Podcast / On The Nose
On the Nose is our biweekly podcast. The editorial staff discusses the politics, culture, and questions that animate today’s Jewish left.
Two Paths for the Jewish Bachelor Contestant
Duration
0:00 / 32:43
Published
March 23, 2023

On episode 8, season 27 of The Bachelor, contestant Ariel Frenkel, who hails from a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant family in New York, is seen leading all-American Bachelor Zach Shallcross around New York City, feeding him cow tongue sandwiches and gefilte fish from Sarge’s Deli and telling him her family’s story of fleeing the Soviet Union. Such overt references to Jewishness are unprecedented on the franchise; though the show has featured a few Jewish leads, it tends to downplay contestants’ references to their minority identities and center stories of people using their Christian values to guide them toward love. On this episode of On the Nose, associate editor Mari Cohen and fellow Dahlia Krutkovich join Hannah Srajer, an organizer and PhD candidate in history at Yale University, and Xandra Ellin, a producer at Pineapple Street Studios, to talk about Frenkel’s improbable run on the show. They discuss how the portrayal of Frenkel’s as an exotic other illuminates the show’s identification with white Christian patriarchy, why the Jewishness of another contestant involved in a racist scandal flew under the radar, and what to make of a pro-Israel article Frenkel published in 2014.

Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”

Related Articles:

“‘The Bachelor’ Has A Race — And Racism — Problem,” Emma Gray and Claire Fallon, The Huffington Post

Why Haven’t We Had an Openly Jewish Bachelorette?” Catherine Horowitz, Jewish Women’s Archive

Former ‘Bachelor’ contestant Greer Blitzer apologizes for defending racist blackface, Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times

This ‘Bachelor’ Finalist’s Op-Ed Was Mysteriously Deleted Before Premiere,” Noor Ibrahim, The Daily Beast


Transcript

Mari Cohen: Hi, I’m Mari Cohen and I am Associate Editor at Jewish Currents. Today we are bringing you a special podcast about an unlikely subject: The Bachelor franchise. This season, contestant Ariel Frenkel, a 28-year-old marketing executive from New York City who made it to the final three before being sent home last night by Bachelor Zach Shallcross, has made waves by bringing a rare splash of Jewishness to the show, talking openly on camera about hailing from a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant community in New York. I will admit that normally, I’m not particularly interested in basic conversations about Jewish representation in media, which often feel played out and disconnected from material political issues. But in the case of The Bachelor, we have a show that has particularly leaned in to displaying traditional American Christian culture in a way that creates myriad contradictions within the show’s format itself, and so to see a contestant feeding The Bachelor gefilte fish does feel legitimately unusual and like there’s something to talk about there.

MC: So I invited a few guests to On the Nose this week to talk about what to make of Ariel’s very Jewish run on The Bachelor. Today I have with me Hannah Srajer, a PhD candidate in History at Yale University and organizer at Tight Lipped, which is a grassroots movement by and for people with chronic vulvovaginal and pelvic pain.

Hannah Srajer: Hi!

MC: And Hannah first got me hooked on watching The Bachelor when she was my roommate a few years ago. And we have Xandra Ellin, a producer at Pineapple Street Studios and a devoted member of my Bachelor group chat.

Xandra Ellin: Hey.

MC: And Jewish Currents fellow Dahlia Krutkovich, who also comes from a Russophone Jewish community in New York, and so has been gamely dipping her toe into Bachelor culture for the sake of this podcast episode. Hi, everybody, thanks so much for being here today for this groundbreaking Jewish Currents/Bachelor crossover event.

Dahlia Krutkovich: Mari, do you mind explaining what the actual format of the show is from the start until the end, because some people might not be super familiar?

