The Jewish debate over ‘You People’

The Netflix film was criticized for alleged pervasive antisemitism throughout the movie and using antisemitic tropes.
Netflix's "You People"

Netflix’s “You People,” Kenya Barris and Jonah Hill’s romantic comedy released earlier this year, sparked a controversy within the Jewish world.

The film was criticized for alleged pervasive antisemitism throughout the movie and using antisemitic tropes.

“There were so many falsehoods…so many claims put out there without any challenge. And so now that becomes just part of what people may accept to be true,” Allison Josephs, executive director of “Jew in the City,” said.

Surprisingly, Jews were heavily involved in the production of “You People” — Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and David Duchovny are all Jewish.

In the film, which focuses on the theme of discrimination, characters praise the notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan and accuse Jews of inheriting wealth from controlling the slave trade. To some, these are just jokes, but many in the Jewish community are upset.

What is “You People” about?

First, a brief backstory. The movie follows the relationship of Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill), a Jewish broker and podcaster, and Amira Mohammed (Lauren London), a Black and Muslim fashion designer. Their relationship, though, is strained when meeting each others’ parents, as they are forced to confront the fact that they are not the spouse their potential-in-laws imagined.

Jewish perspectives on “You People”

There is not a lot of diversity of perspectives on “You People,” or at least not many that were vocalized.

Instead, many Jewish commentators called out the movie as endorsing antisemitic tropes. The film’s treatment of Jewish identity and the often unchallenged antisemitic tropes have come under criticism.

David Baddiel, the author of “Jews Don’t Count,” tweeted that Jewishness in the film “is not a real identity. It just means white and rich and as different from black people as possible.” He also noted: “At the end [of the film], there’s much Jewish apologizing for racism. None for antisemitism. That word never appears.”

Many also expressed their frustration at certain characters’ antisemitic remarks, which are rarely refuted. When Amira’s parents praise Louis Farrakhan — the infamously antisemitic Nation of Islam leader — there is little pushback from the Jewish family. 

In another scene, Fatima Mohammed, Amira’s mother (Nia Long), exclaims: “You [Jews]…came here with the money that you made from the slave trade.” The claim is never refuted in the movie (though, we refute it here).

“[T]he movie’s Jews are flat stereotypes — wealthy, neurotic, painfully uncool and often blithely racist,” Mira Fox wrote for The Forward. “It feels as though ‘You People’ is trying to draw a clear connection between Ezra’s parents’ religion and their boorish behavior; they’re not just white, they’re even worse — they’re Jewish.”


Of course, branding something as antisemitic can be difficult, especially when considering the context of “You People” as a lighthearted romantic comedy centered around discrimination. However, many in the Jewish community feel a sense of fear knowing that non-Jewish viewers may absorb antisemitic stereotypes portrayed in the movie.

Ultimately, “You People” was not meant to be a gripping look at antisemitism and racism in the United States — it was just meant to be a light, funny movie. Nevertheless, many Jews expressed frustration that the movie reinforces antisemitic stereotypes. Many fear the ramifications of media that continually reinforce Jewish stereotypes.

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