NBC has had a rough February, particularly when it comes to anti-Semitism. The February 9 episode of Nurses, “Achilles Heel,” was pulled from digital platforms on Wednesday for its offensive portrayal of Orthodox Jews. The episode, along with the rest of the first season, already aired in Canada last year.
In the episode, Ezriel and his father believed the young man was hurt playing basketball as punishment for playing instead of going to temple. The two men talked about how the “Creator” will help heal Ezriel’s leg. Apparently, depending on the “Creator” didn't include taking advantage of the miracle of modern medicine and the healing powers of a human transplant skin graft, according to Nurses writers:
Dr. McGowan: I’m Dr. McGowan. Are you Ezriel’s father?
Ezriel: He saved my leg. Thank you, Nurse.
Dr. McGowan: You had a compound comminuted fracture, so we repaired your artery and stabilized the break.
Ezriel’s Father: The Creator giving you a second chance.
Ashley: You know, God or the miracle of modern medicine. We'll have you back on the court in no time.
Ezriel’s Father: You went to the basketball court instead of shul? Answer me please.
Ezriel: Yes. I know you warned me that basketball will--
Ezriel’s Father: Will take you away from your shiva, away from your studies, yes.
Ashley: You'll have the next couple of months to hit the books hard. What with the physio and surgery.
Dr. McGowan: And a bone graft.
Ezriel: Uh, more surgery? The graft, where does it come from?
Dr. McGowan: It’s called an allobone graft; harvested from a deceased donor.
Ezriel: You want to put a dead leg inside of me?!
Ezriel’s Father: Dead goyim leg from anyone? An Arab? A woman?
Ashley: Or, God forbid, an Arab woman. Look, you can't be lugging this metal cage around--
Ezriel: No. I don't consent.
Dr. McGowan: Ezriel, without this next step, you will never walk properly again.
Ashley: Which means forget about basketball.
Ezriel: Which is obviously what He wants.
Ultimately, Ezriel declined treatment and in one of the episode’s final moments he's wheeled out of the hospital by other Hasidic Jews.
The storyline was used to contrast the faith of the patient, Ezriel, with the nurse, Ashley Collins (Natasha Calis). She was once religious -- she even got a Jesus fish tattoo -- until she “got gay,” and no longer believes. When meeting with her mom late into the episode, Ashley declared, “So all of this shame, this feeling that deep-down no matter what I do, there is something wrong with me for who I love....That's your voice in my head, Mom. It doesn't belong to me.”
A description for the episode read in part that: “Ashley receives an ultra-religious patient who is willing to put himself at peril to appease God, forcing Ashley to reconsider her own religious past.”
It’s as if one has to choose between God and modern medicine, not at all true.
It’s clear Nurses didn’t bother even trying to accurately portray Jews. Responses from Jewish organizations abound detailing what’s wrong with the scene, how it is at odds with Jewish law, and the harmful stereotypes and falsehoods it spreads. Jewish outlets and groups, including Jew in the City, emphasized there is no prohibition on getting a dead person’s body part surgically inserted, nor is there a prohibition on it coming from a non-Jewish person - even an Arab woman!
NBC pulled the episode online, and is in talks with Jewish groups, but it doesn’t look like much else will be happening. “While the network is in conversation with various Jewish groups, it has no plans to issue a statement condemning the episode,” noted The Hollywood Reporter.
It appeared, then, that NBC was hoping this will be enough to make it go away, perhaps even escape blame. Entertainment Weekly reported: “NBC did not have creative input on Nurses, as it purchased the Canadian series in full from an external studio.” That doesn't mean NBC isn't to blame, though.
Just because GlobalTV and Entertainment One had a hand in airing the episode in Canada, doesn’t mean that NBC had to do the same, especially since they are pulling the episode from its platforms after it already aired.
The network also received backlash for anti-Semitism from a February 20 episode of Saturday Night Live in which “Weekend Update” host Michael Che said, “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population. I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.” Not a good look, NBC.
Conservatives Fight Back: Advertisers for this episode included Geico; Nutro Dog Food; Subaru; Walgreens; McDonald’s; AllState; Claritin; Verizon; State Farm; and Mars Candy. Subway was a repeat offender throughout this episode. You can also contact NBC Universal at (212) 664-4444.