MC: Yeah, basically, the show alternates between having a Bachelor and Bachelorette. So when it’s The Bachelor, which is the season that we’re on now, it starts with about 30 women, all typically extremely beautiful, thin, epitome of beauty standards, and they come and meet this Bachelor. And then 12 weeks go by, and each week, The Bachelor goes on group and one-on-one dates with certain women to get to know them a little bit more, and do challenges, and they have to open up to him about their experiences, and he starts to develop certain relationships. And in each week, he gives out a certain number of roses, and the women who don’t get roses are off the show and have to go home. And the idea is that at the end, he’s finally deciding between two women, and then he proposes to one of them. Also, most of the time, the engagements don’t work out. So I think that there’s one Bachelor who has actually married and stayed with the person that he proposed to. There’s a few more Bachelorettes. And the other thing that will be relevant for this episode is that when there’s four women left, they do a hometown episode where they go visit and he meets each of their families.

HS: Also, just to add to what’s been happening in recent years is that social media fame has also become part of the show, in that if you make it longer into the season, you’re more likely to get a bigger social media following and possibly become an influencer full time. And this ecosystem of The Bachelor franchise, where they all are friends with each other, they hang out with each other, it’s this really interesting, almost popular kids club that is quite bizarre.

MC: So I think it would be helpful for us talk a little bit about the background of The Bachelor, maybe for people who aren’t as familiar, and how it’s typical relationship to Jewishness and American religion, Christianity culture, is compared to Ariel’s run on this season.

XE: Yeah, it’s incredibly, incredibly unusual for us to see someone talk openly about Jewishness on The Bachelor franchise. Christianity is very much a part of the show, if not explicitly than implicitly. You do see a lot of people on the show talk about their quote-unquote, faith, which does mean Christianity. It does not mean Jewishness. And in fact, in the past, when contestants have been Jewish, that element of their identity has typically been, if not actively suppressed by production, as Jason Mesnick recently came out and talked about, then subtly glossed over. So Jason Mesnick, who I was referring to, was The Bachelor season 13. He was the first Jewish Bachelor. There had before him been a Jewish Bachelorette. And he has spoken openly about the fact that producers made him not talk about his Jewishness, and he had a televised wedding, and they didn’t let him break the glass, famously. So this show’s relationship with Judaism has been–I think that fraught is the wrong word, because it’s really not an existent part of the franchise.

HS: Yeah. I think The Bachelor franchise for the past 27 seasons has been the cultural arm of white, Christian, heteropatriarchy, and specifically, in the last 10 years, has really, really leaned into that. So when we’re talking about the Christianity that laces through the show, we’re also talking about references to purity culture, references to a type of Protestant Christianity that is particularly American, is often pretty Aryan. Lots of blonde women with blue eyes. Discussions of sex and virginity are often common. A lot of contestants go on the show as virgins, and that’s one of their plot points, and often, that’s related to their Christian identity. And so, in a lot of ways, this is a show that’s also really a lot about whiteness. And I think it’s a really interesting way to think about Ariel’s own racialization in the show, as this alabaster white Jewish woman who is like a Jewess. She’s mysterious, she’s hot, she’s very poised, she’s funny, and she looks, physically, very similar to one of the other finalists who has dark black hair, straight hair, and is very pale. And yet, there’s something really weird that they’re doing around her being exotic, and being sensual and othered in this really particular way.

XE: And the other thing that I would add to that, in terms of the racism that happens in the house and the racist politics that we see play out on the show, is that these are all moments that are exploited by the producers as essentially scripted drama. We’ve seen this in essentially every season, where they have gone to pains to like demonstrate that they are trying to be, quote, unquote, diverse. They will exploit the contestants of color to turn their stories into drama, and to turn racism towards them into drama.

MC: Maybe we can get into specifically Ariel’s hometown date because I think that’s helpful for understanding a little bit about how her arc on the show played out. So the background is that she had brought up being Jewish a little bit before she got to the final four and had Zach meet her family. And also, one thing to say is that Zach, The Bachelor on this season, is kind of like the most boring, average, all-American dude. He’s not one of like, the particularly Christian born again, virgin type of contestants that they’ve had, but he’s just like, very white bread. Seeing him and Ariel together is actually quite funny in that way, and so that’s who he is. And then basically, in this episode, the hometown episode– well, in the episode before, she says, “You’re going to be able to meet my family,” and she talks about how she comes from this Ukrainian Jewish family in New York, and just mentions coming from, I believe, a tight immigrant community and she does a little imitation of her dad’s accent, saying that he didn’t want her to come on the show because he thought there were going to be orgies there. So she does kind of introduce him a little bit, but there’s not much about it.

