Seth Rogen said to apologize for comments doubting Israel’s legitimacy

Jewish Agency says actor spoke on Zoom with its chairman, Isaac Herzog, who said many were hurt by his remark that Israel ‘doesn’t make sense’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Seth Rogen arrives at the premiere of "Good Boys" on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Seth Rogen arrives at the premiere of "Good Boys" on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Canadian Jewish actor and comedian Seth Rogen has apologized for saying last week that Israel “doesn’t make sense” and appearing to question its legitimacy, claiming the remarks were made in jest, the Jewish Agency said Sunday, citing a Zoom conversation Rogen had with its chairman.

However, Rogen later distanced himself from the Jewish Agency’s version of events.

Rogen, who grew up attending Jewish schools and Jewish camp in Vancouver, drew outrage when he told Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast on July 27 that he was “fed a huge amount of lies about Israel” and questioned why the state should exist. Maron, who often references his Jewishness in his standup comedy material, concurred.

“To me, it just seems an antiquated thought process,” Rogen said. “If it is for religious reasons, I don’t agree with it, because I think religion is silly. If it is for truly the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because again, you don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place — especially when that place is proven to be pretty volatile, you know? ‘I’m trying to keep all these things safe, I’m gonna put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place… that’ll do it.'”

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” he continued. “And I also think that, as a Jewish person, I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life! They never tell you that — oh by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just like sitting there, like the fucking door’s open!…They forget to include the fact to every young Jewish person.”

Marc Maron arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on February 9, 2020, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Evan Agostini/ Invision/AP)

Rogen was on the show to discuss his upcoming film “An American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant who falls into a vat of pickles in New York in 1919 and wakes up 100 years later.

In a statement Sunday, the Jewish Agency said a Zoom conversation was held over the weekend between Rogen and its chairman, Isaac Herzog, who had earlier written a letter to Rogen regarding his interview.

The letter reached Rogen’s parents, who live in Vancouver, having met in Israel while volunteering at a kibbutz in the 1970s. Rogen then called the Jewish Agency and asked to speak with Herzog, but insisted that the conversation not be recorded, according to a Hebrew-language statement sent to The Times of Israel.

In a Facebook post, Herzog said in English that he was “glad to hold a frank and open conversation” with Rogen. Herzog also tweeted about the conversation.

“At the start, Seth was kind enough to make clear to me that what was missing in the published interview was what he did not say: How important Israel is to him. And that, of course, Israel must exist,” Herzog wrote.

He said he had told Rogen that “many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist.”

“Rogen told me that this is not at all what he meant and explained his words were meant as a joke, taken from a critical, humorous exchange with a fellow Jewish comedian,” Herzog wrote. “He was misunderstood and apologized for that and I accepted his explanation.”

Rogen said he was aware that anti-Israel activists were using his statements, and “noted he was very concerned about rising anti-Semitism, which he himself is combating daily and is also assisting the Jewish community on this front,” according to Herzog.

Rogen also said that “raising doubt, asking questions, and arguing differing positions are fundamental in Judaism,” Herzog said, “and in some interviews, he humorously asks questions about almost everything, as part of the process of casting doubt, which he says is an important motif for the Jewish people.

“He told me that while he was speaking in jest during the noted conversation, we cannot ignore the fact that Jews outside Israel often have to stand at the forefront and explain the State of Israel, and sometimes they do not know how nor what to explain,” Herzog said.

“Seth and I had a lengthy and very open conversation, at the end of which I invited him to come visit Israel, tour around the country and get to know the fascinating Israeli mosaic,” he concluded.

JTA contributed to this report

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