His remarks came during an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, ostensibly about the actor’s forthcoming HBO Max movie, An American Pickle. The film sees Rogen portray a Jewish immigrant who finds himself in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. When he falls into a pickle vat, the brine preserves him for a century, emerging to meet his grandson (also portrayed by Rogen), a secular Jew of the modern age.
As Rogen and Maron are both Jewish, much of the conversation centered around their own experience with Judaism and identity. While much of the discussion was comedic and nuanced, some of the remarks have stirred controversy. When the idea of relocating to Israel was brought up, Maron noted that there was a concerted diaspora effort following World War II. “I think that’s a better strategy,” Rogen said. “You don’t keep all your Jews in one basket.”
Maron knew they were going to “piss off a bunch of Jews,” but continued in agreement with Rogen as the topic shifted to the Israel-Palestine conflict. While admitting “there are nice parts” of the Jewish homeland, Rogen said, “At best you are convincing yourself that you’re far enough away from a major conflict that you don’t have to worry about it. Which is a terrible thing to have to convince yourself of.” He went on,
“To me it just seems very like 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 has proven to be pretty volatile. ‘I’m trying to keep all these things safe. I’m gonna put them in my blender. That’ll do it.’ It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Rogen added that, as a Jew, he felt he had “been 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, the fucking door’s open! They literally forget to include the fact to every young Jewish person, like basically, ‘Oh, by the way, there were people there.'”
Maron argued that such tactics were “to make you feel frightened enough about your own survival that when you are old enough, you will make sure money goes to Israel, that trees are planted, that you always speak highly of Israel. And Israel must survive no matter what.”
The host added that speaking like this in public left him “frightened” and “afraid of Jews.” Rogen jokingly agreed, but then stated,
“It’s scary. But we’re Jews– we can say whatever we want. If anyone could say whatever the fuck they want about this shit, it should be two famous Jewish people, who, if anyone’s getting rounded up first, it’s our fucking asses. We are outwardly Jewish…”
The conversation actually covered a lot of Jewish ground, from overnight camps with “psychotic” counselors who were “fresh out of the [Israeli] army” (Editor’s Note: Boy, could I tell some stories about the IDF soldiers assigned to my Birthright trip…), to experiencing anti-Semitism, to being inextricably Jewish without being religious. As a Jew myself, it was refreshing and interesting to hear a pair of such renowned celebrities talk about Judaism like this, in spite of the backlash they’ve received on Twitter.
An American Pickle is out August 6th. You an listen to the full episode of WTF Podcast at the show’s website or via Spotify below.