MC: And the hometown episode, she basically brings him on a day in New York City. She takes him to Washington Square Park, they get pizza, and then one of the big moments is that they go to a Jewish deli and they eat cow tongue sandwiches, and they eat gefilte fish, which Zach seems to like. But it’s peppered with a lot of comments of Zach being like, “Ariel’s unlike anyone I’ve ever dated before. We’re from very different backgrounds.” So there’s a lot of that, there’s a sort of exotification. And then they go and meet her family. They meet at Brooklyn Winery, and then there’s this kind of interesting thing, where Zach is speaking to Ariel’s brother, who’s pretty intense and protective and kind of grilling him. And ultimately, nothing super crazy and dramatic happens, but they definitely were one of the families on the show that was most skeptical of the process this time around.

HS: My first question is Dahlia, did you grew up eating cow tongue sandwiches? Because I did, as an Eastern European Jew.

DK: Yeah. Just to give a little more of my Russophone credentials, I grew up going to Brighton every weekend. Brighton Beach. I’m half Russian, my dad’s family immigrated in the 80s. And I was actually surprised that they chose Downtown Brooklyn or north-of-the-park Brooklyn. It feels very far removed from the actual nucleus of like Russophone, New York, which would be south of the park, or Brighton, Bensonhurst, Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, that general center of gravity, which, for people who are not from New York, is not really the cosmopolitan center of the city, and kind of far from Manhattan. And I was surprised to see Sarges, which is the deli in Midtown that they go to, being featured, because why would you travel an hour and a half to eat the same tongue sandwich that you would get at NetCost, which is a Russian Jewish grocery store?

DK: As far as what I made of the actual substance of the visit with her family? I mean, I thought that they gave Zach a hard time, and he couldn’t hang basically. Like they had this very skeptical sense of him and of this process, and they weren’t sure that their daughter was being treated right. But Zach couldn’t stand up to them and say, “Actually, I do care for her. And this is a legitimate emotional thing that I feel, X, Y, or Z.” Instead, he couldn’t name her birthday or her middle name, which for Russians is a big deal. That’s all to say, it was a complete clash of cultures and something that I’m not even convinced that the producers even could have anticipated. Because my thought is they’re pitching her as this American Jewish girl, when in reality, the specific texture of the Soviet experience, or the immigrant experience is going to render this entire encounter completely differently.

MC: I definitely don’t think he did great. Having watched him the whole season, it’s like not particularly surprising. And I don’t– look, some people really hate Zach. I don’t think it’s really Zach’s fault, it’s more just the broader context of them always picking these really boring dudes to be on this show. But what I liked about the hometown date was I really did think they called out the bullshit. I mean, because this idea that this process is going to work is generally bullshit. So I think that when the families are skeptical and hard on them, it’s honestly pretty refreshing most of the time, or it gives a voice to this skepticism that the viewer has as well. So I appreciated that.

HS: Something that’s super interesting was like, I know they’re not American Jewish, but the Jewish verbal acuity at display in this encounter with Zach, where her brother is really trying to get at him in this really particular way–talking fast, being really skeptical, being really quizzical, interrupting, really explaining that he understands her worth. He also brings up her Jewishness in a sense of like, “What are you going to do about that?” And there’s this moment in the conversation where it seems like he’s kind of asking him if he’s going to convert.

MC: Yeah, the brothers asking Zach, like, “What are you going to do about the fact that you come from such different backgrounds?”

HS: And it’s so interesting, right? Again, it’s different backgrounds, not different religious traditions, or even different immigrant traditions. Zach, is this blank box of generic Americanness, just like a white ethnic guy. I think he’s Catholic.

XE: He’s British.

MC: Oh, right. He is British, we learned that. There’s a fun fact that he learned about being British from 23andMe or something.

