The messages are mostly simple and short — a celebrity introduces themselves, shares that they’re Jewish if they are, sometimes improvises a little, but mostly, they look into the camera and say that they stand against antisemitism. Then they urge viewers to add their voices against antisemitism, too. “It’s a new year with new voices,” they say.
These brief messages all come from the Instagram page of a new outreach project titled “New Year, New Voices,” started by Jewish entrepreneur and public speaker Samantha Ettus, which encourages stars to record simple messages against the hatred of Jews.
Non-Jewish allies speak out simply, including Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, former NBA star Zach Randolph who urges viewers to “stop hating on the Jews,” and Kevin Nealon and his wife Susie Yeagley, who film a video together. There’s also football player and TV personality Colton Underwood, gymnast Nia Dennis and actress and dancer Jenna Dewan.
Jewish stars speak with candor, too. Jamie-Lynn Sigler tells viewers she is a “proud Jew,” as does “Jane the Virgin” and “Hanukkah on Rye” star Yael Grobglas.
David Draiman, the Jewish frontman of the band Disturbed, urges followers to “please stop hating on the Jews.” While wearing a prominent star of David necklace, he adds, “It starts with us, and never ends with us. I’m a proud Jew, and I will never be intimidated, and I will never cower. Am Yisrael chai.”
TV personality Brooke Burke says she doesn’t go public about her politics, but she urges people to “take some time to learn about history and the effects of antisemitism” before proudly declaring that she is Jewish.
Prolific TV actor Eric Balfour declares he is “a father, a husband, and I am Jewish. Stand with me in saying there’s no place in our world for antisemitism.” Actor Jonah Platt calls himself “a loud and proud Jew” before wishing everyone a “gut Shabbos.”
Music producer Scooter Braun shares that “the role of a bystander is the most important role when it comes to a conflict,” and says he’s grateful for those who stand against antisemitism and all forms of hatred against all people.
Jewish “Stranger Things” star Brett Gelman asks people to “let your Jewish light shine through,” while Bryan Greenberg tells the camera: “I am a proud Jewish person and I hope that you will stand for me in the fight against antisemitism.”
Every day, more and more of these videos are getting released — Ettus is hoping to release two or three new messages a day.
Ettus’ son’s bar mitzvah took place on October 7, 2023. She was glad it was that day and not the 8th when “we all understood the gravity of what had happened,” she tells Kveller. “October 7, we still didn’t understand, and so we still were able to celebrate his bar mitzvah. But starting literally 24 hours later, I just became entrenched in what was going on in Israel, and essentially became this kind of accidental Jewish activist.”
Her idea for the project came on a flight home during the holiday season. “A few months after the conflict, after the war started, people who hadn’t yet spoken up against antisemitism became intimidated in terms of ‘I haven’t spoken up yet. How would I even enter the conversation now?’ So the idea was, what if I could make it really easy for people to enter the conversation about antisemitism without having to get into the conflict in the Middle East? Because so many people don’t feel equipped to understand history or know anything about politics, and they’re afraid that speaking out against antisemitism is political.”
“By making it super simple and not intertwined with any sort of political methods or anything about Israel,” Ettus adds, “I felt like it was a way to make Jews feel less alone.” She hoped it would inspire these huge celebrities’ followings to reconsider how they think about Jewish hate, and to possibly be influenced to speak out themselves. And she also knew how comforting it would be for their Jewish followers to see that support.
Once she had the idea, she started “recruiting as many celebrities as possible. I realized early on… we had to go to the celebrities directly. When we went through their handlers, whether it was agents, managers or publicists, typically they’re more conservative and are worried about any sort of conflict. And so they advise them not to do it.”
“I really reached out to everyone I know in Los Angeles and Hollywood to help, and a few of the celebrities who first joined the campaign have also been really helpful in recruiting their friends,” Ettus explains. Those were stars like Jewish “Once Upon a Time” actress Ginnifer Goodwin, former “Entourage” star Emmanuelle Chriqui, Debra Messing and Caroline D’Amore. Each generously shared their network, and then the numbers of celebrities kept growing from there.
Ettus feels like she’s primed to organize a project like this. “I’m a public speaker and author, and I’ve always been focused on helping women with work-life balance issues and managing a thriving professional and personal life at the same time. So now I went from talking about work-life issues to speaking about life-death issues.”
Ettus’ work has also influenced her own children, who joke that she can make any conversation about Israel and antisemitism. Her oldest daughter is the co-chair of her high school’s DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) organization, and early after October 7, she got the Jewish club to present to the other affinity groups in her school. “That was really helpful and their campus has been great about what’s going on,” Ettus recounts.
When it comes to the “New Year, New Voices” project, Ettus says, “the goal is to let everyone in the US community know about it, and have them support it and share our posts and also support the celebrities that are speaking out. I think that there’s a fear amongst celebrities that if they do speak out, they’re going to have a lot of hate and lose a lot of followers. But on the other hand, they’ll gain a ton of followers — if you speak out one for the Jewish people, we are your friends for life, we will never forget that you spoke up for us. We’re such a loyal group.”