Israeli production companies sign a pledge for inclusive casting and hiring

The pledge aims to audition actors with disabilities for each new studio production.

 A man stands next to a banner of Sony Entertainment, outside a film set in Mumbai, India, September 24, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCIS MASCARENHAS)
A man stands next to a banner of Sony Entertainment, outside a film set in Mumbai, India, September 24, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCIS MASCARENHAS)

Several of Israel’s top television broadcasting and production companies have signed a new pledge, in an initiative spearheaded by the Ruderman Family Foundation, to audition actors with disabilities for each new studio production.

In the pledge, which the Ruderman Foundation collaborated with the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund and the Israeli Directors Guild to create, the companies have also committed to a more inclusive selection process for all jobs across the film industry, on and off-screen.

The Israelis companies KAN, Reshet, Yes and Hot are signatories. Keshet is in discussions regarding the pledge, according to a representative of the Ruderman Foundation.

The pledge is a continuation of a similar one the Foundation circulated in Hollywood which brought CBS Entertainment, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment together in a commitment to promote more inclusive and authentic representation in the American film industry.

The Israeli companies came together for an event the Foundation hosted, celebrating their commitment to fostering authentic representation (the practice of casting an actor with a disability in a role that portrays the same disability) in the Israeli entertainment industry.

 Jay Ruderman (credit: RUDERMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION) Jay Ruderman (credit: RUDERMAN FAMILY FOUNDATION)

Politicians, such as Culture Minister Chili Tropper, and Kan CEO Eldad Koblentz hailed the pledge as an important first step to making society more inclusive.

A recent poll commissioned by the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund and the Israeli Directors Guild found that 70% of Israelis consider the authentic representation of people with disabilities in entertainment to be an important issue, with 91% of respondents reporting that they would be less willing to watch a film or show if the production’s casting practices are not inclusive. The survey, conducted by IPANEL, also found that 86 percent of Israelis believe government intervention is needed to address gaps in authentic representation on screen. 71% of Israelis feel that the authentic representation of people with disabilities is “very low to nonexistent” in Israel’s film industry.

“Even though in the last year more authentic representation of actors with disabilities can be seen on screen in Israel, most productions remain inaccessible, and many actors as well as off-screen professionals give up in advance on their dreams of acting and working in the industry,” said Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Therefore, it is extremely encouraging to see four of Israel’s major production companies make this commitment to bringing about a more inclusive film industry that offers far more opportunities to people with disabilities. These companies have now become powerful changemakers by affirming that they will no longer tolerate discriminatory practices in their midst.”

In addition to receiving the support of major Hollywood studios and organizations, a separate Foundation-initiated pledge was signed by a host of A-list actors and directors in the US that called on studio, production, and network executives to pledge to create more opportunities for people with disabilities. Among those who signed the pledge were Oscar winners George Clooney and Joaquin Phoenix, as well as actors Ed Norton, Bryan Cranston, Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close and Eva Longoria, and Oscar-winning director Peter Farrelly.