HS: Right, he’s a British Catholic, which, okay. And again, it’s like background over and over again, and he seems to revere, in this really bizarre way, that she’s from this immigrant experience. I will say also, I am a huge Zach hater. I think he’s incredibly insecure, and we see a pattern of him not being able to take any feedback or criticism at all, and he always sends women home every single time they have anything to say that’s not like, “100%. I’m in love with you. Let’s get married right now.” Which makes it even more interesting that he keeps her on the show after her family is so critical of him.

XE: Yeah, I’ve been desperately trying to like Zach. I really want to like him. I want to like everybody on the show, but I just can’t bring myself to like him. I really appreciate, Dahlia, the context of this day feeling so actually removed from her specific identity as this Soviet daughter of immigrants Jew. The thing that’s so interesting to me about this date, is that because of her specific identity, because she’s like, the first person that spoken openly about being Jewish, in this way on this show, what they did with her date–which, I mean, she doesn’t plan her date. They planned the date, the producers planned the date–and so what they did with her was they were like, “We’re gonna have to make it Jewish. Let’s make it the most generic American New York Jewish day.” Ashkenazi, like this white-coded, we’re going to a deli. And I think that there’s something very interesting about the fact that they even managed to exoticize that experience that is so, in my eyes, as a white Jew who’s few generations removed from immigration, very American, and feels pretty true to the normative American Jewish experience when hers is so specific and so different from that. In theory, based on everything that she’s told us about her background. Whereas with contestants whose Jewishness is less apparent, or less a part of their immediate identity, or they aren’t the daughter of immigrants, they don’t talk about their Judaism at all. Like this is as far as they will go, effectively.

MC: Yeah, I actually think that’s an interesting time to throw something else into the mix, which is that there is another Jewish contestant on this season that has really not been discussed much in that way at all. Shout out to Jewish Currents reader Kit Ginski, who tipped me off about this after seeing reference to it in Ariel Frenkel’s Instagram comments. She did some research, and I did some research, and it turns out that Greer Blitzer, the recipient of Zach’s first impression rose and subject of a racism controversy on this season, is also Jewish, from the Jewish community in Houston. But that’s just like never mentioned, was not a part of her intro package, I have not seen any Hey Alma articles about that at all. And so I think that is something that is pretty interesting. For people who are not familiar, basically, Greer is someone who came in as this very traditional Southern gal. She’s like, “Yeah, I live in New York, but I really miss the South, I want to go back there.” And then, while she was on the show, information came out about social media posts that she had made, tweets defending a high school classmate who had worn blackface. And I believe that she also had been photographed wearing MAGA stuff.

MC: And so I thought that was pretty fascinating in some ways, because it’s sort of like these two paths of American Jewish representation. There are American Jews that really can be sufficiently assimilated into whiteness, to totally pick up the mantle of like the Southern, white, racist girl edit, and basically play that role the whole season, and nobody knows otherwise, and nothing is discussed otherwise. Whereas with Ariel, obviously, this becomes a huge part of her edit. And I mean, I think there’s a few things there. I think it is the fact that she comes from this more recent immigrant background, and that’s something that she actually talks about. Also, it seems like there is this New York thing. It’s like, “Oh, a Jewish girl from Houston, she’s just a Houston girl. But New York, wow, the big city, that’s really different.”

DK: I wonder if her background as someone who has a more recent immigrant story disarms her a little bit and makes her a little less threatening to an American audience more broadly. Because we can ascribe her otherness not just to the fact that she’s Jewish, but also that she has this different national identity going on, and that allows us to think about New York as this place of incredible multiculturalism and still think about Houston as a place that has its own specific Southern identity. I went to college in the South, and a lot of people I knew there hadn’t known Jews in their day-to-day lives before coming to college. And I thought of them, and their interest in understanding Jewish culture through certain pre-prescribed boxes or ways of being, so to speak, that get flattened out when you’re from a place like Houston, with a large Jewish community but maybe not the most distinct Jewish community.

MC: Sorry, I do want to just correct myself and be clear that I know that Houston is a very diverse city, in fact, one of probably the most diverse cities in the world. So I don’t want to paint the South with one broad brush, but I do think Greer is from a pretty white suburb, is my understanding.

