Jews on TV
During the past twenty years, Jewish people have appeared as television characters more than ever in the past. There was a time when this was not so and when the Jewish entertainment establishment studiously avoided showing Jewish characters and Jewish events in the movies or on TV.
Neal Gabler has written a fascinating book called An Empire of their Own, which traces the Jewish invention of Hollywood from its earliest beginnings to the nineteen forties.
This book shows how the early movie producers, mostly of Eastern European Jewish ethnicity (not religion), studiously avoided including Jewish themes in their productions except for The Jazz Singer, which is by no means complimentary to the Jewish minority.
Even during the Hitler years, the Jewish movie moguls, such as Adolf Zukor, Louis Mayer, Carl Laemmle, Cohn and the Warner brothers never mentioned or even hinted at the plight of the European Jews. It was not until 1947 that the director Elia Kazan made Gentlemen’s Agreement, in which Gregory Peck portrays a Jew although he is not Jewish. The point of the movie is to exhibit so called “genteel anti-Judaism”.
This was more than a half century ago. Since then there have been other movies with Jewish themes, including School Ties, which is an excellent portrayal of anti-Jewish conduct during the 1950’s.
Enter television. TV was never as hesitant to portray Jews and Judaism as the movie industry. Early in the TV saga, Molly was shown. This was a take-off from The Goldbergs, which had been on the radio for some time. It was induced by Abie’s Irish Rose and promoted intermarriage and used humor to deal with ethnic and religious differences.
It wasn’t until the ‘80’s however, that Jewish characters became commonplace on many TV “shows”. This began with Barney Miller, in which Hal Linden portrayed a police captain. One episode included the Chasidic community, who are portrayed as violent, hot headed and foolish savages. In this segment there is a direct attack on the Talmud, giving the viewer the idea that Talmudic Judaism has no standards or ethics and that anything one likes to choose at any time is just fine with Jews. This is a truly vicious anti-Jewish canard produced by, you guessed it, Jews.
There are other insulting “shows” demeaning orthodox and Hasidic Judaism. These remind us of the old story about the secular Jewish woman who meets a man wearing a black coat, hat and beard on a train. “You Hasidim are an embarrassment to us,” she lectures him. “You live in the Middle Ages.” “I am sorry, Madam,” says the man, “I am Amish and proud of my religion.” “Of course,” says the secular Jewish lady, “I admire the Amish. How wonderful that you hold on to your beliefs all these years.”
The Hasidim are of course not the only victims of Jewish self flagellation on TV. We are also treated to numerous idiotic interpretations of our life cycle events. First on the list of misrepresentations is the Bris or the covenant ceremony involving the removal of the foreskin from a baby's penis. Numerous shows including Cheers and The Nanny depict the Bris as a form of barbaric torture committed by a monster known as the mohel. The jokes include the idiocy that one must serve miniature franks at every Bris. Never one word about the sacred meaning of this ceremony and its Biblical origin, which any Christian could understand if it were shown (You guessed it. The producers of this garbage are almost always Jews).
Incessant “jokes” on all these shows again and again revive the anti-Jewish stereotype of Jews as money crazy. We learn that non-Jews can convert to Judaism by making a “sizeable donation” to the rabbi who then overlooks that the prospective convert has not studied Judaism at all.
Kosher food comes in for numerous insults and laughs by Seinfeld, whose four actors are all Jewish. Here we learn the astounding “lesson” that Kosher refers to the way rabbis kill pigs. Seinfeld also manages to insult the holocaust victims by showing an episode in which Seinfeld takes his girlfriend to the movie Schndler’s List, not to see the movie but to “make out” in the balcony.
Hold on to your hat. More insults are coming. In one Seinfeld episode the Jewish actress Dreyfus, posing as “Elaine”, is kissed by a teen. When she complains to his father about this he kisses her also. “Elaine” then tells this to a rabbi who explains that Jews are drawn to shiksas, who don’t remind them of their mother. The rabbi then invites her to an illicit weekend at a resort. The message: Jews are lechers who, as Hitler said, “lust after non Jewish women.” Heil Seinfeld.
Now we come, inevitably, to Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations. I cannot deny that this important Jewish ritual has been twisted into an obscenity by some Jews, which lends itself to sarcasm and movie insults. The purpose of Bar/Bat Mitzvah has been forgotten by so many of us that we may not even recognize the gross perversion this ritual suffers at the hands of TV producers.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah refers to “good deeds” or “duties” which every Jew can and should perform upon reaching biological maturity. Some Jewish children do indeed know this and have studied for years in order to meet the demands of the Jewish community on them. However, there are many who know only that Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a big party with a football theme and that this is preceded by one hour of synagogue attendance of no particular consequence.
This allows our TV producers endless opportunities for religious reductionism. Square Pegs, Caroline in the City and Diff’rent Strokes all participated in making Bar Mitzvah a useless and obnoxious ceremony. Here we learn first of all that “Jewish mothers” don’t like fun and enjoyment but throw “cold water” on all kinds of happiness. Of course, Jewish mothers are always screaming shrews who gossip all day. Never once do we see Jewish mothers who have advanced degrees, practice law, medicine and accounting, run businesses, are elected Senator of the United States or can do anything but complain all day. This disgusting and false portrayal of our Jewish women is perhaps the worst of the TV fare produced, you guessed it, by Jewish producers.
According to TV all Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are of course coarse, loud feeding frenzies. Everyone conducts himself as portrayed in Goodbye Columbus, a movie based on a short story by Philip Roth, in which a near riot occurs as the Jews view the enormous desserts on which to stuff themselves.
Allen Koenigsberg, also known as Woody Allen, teaches his followers that Jews collect money for Israel in Hebrew School and then spend it on themselves. You can see this in a show called Radio Days.
Then of course there is Chanuka. This is portrayed as “the Jewish Christmas”. The fact is that the only connection between Chanuka and Christmas is that Christmas was fixed on the 25th of December because the early Christians, all Jews, were accustomed to celebrate Chanuka on the 25th of Kislev. However, the Dick Van Dyke Show knew better. Here we find that “the Jews killed Christ”, whatever that may mean, that Chanuka is far inferior to Christmas and that the Jewish God is narrow and unloving. Other than that the show is no more insulting that the rest of the bunk on TV (Guess who produced the Dick van Dyke Show).
We should of course not deny that there are some television shows in which Jews are seen in a positive light. We must also add that Christians and Christianity are also twisted and re-created by producers and actors who either know nothing or don’t want to know anything about the Christian message. Consider only The Last Temptation of Christ, which is grossly insulting.
Now what do we do about this? I have exposed this here. Others may write protests to TV stations and all of us can turn off the idiot box when this tripe comes on. Read a good book instead, such as The Jew In Christian Theology or Stigma: How We Treat Outsiders, or Man's Ascent to Reason or the forthcoming, soon to be published: What Football Means to U.S. All these books are by the same author. Try them. You’ll like them.
Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Grandparents: A New Look at the Supporting Generation (with Dr. Ursula A., Falk, 2002), & Man's Ascent to Reason (2003).