An iPhone app that has users guessing whether famous people are Jewish or not has been yanked in France, where disclosing such information about people without their consent is illegal.
"Jew or Not Jew," invented by Frenchman Johann Levy, is still available elsewhere including in the U.S., where it costs $1.99. The app lists thousands of famous Jews – including movie stars, musicians, Nobel Prize winners. The iTunes store description says: “Hey, did you know that Bob Dylan is Jewish? Of course I did! But was Marilyn Monroe really Jewish? And what about Harrison Ford? How many times have we had this conversation without being able to know for sure? You can now find the answer.”
Lévy, a 35-year-old engineer who is Jewish, told Le Parisien he doesn’t understand the outcry.
“I’m not a spokesman for all Jews, but, being Jewish myself, I know that in our community we ask ourselves often if this or that celebrity is Jewish or not,” he told the French newspaper. “For me, there’s nothing pejorative in saying publicly that this person or that person is Jewish. Instead, it’s something to be proud of.”
But releasing details about the personal lives of people, even celebrities, without their consent is illegal in France. In addition, one leader from France's Jewish community says knowing who is and who isn't is not so simple.
“The issue of Judaism and ‘who is Jewish’ and ‘who is not’ is particularly complex. Nobody has the authority to decide on the Jewishness of others,” Marc Eisenberg, president of Alliance Israelite Universelle, said in written statement. “The fact that (the app) was created by someone who is of Jewish faith does not excuse a thing.”
In the U.S., the worst Levy can be accused of is probably bad taste, Ken Jacobson, the Anti-Defamation League's deputy national director told CNN.
“Maybe it reflects my age,” said Jacobson. “Everyone is sharing their whole lives with everyone else. “That’s not the way things used to be.”