When Michael Che of Saturday Night Live made his joke about Israel only vaccinating the Jewish half of the country, it struck me as ironic that he was sitting next to a man who is married to a Jewish woman. Chances are some time soon after he made his joke he proceeded to head to what is likely a fairly nice home paid for by the salary he earns from the jokes he tells on a program created and run by a Jewish man.
Yesterday we learned of Myers Leonard, a fairly useless basketball player, playing for a team owned by a Jewish man, in an organization run by a Jewish man, comfortably and exuberantly using the term “kike” on a video game live stream.
Che’s joke, was presented in SNL’s satirical newscast this past February. The joke went as follows:
Israel is reporting it has vaccinated half of its population, and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.
The joke, which clearly expresses the opinion that Israel is a country that only cares about its Jewish population, is in its nature an ant-Semitic one. While I think cancel culture is running amok, I am not ashamed to say that in one joke most of the appreciation I had for Che’s talents evaporated into nothingness. But what struck me even more was the grin on the face of his partner in the segment, Colin Jost. Jost is married to Scarlett Johansson who herself is Jewish, and somehow seemed to find a joke likely to strengthen the resolve of Jew haters not only acceptable, but funny. Understanding that sometimes people react instinctively to something and regret it later, I googled during the week that followed and saw that Jost did indeed have a concern regarding his partner Che. His concern was that he didn’t know what to buy Che for his upcoming wedding. Meanwhile as the week went on and people expressed their disapproval for the joke, not a word from SNL’s Producer and Creator Lorne Michaels. However I realized that too might have been OK. Maybe his way of handling it was by having Che make an apology during the following week’s segment. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, not a word from Che, and from Michaels, crickets.
In the case of the Myers Leonard incident, unlike some, I do not demand immediate action. Personally I will be satisfied to wait a few days as long as the action is appropriate. So while I take issue with the internal reaction to Michael Che, as I write this it is too early to speak to the actions of Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, both Jewish men. The Heat have said that Leonard will be away from the team and the NBA has said it is investigating, so let’s see how this is handled moving forward.
But as Jews we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to tolerate other Jews in power turning a blind eye to Jew hatred, particularly when we are speaking of Jews who seem to have zero tolerance for hatred towards other segments of society. It is appropriate to express anger and disapproval towards the Ches and Leonards of the world, but if we sit back and accept cynical apathy from our fellow Jews, we ultimately will find ourselves in very big trouble. People like Che and Leonard will certainly not care what we think, if the Jews that employ them tolerate their behavior. Part of our responsibility is to make our voices heard by our fellow Jews who speak of and work for social justice except when it comes to their fellow Jews. In doing so we are not just holding them accountable, we are holding ourselves accountable as well.
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