Broadcasters have immense influence when it comes to informing how audiences understand the world. What we see on our screens or hear on through our speakers can influence not only how we see others but also how we see ourselves. At the Sandford St Martin Trust we have long argued that this is why representation really matters. And in a world where 85% of the population identify with a religion, it’s why representations of people of different faiths also matter. Accurate or fair representation helps break down barriers, promotes understanding, introduces us to new ideas and perspectives and helps mitigate prejudice and bigotry.
Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and the author of What Does A Jew Look Like? which will be launched at an event at JW3 London on 11 April, 2022. He has also done us the honour of agreeing to both help judge our 2022 TV/Video Award and writing a blog on the subject of representation here.
Beyond black hats and stereotypes: Jews and the visual image
Yael is part of the Chabad/Lubavitch sect and is married to a rabbi. She comes from an Iraqi Jewish family and works in finance. You would be forgiven for not realising that, in the photo, she is actually wearing a sheitel, a wig used by orthodox Jewish women to cover their hair.
Such non-stereotypical images create both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is to come to understand Jewish life as a complexity of Jews; the challenge is to find a way to do that whilst acknowledging that, sometimes at least, one image must stand for the whole. Hopefully, What does a Jew look like? will encourage conversation on these issues, which do not apply just to Jews, but to most other ethno-religious groups.