Attention Jewish ‘Survivor’ Fans: Season 46 Has (At Least) One Jew

Ben Katzman, a 31-year-old Miami, FL native, says that growing up he was "a dorky Jewish kid from the suburbs."

Tree mail!

“Survivor” season 46 starts airing on Wednesday, Feb. 28 and this season, there will be at least one Jewish contestant on the island! Ben Katzman, a 31-year-old Miami, Florida native, describes himself now as “motivated, energized and passionate.” But he also recalls that as a child, he was “a dorky Jewish kid from the suburbs.” He shared a cute anecdote with Miami New Times: “I remember my mom got me this Jews Who Rock book when I was like 10 years old,” he says. “I was like, ‘Superheroes who rock, and they’ve been bar mitzvah-ed?'” He was delighted.

If you had told me several years ago that I would know or care about the cast members of an upcoming season of “Survivor,” a reality television show that has been running since 2000 and arguably kicked off the entire genre, I would have expressed deep confusion and maybe said, “Is that the show where they ate a rat?” (Yes.) But love makes us do wild things, and my wife is a diehard “Survivor” fan — she’s seen every single season in real time, dreams of one day being on the show (Jeff Probst, call us!) and once she got me hooked, we started going back and watching old seasons together. We end almost every day watching 1-3 episodes on our very comfy couch and occasionally listen to “Survivor” podcasts together. Our family even does a Survivor draft — my brother and her grandma are two formidable members of it! (Yes, married life is just as sexy and surprising as you think it will be.)

All of which is to say — these days, I care a lot about “Survivor.” And everyone knows reality television is most fun when there are people you relate to on screen. Some of the most iconic players of the franchise — Ethan Zohn, John Cochran, Stephen Fishbach, to name a few — are Jewish. In recent years, season 41 hosted four (!) Jewish players and season 44 featured Claire Rafson, a queer Black Jewish woman that I was sad to see go home as early as she did. But season 45 did not include a single Jewish player, and I have to admit, it was a bit disappointing.

So when the cast was announced for season 46, my wife and I scanned it carefully to see if any of the players were Jewish. The only one we could confirm 100% was Katzman. Here’s a bit more of what we know about him.

Katzman is a musician and a music teacher. He’s part of the band DeGreaser and just released a new album, Transcendental Shreditation in Dec. 2023. He dropped out of college at 22 to promote other acts and created an independent record label. He was great at his job, but ultimately felt unfulfilled, wanting to focus more on his own projects and to rely less on external validation, so he quit at 25. Now he focuses on his own art, his teaching and his happiness. In terms of his projected game play for “Survivor,” he’s said that managing the dynamics of being in a band and going on tour helped him prepare his strategy. I’m excited to see how that shows up this season!

Does sharing a contestant’s religion mean I’ll definitely see myself in their game play? Of course not. But finding little pieces of shared identity is one thing that can make a fan feel extra excited about a specific contestant. I’ll definitely be drafting Ben Katzman in our Survivor Family Draft — unless my brother or Grandma Ned beat me to it!

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