(JTA) – For years my wife told me that her fashion vision was inspired by Repellent Man, the cutting-edge publication founded by Leandra Medine Cohen, a Jewish prep school graduate who encouraged her followers to dress for themselves, not the men around them.
Last year we both watched Medine Cohen resigned by Man Repeller, then closed her, after suffering a backlash for firing one of her few black employees months before the racial justice protests last summer.
So Thursday night when I heard she had recorded a interview it has been widely described as a self-involved disaster, I was curious enough to listen. But when I listened to the podcast episode, called “The cutting room floor”And hosted by designer Recho Omondi, I was surprised by what I heard – not because of what Medine Cohen said, but because his interview was blocked by anti-Semitism.
Near the start of the episode, Omondi, who is black, discussed America’s racist origins – and falsely implicated Jews.
“This country was founded by racist white men – and for the purposes of this episode it is important to note that many of these white men, slave owners, etc., were also Jews and also considered black people to be less than humans, ”she said. In fact, Jews, let alone Jewish slave owners, did not constitute a significant proportion of the founders of the United States – and Omondi’s claim echoed a stereotype promoted by some of America’s most prominent anti-Semites.
Then the interview with Medine Cohen begins, and it does not go well. Medine Cohen grew up on the wealthy Upper East Side of Manhattan and attended Ramaz School, an elite Jewish prep school. His parents also owned a second home in the Hamptons. Still, she says at one point that until last year, she thought she grew up in poverty and on the verge of homelessness. She also recounts how she abruptly shut down Man Repeller, leaving site workers without work during the pandemic.
the title in The Cut – “The Upper East Sider realizes that she is privileged” – summed up the reactions of many people.
But at the end of the episode, while Medine Cohen was talking about anti-Semitism, the interview cuts off and Omondi starts talking about Medine Cohen when it looks like she is no longer in the room.
“I couldn’t stand another white assimilated American Jewish princess who is extremely privileged but thinks she is oppressed,” Omondi said. “At the end of the day you’re going to get your nose and keratin treatments done and your last name changed from Ralph Lifshitz to Ralph Lauren and you’ll be fine.”
Omondi’s podcast has a substantial audience – at one point it was the best artistic podcast on Spotify, according to Chartable, which tracks podcast rankings. And while many public comments on the episode praised it, I wasn’t the only one angry with Omondi by using a decades-old anti-Jewish insult (the “JAP”) and invoking anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews, materialism and assimilation.
the comments feed on The Cut article included reactions such as “[W]how necessary is it to say such stereotypical and overtly anti-Semitic things to illustrate this? Big bugs all around.
I contacted Omondi for the first time on Friday, shortly after the episode ended, and Medine Cohen on Monday. Neither of them responded. But Omondi seemed to recognize the backlash. About a day after downloading the podcast, she posted on Instagram, “I want to acknowledge that I understand that Leandra does not represent ALL Jews or the wider culture whatsoever.”
“If I see petty hatred for the sake of hatred towards Jews because of this, you either didn’t listen to the episode or you are completely missing the point,” she wrote. “And you will be BLOCKED.” BLOCKED. BLOCKED.”
Other Omondi Instagram posts capture tweets from Jewish women praising the episode, including the one who praised her “tenacious + brilliant investigation into the intersection of Jewish whiteness and black belonging” and demanded “our responsibility and commitment as Jewish women”.
But the critics continued to mount. From Monday afternoon, the comments section on Omondi’s Instagram post about the episode had been closed. Then the Jewish writer Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt tweeted that the episode “shamelessly equates Jewishness with wealth, power and privilege.”
On Monday evening, the bogus and offensive references to Jews at the beginning and end of the podcast – both the comments about “slave owners” and about an “American Jewish princess” had been removed.
Omondi does not appear to have recognized the change in podcast on social media. Medine Cohen does not seem to have addressed it either.
But already, Omondi may have strayed from the goal she described in an article last week on the episode.
“I want to be clear that it’s not my intention to stir up hatred or trolling this episode,” she said. wrote. “I welcome critical and constructive thoughts, however.”