Jews Should Speak Out for Marginalized Communities, Seth Rogen Tells Haaretz

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Seth Rogen (R) and his father Mark ahead of a Workers Circle event honoring them, November 26, 2019
Seth Rogen (R) and his father Mark ahead of a Workers Circle event honoring them, November 26, 2019Credit: The Workers Circle

NEW YORK — Jewish people have a responsibility to speak out for marginalized communities, Jewish actor and comedian Seth Rogen told Haaretz at a gala event in New York on Monday night.

“I think when you are from a group of people that is targeted traditionally, you should be the first to sympathize with and come to the aid of other groups of people who are being targeted,” Rogen said. 

The actor, who recently starred in the romantic comedy “Long Shot” with Charlize Theron and has written comedies such as “Superbad,” appeared at the annual benefit gala of the Jewish progressive social justice organization the Workers Circle. (The venerable organization has just changed its name from the Workmen’s Circle). 

Rogen and his father, Mark Rogen, were honored at the gala with the group’s Generation to Generation Activism Award. 

Social justice “was always something that my parents instilled in me and always something that was very much an active part of their lives,” Rogen said. “Protesting, marching — as a kid, it was something that we were always doing. As I grew older, I found that being open with my political beliefs was also something that they encouraged me to do and to be.”

Because of its history, he added, the Jewish community can relate to oppressed groups today. 

“Although in America outwardly Jews don’t face the day-to-day oppression that a lot of other groups do, there are these mass shootings that flare up every now and then that really remind you how uncomfortable we make a lot of people just by existing,” he said. 

Rogen, who went to Jewish day school as a child and whose parents met on a kibbutz in Israel, told Haaretz he was particularly happy to be receiving the award with his father, adding that the Workers Circle “really has a lot of the values he has, and they are the values he tried to instill in me as a kid.”

Mark Rogen, who has been involved in nonprofit work for decades, worked for the then-Workmen’s Circle in the early 2000s, which led Seth to become involved as well. 

Workers Circle Executive Director Ann Toback told Haaretz that the Rogen family “personifies” the values of the group. 

“Something that is part of our organization is passing our values and our activism from generation to generation,” Toback said. “When you look at inheritance, for us the real inheritance has been our activism and making the world better, and the values that are so much a part of us.”

The 2019 annual Workers Circle gala program, New York City, December 2, 2019Credit: Danielle Ziri

The Workers Circle, which officially changed its name on Monday, was founded in 1900 and aims to “power progressive Jewish identity through Jewish cultural engagement, Yiddish language learning, multigenerational education and social justice activism,” according to its website.

In recent years, the organization fought for the passage of New York’s Greenlight Bill, which grants undocumented immigrants the right to a driver’s license, and the “Fight for 15,” calling for a living minimum wage.

Rogen will next star in the comedy “An American Pickle,” set to be released next year. “It’s a very Jewish movie — the first 20 minutes are in Yiddish,” Rogen laughed. 

Based on a short story published in The New Yorker, the film is set in 1918 and tells the story of Herschel Greenbaum (Rogen), a Jewish immigrant to the United States who falls into a vat of pickles while working in a factory. He is preserved in the brine for a century and reemerges in present-day Brooklyn.