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NBC pulls episode of ‘Nurses’ with anti-Semitic portrayal of Orthodox Jews

Scene has Hasidic man rejecting bone graft because it could come from a ‘dead goyim leg from anyone. An Arab, a woman’; ADL calls on network to review its standards

A scene from 'Nurses,' which aired on NBC on Feb. 9, 2021. (Screenshot/ Twiter)
A scene from 'Nurses,' which aired on NBC on Feb. 9, 2021. (Screenshot/ Twiter)

NBC has pulled an episode of its Canadian drama “Nurses” amid an outcry over an offensive portrayal of Orthodox Jews, the Hollywood Reporter said Wednesday.

The indignation was set off by an objectionable storyline in the hour-long drama, which follows 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 February 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 had 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.”

After the news was reported, ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt called it a welcome move from NBC.

“The representation in this episode was offensive and ugly, reinforcing antisemitic stereotypes. We appreciate this quick action after the ADL and others called for accountability,” he tweeted.

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’ 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.

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 whom around 44 percent 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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