After NBC airs tone deaf episode of 'Nurses,' Orthodox Jews hold AMA

The team will hold the "AMA" (ask me anything) forum on site at NBC, with hopes to answer the public's questions and engage with passerbys.

The NBC logo is seen outside the NBC News Today Show studios at Rockefeller Center in New York (photo credit: REUTERS)
The NBC logo is seen outside the NBC News Today Show studios at Rockefeller Center in New York
(photo credit: REUTERS)
To provide a further understanding of Orthodox Judaism to the wider public, the non-profit Jew in the City (JITC) will be hosting an "Ask Us Anything" event, which was livestreamed from 30 Rockefeller Plaza on Wednesday
30 Rockefeller Plaza, known affectionately as 30 Rock, is the site of the NBC headquarters. The group decided to hold the sit-down at NBC after the station aired an episode of Nurses, in which "a Hasidic character was portrayed with alarming inaccuracy."
The team will hold the "AMA" (ask me anything) forum on site at NBC, with hopes to answer the public's questions and engage with passerbys.
"Orthodox Jews are frequently, distressingly misrepresented on screen," said founder of JITC Allison Josephs.
"When any minority group is inaccurately depicted, the ramifications are real and can be dangerous, as our fellow underrepresented New Yorkers know too well," she added. "We applaud NBC's removal of a recent episode from circulation and hope to build on the conversation by supporting creators who want to include Orthodox Jewish characters in film and television."
Josephs asserts that it should be "standard practice" for producers to consult with Orthodox Jews before emulating a portrayal of one on screen.
For those who don't want to undergo direct consultation, JITC made a test - a simple checklist developed by screenwriter Yael Levy, created in the hopes of helping content creators and viewers to ascertain if a rendition is realistic and accurate. The test represents the widely respected Bechdel-Wallace test, which examines the representation of women in fiction.
"More accurate on-screen depictions not only foster greater understanding and openness in our society, but make for better TV," continued Josephs.
"I believe the best way to counter the impact of harmful misrepresentation of the past, is to flood the future with more accurate storylines and nuanced, realistic characters based on a deeper understanding of Orthodox Jewish life," she added. "I recognize that means showing up. So, here we are."
Late last month, Jewish groups are criticized NBC for airing an offensive portrayal of an Orthodox Jew on one of its medical dramas.
The objectionable storyline occurred on an episode of Nurses, a Canadian hour-long drama following a group of nurses in a Toronto hospital. In the episode, a young Hasidic patient is told he will need a bone graft to heal his broken leg, leading his devout father to recoil at the possibility of a “dead goyim leg from anyone. An Arab, a woman.”
The incident occurs in the series’ eighth episode, Achilles Heel, which originally aired on NBC on Feb. 9. The episode’s initial US broadcast attracted nearly 2 million viewers, and NBC has also made it available for viewing on its website and its streaming network, Peacock.
Jewish organizing groups such as StopAntisemitism and JewishOnCampus have tried to mobilize online pressure campaigns against NBC for airing the episode, and the American Jewish Committee tweeted that the depiction was “disgusting.” The Anti-Defamation League called for NBC to pull the episode and “review their standards for approving dramatic content so that this doesn’t happen in the future.”
Josephs, who blogs about Orthodox life as the founder and director of Jew In The City, also harshly criticized the episode.
“The idea that such a surgery would be problematic in general or problematic because of where the bone came from not only is categorically false according to Jewish law, it is a vicious lie that endangers men who walk around with curled side locks and black hats,” Josephs wrote.
Some critics of the episode have also linked it to a controversial joke made on NBC’s Saturday Night Live last weekend, in which comedian Michael Che suggested that Israel has only vaccinated its Jewish residents. Although NBC produces SNL, it did not produce Nurses; the network acquired the series’ US broadcast rights as part of a broader international acquisition strategy from American television networks whose content mills have run dry due to COVID-19-related production difficulties. The episode originally aired on Canada’s Global Television Network in February 2020.

Zachary Keyser and Andrew Lapin/JTA contributed to this report.