DK: And just as far as why I think some of the hometown date took place in Manhattan, as opposed to Brighton or South Brooklyn, which is a less affluent area, one might say, to put it lightly. It’s clear that Ariel’s family is quite wealthy. Her dad came to the US after college and works as a financier and an investor, and a lot of people who fled the Soviet Union between 1970 and like 1996, let’s say, didn’t have that experience exactly. So I wouldn’t be surprised if she herself had a different experience in the US that isn’t necessarily being revealed, we’ll say, on the show, or she’s necessarily being upfront with.

HS: Yeah, the way that she talks about her Jewishness, it’s really interesting. It’s very clear to her it’s an ethnic affiliation tied to her parents’ immigration status, and her growing up in, possibly, an immigrant community, though that’s never really hinted at. She doesn’t really talk about the community that much, she often just talks about her family. And so what I think is really interesting is that the Jewish contestant that we see, that is the most visibly Jewish in the show, is actually most visibly Jewish not in terms of actual practicing of traditions or being observant in any way, but actually, her Jewishness is very much about her immigration status, her parents’ history and family history of persecution, and her own arrival in the most cosmopolitan city of all cosmopolitan cities, the melting pot of all melting pots. Which is also coded Jewish, right? New York City itself is Jewish. Jewishness is coded cosmopolitan. So I do find that interesting. Because she is of a different class background, in what way does she actually identify with the US and as an American, right? That’s a question that I always have around people who are the children of immigrants. My father immigrated from Yugoslavia, he’s a Serbian Jew. And I know there are a lot of people who live in the United States and talk about Americans even though they themselves are US citizens, right? There’s sort of the separation. And Zach’s reverence for the way that she separates herself out is also really fascinating to me and part of her bizarro sexualization as this exotic person who arrives in this cosmopolitan city.

MC: I think this might be a good segue to talk a little bit about Ariel’s Israel-related controversy because we don’t actually get a lot from her in terms of her actual relationship to Jewishness necessarily. One thing that we have found is that she wrote an article for The Algemeiner, which is a right-wing Jewish site, in 2014 when Israel was bombing Gaza that summer. And basically, Ariel was calling for more pro-Israel rallies to be held, and in the op-ed, she reiterates some sort of typical pro-Israel Hasbara talking points. She says in it, “The truth is if that Israel were to put down its arms, there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms, there would be no more war.” I believe she’s my age, so she probably would have been a college student at that point. Anyway, this has now been scrubbed from the internet, and so I’m curious what people’s reactions are to like finding out that Ariel, this contestant, had published this Algemeiner article.

XE: I remember finding this on her LinkedIn and sending it to you, Mari. I was completely unsurprised. We know that she went to this private school, we know that she went to GW. It didn’t surprise me at all, not only that she was having this opinion, but she was sharing it and getting it published.

HS: I find the scrubbing part so fascinating. Was it scrubbed before the show? Right before? I mean, we know that there’s a tolerance for racism against Palestinians, a pretty high tolerance for that in the US, in white Jewish communities. Was that understood as something that maybe would be taboo enough to erase it, but not quite taboo-taboo enough to actually do a public apology for it? And so, it’s occupying this really weird, bizarre space, where it just doesn’t exist but we know that it does, to the point where I haven’t seen any mainstream publications talk about her writing this piece. And also, we’re in this moment right now in Israeli politics, where I’m not an expert, but shit seems to be really popping off in terms of like, there are mass protests. And so we’re also in this particular moment in Israeli politics while the show is playing out that I find to be an interesting moment for to be pulled.

