DGA Approves Provisional Jewish Diversity Committee (Exclusive)

The Directors Guild of America is moving forward with plans to establish a diversity committee for its Jewish members.

At its most recent meeting in Los Angeles on Feb. 11 (held the day after the 2024 DGA Awards), the national board approved the formation of a provisional Jewish committee, which all guild subgroups pass through before receiving official standing. The most recent diversity groups to gain permanent status are the disability committee, which was created as a provisional committee last May before being officially adopted at the Feb. 11 board meeting, and the LGBTQ+ committee, which was voted in as a provisional group in June 2021 before earning its permanent designation in January 2022.

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It was at that meeting officially establishing the LGBTQ+ unit that member Stuart Acher first thought of doing the same for Jewish directors. “Everyone was cheering, and one member said, ‘Now all minorities are represented,’ and I couldn’t help but to feel, What about the Jews? There is no organized voice for us at the guild,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Acher and fellow member Gregg Simon discussed the idea of starting a committee and brought it to Jeremy Kagan, the DGA’s longtime chair of special projects, which organizes educational and cultural programming for the guild.

Together with Kimberly Peirce, an alternate on the national board and co-chair of the LGBTQ+ committee, they drafted a petition that to date has collected more than 220 signatures from members — including Greg Berlanti, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Danny Strong and Julie Plec — and an additional 280-plus from non-DGA supporters. “While the DGA has made great strides in supporting its members in advancing diversity, we believe it is essential, now more than ever, to include the Jewish community in these diversity efforts,” the petition read, citing the rise of antisemitism on and off set in the United States and beyond. Many of the petition signatories, including Acher and Simon, also signed the open letter condemning Jonathan Glazer’s Oscars acceptance speech.

Stuart Acher and Gregg Simon
Stuart Acher (left) and Gregg Simon

As a first step, the guild is now working to update its system to allow members to self-identify as ethnically Jewish on their profiles, an option that will be available starting this spring. The move is significant not only because it will help the DGA collect data on employment of Jewish directors and pass along announcements about the committee to those interested in receiving them but also given the fraught history some Jews have with disclosing their identity, Acher says. “Jews carry a lot of generational trauma and we have been engrained never to self-identify,” he explains. “We’re in uncharted territory where Jews have to be taught to be loud and proud.”

Simon adds that some Jewish DGA members were initially hesitant to come forward for fear of reprisal in the industry, as well as over skepticism about the purpose of a diversity committee. “There were many people who ultimately signed this petition who asked, What if we don’t think DEI is right? What if we prefer an industry that is more based on meritocracy and the values it used to be based on?” he says. “Our answer is, right now that’s not the world we’re living in. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you don’t have a voice. By being part of DEI right now, at least we have the power to work outward from within.”

As with the other guild affinity groups, the mission of the Jewish diversity committee will be to create a safe space for members who identify with the community (and their allies) and also to help provide education within the DGA and beyond about antisemitism, including tropes about Jewish control of Hollywood and culture. “We feel very strongly it’s crucial to combat these microaggressions via education for Jewish and non-Jewish DGA members and to ensure these dangerous stereotypes are stamped out,” says Simon, who with Acher notes that the experiences of high-profile, very successful directors of Jewish descent are not necessarily shared by the more rank-and-file members.

“It’s more the mid-career and younger people who have been experiencing the rise of antisemitism in Hollywood and the resistance to being included and afforded the same opportunities as their predecessors,” says Simon. Adds Acher, “There’s been a noticeable discrepancy in worldview within our Hollywood community, which makes the necessity for this Jewish committee even more important.”

Jewish community advocacy has increased since the Oct. 7 start of the Israel-Hamas War, for which the DGA issued a statement in support of the Jewish people. Hundreds of Jewish creatives signed an open letter to the Motion Picture Academy in January demanding inclusion in its diversity standards, while the WGA West established a permanent Jewish committee for its members earlier this year.

The provisional DGA committee must now draft bylaws, after which the national board will vote on whether to grant the group permanent status.

Says Acher, “We’re very proud of the guild for giving us this voice and recognizing the need to protect its members in the workplace, and just as importantly to partner with its Jewish members and treat them fairly and equally as they do every other ethnicity.”

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