It’s not an easy task to represent Jews with one image. Should it be an average Joe with an unobtrusive yarmulke? A curly-haired girl lighting candles? A bearded rabbinical type? Seth Rogen? In a feature on how different religions handle grief, the BBC website opted to represent the tribe with a picture of an ultra-Orthodox man with payes, a black hat, a tallis, a raised eyebrow, and his hand held in a gesture reminiscent of an Italian curse. The Jewish Chronicle asked why BBC chose the image—and the broadcaster’s response was to switch the image for a picture of a candle.
In our opinion, what makes this image inappropriate has less to do with the figure’s portrayed religiosity than his jokey fakeness. But the British Jewish Board of Deputies is fed up with what it sees as a recurrent problem; its chief wrote a letter to BBC citing two other examples of ultra-Orthodox Jews used to illustrate unrelated Jewish stories, saying: “They in no way illustrate the subject matter of the stories in question or, indeed, mainstream Jewish life in the UK or anywhere in the world.”
A BBC spokesman replied, “We always try to use an appropriate and relevant image and are more than happy to discuss this issue with the Board of Deputies to ensure we reflect the breadth of the Jewish community.” Not a bad idea. Maybe next time they should use this guy.
BBC Uses Charedi Picture to Illustrate Jews [JC]
Hadara Graubart was formerly a writer and editor for Tablet Magazine.