or a woman.

On Wednesday, NBC pulled the offending episode from its digital platforms in response to the outcry.

In episode 8 of the show’s first season, which aired in the US on Feb. 9, a young Hasidic man named Israel suffers a leg injury playing basketball, even though his father wanted him to be in the synagogue praying. He is told by hospital staff that a bone graft from a deceased donor is his only option for recovery, but he refuses the procedure. The character’s father is outraged at the possibility of his son receiving a graft from, “A goyim leg, from anyone; an Arab, a woman?”

“Or god forbid, an Arab woman,” retorts a nurse, sarcastically.

In a later scene, Israel explains that he is refusing the bone graft because “how can I live with myself knowing I went against God, or my father. He’ll never accept me.”

After a clip from the episode began circulating on social media on Tuesday, leading Jewish organizations responded furiously.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, told The Algemeiner, “The portrayal of a Hasidic Jew making hateful remarks about ‘an Arab, a woman’ is gratuitous and inflammatory, and only validates longstanding antisemitic stereotypes.”

He explained that in Jewish law, “anything that is potentially lifesaving or health-preserving is not only permitted but indeed mandated” and added, “Unfortunately, myths about Jewish religious beliefs and practices are far too commonplace, and this episode only serves to amplify such longstanding misperceptions about Jews. We have reached out to NBC executives and have requested that they pull the episode and review their standards for approving dramatic content so that this doesn’t happen in the future.”

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told The Algemeiner, “The writers of this scene check all the boxes of ignorance and pernicious negative stereotypes right down to the name of the patient, Israel — paiyous [sidelocks] and all.”

“In one scene NBC has insulted and demonized religious Jews and Judaism,” he said. “Orthodox Jews are targeted for violent hate crimes in the city of New York [and] Jews are [the] number one target of hate crimes in US. This is no slip of the tongue. It was a vile cheap attack masquerading as TV drama. What’s NBC going to do about it?”

“Nurses” is produced by Toronto’s ICF Films, Entertainment One and Corus Entertainment. It is filmed and set in Toronto, and was acquired by NBC in 2020. The offending episode originally aired in Canada a year ago.

B’nai Brith Canada called on the producers of the show to apologize and take action for the “inaccurate and offensive stereotypes against Hasidic Jew[s].”

“B’nai Brith’s view is that this inaccurate plot line perpetuates false and dangerous antisemitic stereotypes about Jews – Hasidic and Orthodox Jews in particular – hating women, Arabs or non-Jews in general,” the group said in a statement.

“The disturbing stereotypes present in this episode of ‘Nurses’ are deeply damaging to Jews, especially Orthodox practitioners,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “We call on the producers to act responsibly and take accountability for this outrage. All of this could have been avoided if producers had thought to consult members of the Orthodox Jewish community before depicting them in this false and slanderous light.”

The scandal comes after NBC faced criticism for a joke about Israel made on “Saturday Night Live” on Feb. 20.

“Twice in one week, @NBC?” the American Jewish Committee asked on Twitter. “First we heard Michael Che’s antisemitic falsehood on @NBCSNL. Now ‘Nurses’ employs this disgusting depiction of Orthodox Jews. Continuous, negative portrayal of Jews invites antisemitism to flourish. This must stop.”

The AJC’s head of young leadership Seffi Kogen shared on Twitter the clip from the “Nurses” episode and wrote: “I think this is the most antisemitic thing I have ever seen in a TV show.” In a follow-up tweet he added that “there is no prohibition on the kind of bone graft in this clip. The writers made it up, dressed their actors in Jew-face, and put random extremist nonsense in their mouths.”

StandWithUs Executive Director Michael Dickinson on Twitter slammed NBC for its “GROSS anti-Jewish stereotype” on “Nurses,” saying it has “zero basis in reality.” He added, “At a time when antisemitic attacks are rising, this horrible, provocative misrepresentation is nothing less than dangerous.”

StopAntisemitism.org said,First @nbcsnl now @nbc ‘Nurses’ airs a viciously antisemitic episode filled with lies about Orthodox Jews. Lies and libels lead to VIOLENCE!”

NBC did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for a comment.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to include NBC’s decision to pull the episode. 

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