MC: I was pretty fascinated reading some of The Bachelor subreddit comments about this article. And I was actually heartened, in a way, because this issue does not get discussed in that community a lot, and I do think that also The Bachelor Reddit users tend to be a lot more progressive than The Bachelor viewership more broadly, for whatever reason, or even compared to the people and like bachelor Instagram comments. So it’s worth taking it with a grain of salt, but I was pretty impressed. There were a good amount of people who were commenting and saying, like, “I’m Palestinian American, I’m Arab American, and this is just like, really frustrating, to always see that this stuff happens and that people can like get away with saying these things, racist tropes about Palestinians.” And then there were also a good amount of people being like, “I am an anti-Zionist Jew, and this is the kind of brainwashing that happens. And this is probably why she wrote that, because she was probably taught to, but it’s still really bad, and we can still criticize it. Maybe we can hope that we can see from her that she’s changed.” There definitely were some people coming in and being like, “It’s antisemitic of you to say that,” but it certainly wasn’t the dominant view. So I was really interested and somewhat heartened to know that this broader community was critical of this. On the other hand, I feel like it still hasn’t totally become something that has become a problem for Ariel’s Bachelor influencer career in the way that other people’s controversies have.

XE: My initial impression when I noticed that this article had been taken down was to be like, “Oh, fuck, yeah. People are realizing that you can’t say this anymore.” But the fact of the matter is, with this particular franchise, you do just have to scrub any evidence of any kind of politics from your life. There is some pretty hard evidence of people changing their voter affiliation before coming on the show. This is such a classic, to just not choose a side, and it’s interesting for her to be so coded as the Jewish Bachelor contestant that this becomes the particular political thing that she is wrapped up in, is this article that she wrote for this publication. But I think that the fact of her taking it down is really just evidence of The Bachelor’s stance on having a political perspective on anything.

MC: Yeah, it’s not a great season for Jewish political representation.

HS: Yeah, I think that the fact that the two Jewish contestants on the show engage in American racism and also Zionism is really interesting. And I know I keep like talking about this, but I’m just really fascinated about how like sexualized she is in this show. Like she is shown as something different, something mysterious, something other, different than the typical contestant that we see on the show, and yet, she is incredibly white, and she is, in many ways, engaging in what it means to be a white American Jew in the United States. And yet, the show is so tied to this white, Christian, heteropatriarchy that her appearance in it is really confounding. In the spoilers for the next episode, it’s framed as in she is the one who has sex with Zach. That’s what it seems like it’s gonna happen, and the way that they talk about her is all leading up to this–their intense chemistry, all of this stuff–and it ends up being the other white, brunette girl, Gabby. But I just think the racial politics, in addition to the ethnic and religious politics of her person in the show, is really, really striking.

DK: There’s a lot of discourse online about how she’s really fiery, and they have this great repartee, but it’s really her making jokes and Zach kind of awkwardly being like, “Oh, like, are we flirting right now?” And it speaks to some level of how she is inherently sexual because she is making these jokes, and has this sense of humor, and has this way of engaging with him that the show doesn’t know how to engage with it, other than saying, “Well, it must be sexy, right?” Because it has this frisson to it, when in reality, maybe some of us more cosmopolitan Jews might see that as just a way of engaging with a friend. I would say it’s also not surprising that she has this kind of very bland Zionism going on that seems to just be a repetition or rehearsal of things that you hear in, frankly, the Russian Jewish community and Russophone Jewish community all the time. And instead of religion, what you get is this version of Zionism that demonstrates our own affiliation as Jews. Because, getting back to like our conversation about how Judaism isn’t portrayed on the show as a religious identity but rather almost as an ethnic identity, or at least there’s no discussion of what it means to engage in any sort of Jewish religious practice, this, on some level, is exactly the Jewish religious practice that you get in Russian Jewish communities these days, for people who are less in the mix of, let’s say Habad or the UJF re-religious kind of education that people received when they came to America.

XE: I wanted to go back to what we were saying about her being the Jewish temptress because I think it’s so interesting, and it’s connected to what I was saying earlier about the way that the producers do work with their audience’s preestablished stereotypes and archetypes of the people that they have on the show. Because, as you were alluding to, Dahlia, the way that she is acting is not inherently erotic, it’s not inherently sexual, but they are playing it up. They literally, as you mentioned, Hannah, they have in the spoiler clues that everybody was buying into, that she was going to be the one that Zach sleeps with. And it’s like, they are able to use the hypersexualization of the other, of this exotic woman, that they know their audience is already going to have in their mind as they’re watching, and play it up for drama. And that is, very classically, the way that this show deals with religious minorities and other kinds of minorities.

