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October 29, 2021 1:36 pm

Israeli Actor Lior Raz, Jewish Athlete Julian Edelman Address ‘Misconceptions’ About Jews

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Lior Raz on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Photo: Screenshot

Lior Raz, the Israeli star and co-creator of the television shows “Fauda” and “Hit & Run,” and three-time Super Bowl champion Julian Edelman were among the panelists examining how to tackle antisemitic conspiracy theories and stereotypes about Jews during a virtual discussion on Wednesday.

The online conversation, hosted by The Paley Center for Media, focused mainly on how to combat antisemitism through entertainment and social media. Others on the panel included Josh Kraft, president of Kraft Family Philanthropies; actor David Strathairn; and Assaf Swissa, founder of Superdigital and cofounder of Coast Productions.

When the panel’s moderator Malina Saval asked Raz about the “endless” misconceptions about Jews, Raz said through “Fauda” and “Hit & Run,” people around the world have seen “a different kind of Jew; a different kind of Israeli” to counter the negative stereotypes that are being promoted. “And this is a major victory against antisemitism,” he said.

Raz said he tries to draw attention to the fight against antisemitism through art by trying to be “very gentle, but still [not] afraid to say the thing that you really want to say.” He told those tuning into the discussion, “All of us want peace, love, just to live like everyone else, to protect our people and respect other people. And we’re just looking for respect as well.”

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The actor also commented on the misconception that all Jews are Ashkenazi and of northern European descent, discussing his own blended Iraqi and Algerian roots, the diversity in Israel’s population, and how “Hit & Run” also features the African-American Jewish actress Sanaa Lathan.

“We just need to show it and people will understand it, and know that we are not just white, privileged and ruling the world,” he added.

Edelman, the former NFL player who is the co-founder of Coast Productions, used social media to reach out to NFL athletes DeSean Jackson and Meyers Leonard after they made antisemitic comments. During the panel, the Jewish athlete discussed notions of “cancel culture” and emphasized educating those who express prejudices — “because that’s where you’re going to get progression.”

“I think it’s human nature: when you feel attacked, you put a guard up,” he noted. “But instead of putting a guard up, why don’t we give out a hand and bring a conversation out to really educate people? Because nine out of 10 times, especially in the situations that I’ve dealt with, the antisemitism has been out of ignorance. So instead of going out and attacking someone, [I’ve] always chose to say ‘Hey, why don’t we sit and talk about this.'”

He added, “If you go out and attack this guy, he’s gonna look at you and say screw you. And that’s not getting anyone anywhere. … If we can really put our feelings out on the table, that’s how we’re gonna get progression.”

Edelman also argued that Jewish communities should set positive examples as a way to counteract false information about Jews.

“People are going to hate on us for something, why don’t we rise above that and become the example,” he said. “Yes, we were the oppressed people for a very, very long time, but we’re also the standard of how to defeat oppression and also overcome it. And really go out and be an example to help other people because once you do those acts, then people can’t say anything bad about you. Everyone has misconceptions on every group but if we make a huge impact on examples, that’s really where I think you can make some hay.”

The panelists also spoke about the role of live theater in humanizing the Jewish experience, and discussed Strathairn’s show about Polish freedom fighter Jan Karski, who sought to warn the world about the Holocaust.

Watch the entire panel discussion in the video below.

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