Why are so many Jews working in Hollywood? – opinion


Jews do not run Hollywood. It is crucial to address, however, that, yes, the entertainment industry has disproportionately many Jewish people working in it.

It’s time to address the burning topics that have come about recently: Jewish people and Hollywood. The not-so-subtle comments made by certain celebrities have opened up many questions for people outside of the Jewish community: How come there are so many Jews working in Hollywood? Statements made or implied by celebrities like Kanye West and Dave Chappelle are inaccurate. Jewish people do not run Hollywood. You would think the average person could understand that a minority that makes up 2% of the American population couldn’t possibly control one of the world’s largest industries. The famous studios we all enjoy and love are subsets of giant corporations managed by different people. It is crucial to address, however, that, yes, the entertainment industry has disproportionately many Jewish people working in it. Denying it doesn’t help our case but understanding how it happened can explain some confusion. Jewish success is not limited to the entertainment industry. Our community has had long-standing growth and representation in finance, business and law fields. So the question remains, what about Jewish people gives them success in these industries? It isn’t because we have superpowers, influence and control. And it isn’t because Jewish people are greedy for money. Ironically, these same stereotypes that perpetuated discrimination against Jews are what brought them to work in the entertainment industry. Our secret to success has always been our resilience.

The way Jewish people emerged in Hollywood is a beautiful story of a minority group who came to America with nothing but had to find a way to make something of themselves. It was the long-standing racism in Europe and America that forced Jews into jobs that were not popular. Jay Michaelson recently explained this very well in his article in Rolling Stone titled “There are lots of Jews in Hollywood. Let a Rabbi explain why.” In the article, Michaelson describes that throughout history, European and American society denied Jews the right to own land and barred them from most industries. As a result, they had to work in urban professions, such as trade and finance. At the time, money lending was considered a dirty job so many Jewish people took jobs in trade or joined emerging professions like law. Many Jews also turned to theater, which was considered too indecent for the average respectable Christian. Some academics attributed Jewish success to our community’s high literacy rates. Elite law firms and hospitals refused to hire Jewish lawyers and doctors so Jews decided to open their law firms and hospitals (we all are familiar with Mount Sinai). So too in entertainment, upscale theaters would not employ Jews so our community came to dominate vaudeville (a theatrical genre of variety entertainment), an industry hospitable to Jews and considered too vulgar for Christians at the time. Since it wasn’t a respectable field, society did nothing to keep Jewish entrepreneurs out of the industry.

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