Lena Dunham (file)
Lena Dunham (file) Reuters

The New Yorker raised a furor late last week with a quiz by controversial Girls actress Lena Dunham, in which she compared Jewish men to dogs and played on classical anti-Semitic tropes favoring a canine companion to a stereotyped Jewish male.

In one particularly blatant line, Dunham wrote Jewish men come "from a culture in which mothers focus every ounce of their attention on their offspring and don’t acknowledge their own need for independence as women. They are sucked dry by their children, who ultimately leave them as soon as they find suitable mates."

When queried by Arutz Sheva regarding the decision to print the quiz, New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick responded that "the Jewish-comic tradition is rich with the mockery of, and playing with, stereotypes."

"Anyone who has ever heard Lenny Bruce or Larry David or Sarah Silverman or who has read 'Portnoy's Complaint' knows that," continued Remnick. "Lena Dunham, who is Jewish and hugely talented, is a comic voice working in that vein. Richard Pryor and Chris Rock do the same about black stereotypes; Amy Schumer does it with women and gender."

"I don't mind if one reader or another didn't find the piece funny. People can differ on that. But considering all the real hatred and tragedy in the world, the people getting exercised about the so-called anti-Semitism of this comic piece, like those who railed at Philip Roth a generation or two ago, are, with respect, howling in the wrong direction," he concluded.

Some of the other stereotypes with anti-Semitic overtones Dunham employed included implying Jewish men have asthma, are "cheap" in not paying tips, and that her Jewish boyfriend "has hair all over his body, like most males who share his background."

The quiz is due to be published in the New Yorker's March 30, 2015 issue. 

"Evokes 'No Jews or Dogs Allowed' signs"

Abraham H. Foxman, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director, also responded to the quiz when asked for a comment by Arutz Sheva.

"Humor is a matter of taste, and people can disagree if it is funny or not," acknowledged Foxman. "Some will certainly find offensive Lena Dunham’s stereotypes about cheap Jews offensive. Others will take issue with the very idea of comparing a dog and a Jewish boyfriend."

Foxman emphasized that "the piece is particularly troubling because it evokes memories of the 'No Jews or Dogs Allowed' signs from our own early history in this country (the US - ed.), and also because, in a much more sinister way, many in the Muslim world today hatefully refer to Jews as 'dogs.'"

"We doubt that Ms. Dunham had any intention of evoking such comparisons. While we understand that humor is its own special brand of expression and always try to give leeway to comedians, we wish that she had chosen another, less insensitive way to publicly reflect on her boyfriend’s virtues and vices. We are surprised that the New Yorker chose to print it."

Kveller author Jordana Horn also found the quiz problematic, noting "to dehumanize people, one of the first steps is to call them non-people or animals," pointing out that anti-Semites have been comparing Jews to dogs for hundreds of years. She also challenged readers to imagine what the response would be if the title was "Dog or Black Boyfriend?: A Quiz." 

Ari Yashar contributed to this report.

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