The Royal Court has apologised and changed the name of a character in a play, admitting it was “unconscious bias” that led to a Silicon Valley billionaire being named Hershel Fink.
The theatre said the character in new play Rare Earth Mettle by Al Smith is not Jewish and there is no reference to him being Jewish in the show.
However, the Royal Court said the naming of the character was an example of “unconscious bias” and it will be changed.
The show had come under fire for the apparently Jewish name of the character, who is the CEO of an electric car company and has been compared to Elon Musk.
A statement from the Royal Court said: “We are grateful to the members of the Jewish community who got in touch with the Royal Court to communicate the name of one of the characters in Rare Earth Mettle is antisemitic.
“For clarification, the character is not Jewish and there is no reference to being Jewish in the play.
“We acknowledge that this is an example of unconscious bias and we will reflect deeply on how this has happened in the coming days.
“We and the writer are deeply sorry for harm caused. In response to our learning the writer has changed the name, as of last night.”
Comedian David Baddiel, who had previously shared a number of critical tweets about the naming of the character, wrote on Twitter: “Apparently @royalcourt claim they didn’t realise “Hershel Fink” was a Jewish name.
“Hmm. Somehow it just sounded so right for a world conquering billionaire.
“I’ve written a play. Everything – particularly now and particularly about ethnicity – gets relentlessly discussed. Except as regards one ethnicity apparently.
“Anyway. To be fair @royalcourt have acknowledged their unconscious bias here and changed the name.
“It’s still a very instructive Jews Don’t Count episode.”
The play, directed by the Royal Court’s associate director Hamish Pirie, stars Arthur Darvill as the billionaire.
It is described as “a brutally comic exploration of risk, delusion and power”.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.