Survivor Takes Wrong Turn

We at JOI are all about creating an inclusive Jewish community. We believe in developing “big tent” Judaism, no matter what your subgroup is: interfaith, LGBT, Jews of color. We also are well aware that these communities frequently overlap. And with the knowledge that the Jewish community takes cues from the secular community, which in turn takes cues from popular culture, we were appalled to learn about the latest from the television series “Survivor,” as reported in USA Today.

In response to criticism about its groups not being racially or ethnically integrated, they decided to set up competing groups from various ethnic communities. Jen Chau, who co-directs New Demographic, an anti-racism training company (and who participated in a panel discussion at JOI’s last conference in Atlanta December 2005), had this to say about “Survivor”:

With the announcement that the new season of “Survivor” would split its contestants up by race and pit these “tribes” against one another, I thought it important to speak out against the divisiveness that is going to be characteristic of the show—with blacks against whites, against Hispanics, against Asians. This set-up will make racial conflict inevitable. In aiming for diverse representation, we should be thinking about how to bring different groups together rather than splitting them up to battle one another.

I guess that the financial lure was too great for participants to say no—perhaps viewers will vote with their feet and turn off their TV sets as well.


  1. Three friends (2 Jewish and 1 not) had lunch together this past week. The subject of the show’s new season came up. Now one of us is a HUGE FAN and the other two could care less about tv. The discussion centered around the new season and how offensive it might be. We are all three mothers (or soon to be mothers) of adoptive children from racial and ethnic backgrounds which are very different than ourselves. One of us LOVED the idea of the show, thought it would produce some great entertainment, and saw nothing wrong with it. This person saw nothing wrong with her child watching such a show. The other two of us were horrified and eventually the discussion moved to another topic. The friend who loved the idea and saw nothing wrong with it was also Jewish. Just like me.

    Comment by Trixie — August 28, 2006 @ 6:32 pm

  2. I think maybe the hoopla over this is a bit exaggerated. I think we will have to wait and see how it plays out but I would say that it has the potential to actually be a positive myth buster. It may actually bust some traditional stereotypes about these ethnic groups selected. One has to remember that the show is always set up with different groups competiting against each other and then they end up “mixing” in the end.

    Comment by Jackie — August 31, 2006 @ 7:41 am

  3. I agree with Jackie: this hoopla is way overexagerated. Obviously this is a publicity stunt - which clearly is working well. If nothing else, this is positive because it gets people talking about issues of racism.

    And, let’s not fool ourselves, being in an inter-racial marriage myself, I can tell you that as much as we would hope otherwise, there are still many ethnic and racial issues in America.

    Now - let’s forget this bloody TV show and get back to solving the REAL RACIAL ISSUES that we and are children must deal with everyday.

    Comment by S Johnson — September 9, 2006 @ 12:43 pm

  4. As a firm believer in “voting with my feet”…..I’ve never missed a survivor until this year. i will not watch the show. At some point we all have to take a stand and say ” no more “. They longer we perpetuate the racial divide it will never cease to exist.

    Comment by elliott — September 15, 2006 @ 6:09 am

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