The Jewish moments of the 2024 Oscars

Let’s dive into all the Jewish moments of Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.
Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan, and Charles Roven win Best Picture for "Oppenheimer" at the 96th Annual Oscars held at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)

The Academy Awards on Sunday night had several Jewish-connected wins from “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” to “The Zone of Interest” controversy. Let’s dive into all the Jewish moments of Hollywood’s biggest night of the year.


“Oppenheimer,” the film about Jewish scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s quest to father the nuclear bomb, won Best Picture. 

For the first time, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor went to performers playing Jewish characters, with Cillian Murphy winning Best Actor for playing Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr. winning Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Lewis Strauss. 

Yvonne McGuinness and Cillian Murphy at the 96th Annual Oscars held at at the Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images)

Strauss was once president of Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan and turned on Oppenheimer, accusing him of having communist ties, and worked to have his security clearance revoked. 

The film was based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Michael Sherwin.

In his acceptance speech, Murphy told the crowd, “We made a film about the man who created the atomic bomb and for better or for worse, we’re all living in Oppenheimer’s world, so I’d really like to dedicate this to the peacemakers everywhere.”

Actor Sir Ben Kingsley noted on stage that Murphy’s performance was riveting and had “chutzpah.” It was his first Oscar win.

Downey Jr., who has some Jewish lineage and has worn a chai necklace in recent days, thanked his “terrible childhood and the academy, in that order” as well as his wife, Susan.

“Here’s my little secret, I needed this job more than it needed me,” Downey Jr. said before praising his fellow cast members. It was Downey Jr’s third nomination and first Oscar win.

“The Zone of Interest”

Jonathan Glazer (R), winner of the Best International Feature Film award for “The Zone of Interest,” poses with James Wilson in the press room during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The British film “The Zone of Interest” about Auschwitz commander Rudolf Hoss won Best International Film, also known as Best Foreign Language Film. 

Despite Jews narrating chapters in the book by Martin Amis, no Jews are shown in Auschwitz speaking or being harmed, and the film instead focuses on the Nazi’s home in Germany.

The Jewish director Jonathan Glazer made controversial statements in his acceptance speech: 

“Our film shows where dehumanization leads at its worst. It’s shaped all of our past and present. Right now we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people, whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza.”

His comments sparked a range of reactions, “including kudos from critics of Israel who mistakenly thought he had called Israel’s actions in Gaza ‘a holocaust’ and castigation from prominent Jewish voices who misinterpreted his comments as saying that he was rejecting his own Jewish identity, rather than rejecting the use of the Holocaust to justify the ‘occupation,’” JTA and The Times of Israel reported.


In his opening monologue, host Jimmy Kimmel lauded the success of “Barbie,” noting that neither director Greta Gerwig nor actress Margot Robbie were nominated for an Oscar.

Barbie was created by Jewish inventor Ruth Handler, who is portrayed in the film by Jewish actress Rhea Perlman. Billy Eilish won the Oscar for Best Song with “What Was I Made For?” from “Barbie.” Gosling performed “I’m Just Ken.” 

Red hands pins

Artists including Billie Eilish, Finneas, Mark Ruffalo and Ava Duvery wore red hand pins from the group Artists4Ceasefire. 

In a press statement, Artists4Ceasefire said: “The pin symbolizes collective support for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, the release of all of the hostages and for the urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.”

However, the red hands emblem is associated with a much darker story. In 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada, two Jewish men accidentally entered the city of Ramallah, where they were arrested by Palestinian police.

While detained, a mob of Palestinians broke into the jail and murdered the Israeli men. One of the murderers waved his blood-stained hands out of the window of the jail in celebration of his crime. 

Sarah Tuttle Singer, new media editor at The Times of Israel, reflected on this: “I wonder if the designers knew about this story. I wonder if they knew but didn’t care. I wonder, also, if it was done on purpose. I’d like to think it wasn’t, but I wonder…”

“And, I have to wonder why they couldn’t also bring themselves to wear a yellow ribbon in solidarity with the suffering of the hostages held captive in Gaza alongside the red. Surely, the human heart is big enough to care for both Palestinians and Jews who bleed the same color anyway?” she added.

Stand Up to Jewish Hate commercial

A commercial funded by Robert Kraft, which aired during the show, shined a spotlight on rising antisemitism.

The ad showed a Jewish boy named Elliot having a bar mitzvah, saying the “Barchu” blessing while text across the screen showed that “895 Jewish temples received bomb threats last year.”

In the commercial, the rabbi is forced to evacuate the synagogue due to a bomb threat and flees to a church. It ends with “hate loses when we stand up together.” 

Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism also sponsored an ad that aired during the Super Bowl.

“In Memorium”

The In Memoriam segment, honoring those in Hollywood who have passed away, included Norman Jewison. Although often mistaken for being Jewish, Jewison was not; he directed “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Also honored was William Friedkin, a Jewish director who won the Academy Award for Best Director for “The French Connection” and the Golden Globe for Best Director for “The Exorcist.”

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