Seth Rogen says Israel ‘doesn’t make sense’ in interview with Marc Maron

Seth Rogen at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Feb. 29, 2020 in New York City. (Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

It was a fair disclaimer, given that his hour-long conversation with Seth Rogen touched on just about every general aspect of modern Jewish identity, from Jewish summer camp to cultural Jewishness to sitting shiva.

Popular American podcaster Marc Maron warned listeners at the beginning of the latest episode of his “WTF” podcast on Monday: “If you don’t like Jews, you’re gonna get triggered.”
It was a fair disclaimer, given that his hour-long conversation with Hollywood stoner star Seth Rogen touched on just about every general aspect of modern Jewish identity, from Jewish summer camp to cultural Jewishness to sitting shiva.
But a second warning came part of the way through the episode, as the conversation turned to Israel. “We’re gonna piss off a bunch of Jews,” Maron said.
Rogen, who grew up attending Jewish schools and Jewish camp in Vancouver, said 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.
Rogen: To me it just seems an antiquated thought process. 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. 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.
Maron: I get frightened to talk about it.
Rogen: I’m afraid of Jews! I’m 100% afraid of Jews.
The entire conversation was what Maron called “the most Jewy talk” he has had on his popular podcast, which has aired over 1,100 episodes. 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.
Rogen’s comments about Israel provoked strong reactions from both sides of the spectrum. Mondoweiss, the left-leaning site, responded to Rogen’s statements with joy, and initially headlined its article, “Israel is ridiculous, antiquated and based on ethnic cleansing, Seth Rogen says, but he’s afraid to tell other Jews.” However, the site apparently felt it had gone too far and later took out the phrase “ethnic cleansing” and replaced it with “based on lies about other’s people’s land.. .”
Israellycool, a pro-Israel website, spoke for many with the headline, “Actor-Comedian Seth Rogen Gets Himself Into a Pickle Questioning Israel’s Existence.” Writer David Lange noted that Rogen seemed to be well aware of antisemitism, but “clearly does not understand that the false narrative of Israel he has bought into is based on an antisemitic denial of the Jews as the indigenous people of their homeland, and is mainly promulgated by those who really do detest Jews.”
Foreign policy analyst Shiri Moshe tweeted, “Lots to unpack in Seth Rogen’s claims, but the argument that Israel makes “no sense” as a means of preserving Jewish life is particularly ludicrous.
It was Israel where airlifted Iraqi, Yemenite and Ethiopian Jews found a safe haven, along with the majority of Mizrachi refugees.”
Seth Mandel, the editor of the Washington Examiner, tweeted, “I thought this was going to prove to be an oversimplification but it’s not, if anything Rogen’s actual comments are worse. Welcome to Political Judaism--the suicide cult of the diaspora.”
The interview with Maron is not the first time Rogen has expressed ambivalent feelings about Judaism. In September, he and his wife, actress/director Lauren Miller Rogen, appeared on a segment of KTLA Morning News in Los Angeles to promote their Alzheimer’s charity event, “Hilarity for Charity,” and were surprised when host Sam Rubin presented them with a ceramic menorah to paint on the air.
“If you weren’t Jewish, this would be wildly anti-Semitic. Did a non-Jewish P.A. come up with this?” Rogen asked, adding, “It’s technically a Hanukkiah.”
But while Rogen may have at times been less than thrilled at being a member of the tribe, his mother, Sandy, has no such reservations. She is one of the most beloved Jewish mothers on Twitter, where she has more than 113,000 followers and describes herself as “wife, mom, nana, lucky lady!” While she often promotes her son’s work on her Twitter feed, she also regularly embarrasses him by tweeting about sex, farting and being a nerd, among other topics.
Rogen may have mixed feelings about his connection to Israel and his religious identity, as do many North American Jews, but his frequent exasperated and affectionate dialogues with his mother on Twitter, as well as his choice to make a Jewish-themed movie like American Pickle -- when surely he had many other options -- show that his Jewishness is a key part of his identity and one that he embraces. Evidently the same can’t be said about his connection to Israel.

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