MC: Definitely. I think we’re coming to the end of our time here. And so maybe just to close, I’m curious if each of you have thoughts about what we might want to see instead from The Bachelor going forward? Is there the opportunity within this format for them to do something different, for it to not come off this way? Do we think that there is hope or possibilities for there to continue to be more interesting Jewish representation on The Bachelor? And to be honest, I don’t really know how to answer this question that I’m posing because I just am not sure how interested in or trusting I am of this show actually doing representation better. I want it to not continue to platform racist contestants and put people through those sorts of harms, and I also want it to stop being the propaganda arm of white, Christian, heteropatriarchy, but I also wonder if that’s even really possible within this format. Maybe, in some ways, me watching it has to do with this weird peering over the fence into this really pure heart of problematic American culture or something. I don’t know. I guess I don’t have a lot of faith in these things improving within the format and background of the show.

XE: Yeah, it’s been really fascinating to me to watch the show try to like meet the cultural moment, because I do feel like diversifying the show is– It sounds kind of callous to say, but it does feel like it’s a little bit at odds with the central premise of the show, which is that it is a love letter to Christians cis-heteropatriarchy. I sort of think that to truly tell a story that is in conflict with that is to undermine the central premise of the show and reveal the central lie. And so I think that one of the reasons that the show is fun to watch for me right now, despite everything that you were saying about how it makes me tap into the worst parts of myself, and my culture, and culture at large, is that we are currently at a moment where we’re watching this show try to negotiate a fandom that wants it to change, and its fundamental, inability to be different because it has to maintain certain assumptions about the supremacy of whiteness, and marriage, and the Christian family, and the nuclear family. And watching it navigate that is fucking fascinating, but I don’t expect them to be better at it because I don’t think it’s possible.

MC: Dahlia, do you think that you’ll stay in the nation? Or is that about enough for you?

DK: I don’t find myself to be a stakeholder, unfortunately, in this conversation. At the same time, it’s a fascinating anthropological document.

MC: Yeah, I think anthropological document is the exact right word, which is really what keeps me invested in watching it.

HS: Yeah, I think the last thing I would say is like, “What is the show for?” And I think it’s for what a model of desirability looks like. It’s sending messages every week to the American audience of “This is what makes you dateable. This is what makes you desirable. This is what makes you wanted.” And so what messages about this Jewish person are we receiving in this context? It surfaces so many ideas about what it means to be a woman, right? There’s also gender in here that we haven’t really talked about at all, along with sexuality. And it’s giving us a blueprint for what it would mean for us to be marriage material, especially when they’re getting younger and younger girls on the show, and especially as we’re having this sort of Puritan turn, post-pandemic, people are having way less sex, etc. So what is the Jewish girl on the show do, and what does she signify? And is she American or is she not? Is she white? Is she so white that she’s almost indistinguishable from the other white character, and yet she’s seen as this mysterious other? I just think there’s this really bizarre way that she isn’t quite able to fit in any of the categories or signifiers that they usually use.

MC: Absolutely. Thank you so much, all of you, for being here. Thank you, Dahlia, Hannah, and Xandra this has been really fun. If you enjoyed this episode, please rate and review On the Nose and also subscribe to Jewish Currents. You can visit us at JewishCurrents.org. Thanks so much, and see you for the next episode of On the Nose.

