NBC under fire for portrayal of Orthodox Jews on Canadian series ‘Nurses’

scene from "Nurses"
A scene from “Nurses,” which aired on NBC on Feb. 9, 2021. (Screen shot from YouTube via JTA)

Update (Feb. 25, 2021): NBC has pulled this episode of “Nurses.” 

Original story by Andrew Lapin:

Jewish groups are criticizing 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 U.S. 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.”

Allison 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’ U.S. 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.

The show has already been renewed for a second season in Canada, where it attracted around 1 million viewers per episode.

Canada is home to an estimated 392,000 Jews, of which around 44% affiliate with the Orthodox or Modern Orthodox movement, according to estimates from a 2018 joint study from the Berman Jewish Databank.

Requests for comment to NBCUniversal, as well as to a representative for the episode’s credited writer, Laura Good, were not returned.

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