NBC Pulls Nurses Episode Following Backlash over Its Portrayal of Orthodox Jews
“The writers of this scene check all the boxes of ignorance and pernicious negative stereotypes,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement
NBC has pulled an episode of Canadian series Nurses from its digital platforms following backlash over a scene containing an anti-Semitic portrayal of Orthodox Jews.
In the scene, which aired Feb. 9 in the episode "Achilles Heel," an Orthodox man named Israel lands in the hospital after an accident. His father, standing at his bedside, says "the Creator" will heal him, though a nurse replies that "medicine" is the answer.
Israel is then informed that he will need a bone graft from a dead donor, to which his father says, "A dead goyim leg? From anyone? An Arab? A woman?"
Reps for NBC did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
The website Jew in the City first called out the scene, noting in an article that there is no prohibition in Judaism regarding getting a transplant from a cadaver.
"In fact, Jewish law says we should use the best medicine of our times to recover from our illnesses," writer Allison Josephs said in the Tuesday article.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, then released a statement on the matter on Wednesday.
"The writers of this scene check all the boxes of ignorance and pernicious negative stereotypes, right down to the name of the patient, Israel – paiyous and all," the statement said. "In one scene, NBC has insulted and demonized religious Jews and Judaism."
"Overreaction? Orthodox Jews are targeted for violent hate crimes – in the city of New York, Jews are number one target of hate crimes in US; this is no slip of the tongue," it continued. "It was a vile, cheap attack masquerading as TV drama. What's NBC going to do about it?"
Following the controversy, NBC pulled the episode from all digital platforms and future airings, according to The Hollywood Reporter. As of Thursday, the NBC.com website states that the "Achilles Heel" video "is no longer available."
The network purchased Nurses from an external studio due to a shortage of programs amid the current COVID-19 pandemic. The show originally premiered on Canada's Global TV channel in January 2020 before airing in the U.S. in December. It's season finale aired Tuesday.
In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the series' Canadian studio, Entertainment One, said they are "working to understand what transpired" in creating the controversial scene.
"It's important that we address the recent feedback we've received related to the portrayal of Jewish beliefs in the 'Achilles Heel' episode of our series Nurses," the statement said. "We take matters of this nature very seriously and deeply regret all inaccuracies related to religious beliefs as well as the negative portrayal of any religious community in our content, characters and storylines. We sincerely apologize to the Jewish community, our viewers and series fans, and are working to understand what transpired and ensure our research practices are exhaustive moving forward and lead only to well-informed storylines."