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Feb 22 2024
Hindu Nationalism’s New Temple (33:03)
Aparna Gopalan talks to Siddhartha Deb, Angana Chatterji, and Safa Ahmed about what India’s Ram Mandir means for the country’s minorities.
Feb 8 2024
Israel’s Emerging Religious Left (30:58)
Maya Rosen speaks with Mikhael Manekin, Nechumi Yaffe, and Dvir Warshavsky about the movement of observant Jews offering a left-wing alternative to Religious Zionism.
Feb 1 2024
Charging Israel with Genocide (38:59)
Mari Cohen speaks with Noura Erakat, Darryl Li, and Tony Karon about the International Court of Justice’s order that Israel must prevent genocidal acts.
Jan 3 2024
Labor’s Palestine Paradox (39:44)
Jeff Schuhrke, Zaina Alsous, and Alex Press in conversation with Aparna Gopalan about US unions’ response to the war on Gaza.
Dec 28 2023
Bonus Episode: Mailbag (42:35)
Arielle Angel, Nora Caplan-Bricker, Nathan Goldman, and Mari Cohen answer reader questions.
Dec 21 2023
Hamas: Past, Present, and Future (33:50)
Peter Beinart speaks to two political analysts from Gaza, Khalil Sayegh and Muhammad Shehada, about Hamas’s reign.
Dec 8 2023
Talking to Our Families (50:05)
Jewish Currents and Unsettled discuss callers' messages about how they are talking to loved ones who are supportive of Israel’s war on Gaza.
Nov 16 2023
Naomi Klein on Israel’s “Doppelganger Politics” (52:09)
Arielle Angel talks to Klein about her new book, Doppelganger, and how the concept of “doubling” can elucidate the present violence in Israel/Palestine.
Nov 9 2023
Cori Bush’s Ceasefire Plea (25:46)
Senior reporter Alex Kane interviews Rep. Bush about her call for an end to Israel’s bombing campaign and the political consequences of anti-war dissent.
Oct 31 2023
A Surge in American Jewish Left Organizing (41:34)
Mari Cohen speaks with Elena Stein, Eva Borgwardt, and Emmaia Gelman about how Jewish left groups are bringing thousands of protestors into the streets.
Oct 26 2023
The Loneliness of the Israeli Left (37:16)
Arielle Angel speaks with Michael Sfard, Sally Abed, and Yair Wallach about the Israeli left’s experience of October 7th and its aftermath.
Oct 19 2023
Unsettled After October 7th (51:52)
The Unsettled podcast speaks with scholar Tareq Baconi and Gazan activist Isam Hamad.
Sep 28 2023
Elon Musk, the Jews, and the ADL, with Know Your Enemy (01:05:14)
Alex Kane, Mari Cohen, and Peter Beinart discuss the contradictions of the Anti-Defamation League with Know Your Enemy’s Sam Adler Bell.
Sep 14 2023
Trans Halakha (44:24)
Nathan Goldman talks to three members of SVARA’s Teshuva-Writing Collective—Laynie Soloman, Alyx Bernstein, and Rabbi Xava de Cordova—about reimagining halakha for trans life.
Aug 31 2023
Nosegate (28:36)
Arielle Angel talks to Rebecca Pierce, Jody Rosen, and Alisa Solomon about Bradley Cooper’s turn as Leonard Bernstein—wearing a prosthetic nose.
Aug 17 2023
The Jewishness of Oppenheimer (47:05)
In an episode presented in partnership with The Nation’s podcast The Time of Monsters, Mari Cohen, Jeet Heer, David Klion, and Raphael Magarik discuss Christopher Nolan’s new biopic about the infamous physicist.
Aug 3 2023
Camp Kinderland at 100 (57:18)
Judee Rosenbaum and Mitchell Silver talk to Arielle Angel about the storied summer camp, founded by Jewish unionists in 1923.
Jul 20 2023
Chevruta: Be Fruitful and Multiply? (30:26)
Torah scholar Laynie Soloman and feminist theorist Sophie Lewis study a Talmudic text that complicates the biblical injunction to procreate.
Jul 6 2023
What Indian Ethnonationalists Learned From Israel Advocates (35:10)
Aparna Gopalan, Azad Essa, and Nora Caplan-Bricker discuss how the hasbara playbook offers a template for defenders of supremacist politics everywhere.
Jun 22 2023
The Struggle to Stop Cop City (38:01)
Micah Herskind, Keyanna Jones, and Josie Duffy Rice join Claire Schwartz from Atlanta to talk about the fight to prevent the destruction of the Weelaunee Forest and the construction of the US’s largest police training center.
Jun 8 2023
The Plight of Masafer Yatta (26:57)
Alex Kane talks to Palestinian journalist Basel Adra about the West Bank hamlets where over 1,000 Palestinians live in fear of being expelled by Israel.