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September 25, 2006


I think this is pretty common for all minority groups on the big and small screen. Movies and TV are the great assimilators of the day. (is that a word?) The message is always the same: be proud of who you are -- as long as you give up all strange customs and be like everybody else! (but share your tasty food with everyone)

Another riddle of my psyche unravelled! Why I had to marry a Jew! If "Bridget Loves Bernie" really aired in 1972, then I was only a six-year-old viewer, but it made a huge impression on me because it was the first time I had seen open-mouthed kissing. I was repelled and yet fascinated. I called them "Bernie Kisses" and made loud noises of disgust/delight whenever one took place. Obviously I made a mental note for the future to avoid those goyishe Darrin Stevens/Mike Brady/Rob Petrie pecks in favor of some hot Jewish action. Thank you, Bernie.

Very interesting piece! You are right about the volume of Jews who were working in Hollywood, yet the near-invisibility of Jewish characters and story lines. It's as if all of the Jewish writers, producers, directors and actors all got together and uttered -- like the proverbial Jewish grandmother -- "Don't worry, we'll sit in the dark."

I am dying laughing at Kendall's comment.
Great entry, Danny. As the product of a Jew-shiksa union, I am sorry to have missed Bridget Loves Bernie. This is the first I've heard of it. I neglected to say L'Shana Tovah the last time I posted, so I am saying it now.

So true Danny...It has always been a strange weird thing to me that film studios all run by Jews pretty much had an unwritten law that there would be no films about Jews...and as you pointed out, almost no TV show, either. The Goldbergs were a true phenomenom...! And the one film that dealt with AntiSemitism was :Gentleman's Agreement" that got made, I'll never know. Many Many years later, someone I know approached me about creating a soap opera...I decided it would be interesting to base it on my family in that I would make this family Jewish...I wrote quite a long Bible and when I discussed it with the person that approached me, she said...Oh No! It will NEVER get on the air if the people are Jewish. It wasn't her was Proctor & Gamble's rule.
This was in the late '70s!!!!
And here in 2006 almost is still the same.
And I love that you hsve pointed out that almost all the Jewish characters on Television were not played by Jewish actors.
I think about the play "Driving Miss Daisy", and as far as I know, Miss Daisy who was a southern Jew, was NEVER played by a Jewish actress...What do you suppose that is all about? (lol)

What an interesting post! Because, of course, the media is so powerful in its influence and representations of society. Being "other" is so subtle and insidious we sometimes don't even know why we feel that way. When I was seventeen a friend and I wrote a letter to the newspaper in Rhodesia protesting some racist government action at the time. We were quickly called into the Jewish Agency and significantly scolded for endangering Jews of Rhodesia by offending the government. As a Jew growing up I learned to tip-toe about my identity. I was confused when friends at school "complimented" me about my nose not looking Jewish. I never knew how to feel about that. I mean, it was clearly bad to look Jewish, so had I escaped badness?

Neil's comment pretty much sums up diversity acceptance:

"The message is always the same: be proud of who you are -- as long as you give up all strange customs and be like everybody else! (but share your tasty food with everyone)."

It's that sharing the tasty food deal that always gets me! It seems to be the only safe way to "experience" another person's culture.

Hi Danny,

Glad you took a moment to invite me over from Citizen of the Month.

I spent my early years in New York and attended Catholic school. The school had apparently contracted with a private bus company to transport students from my working class neighborhood to school. A nearby Jewish school had done the same thing, as had a school for retarded kids (I know, I know--politically incorrect term but this was the one we used as kids.) The Catholics, the Jews, and the "special needs" kids were all picked up by one bus that meandered through some of the NY suburbs.

What I remember most about our years of "shared bussing" was the cruelty and animosity on the bus. Here the so called normal kids were being shipped to religious schools to learn to one another--and on the way to those schools each day engaged in name calling (Kike! Mick! Guinea!) and harrassment. We bonded over our common inhumanity by avoiding the special needs kids at all costs: the Down Syndrome girl who picked her nose constantly, the retarded girl who often messed her pants.

Even as a kid I saw the incongruity between our respective religious beliefs and our behavior on that bus. It gave me plenty to think about as I toted my catechism back and forth to school and wondered why Jewish boys wore yarmulkes.

The only bright spot is that while I didn't learn anything about being Jewish from my neighbors, I picked up a lot of Jewish culture and traditions from my reading and later college religion classes. You're right, Jewish culture was missing in action from the popular TV shows of the day.

I LOVED Bridget Loves Bernie. Tell Kendall that in my case I think it's why I married a Japanese man, since I'm already Jewish I guess I had to get a little more "ethnic" in my attractions...

Fascinating. Again, I can relate to the feeling of invisibility, but for the Jewish coummunity, it must be all the more mind-boggling and frustrating because of the substantial contribution the Jewish community makes to the entertainment industry. Wait a minute... maybe that's not so different from the gay community (lol).
And yet it seems to be. A great read, and the Valerie/Golda comment made me laugh out loud.

Let me tell you Danny, if you got a TV show I'd watch it immediately - you're an amazing conversationalist and your humor suits me. Now to find a title... - A Taxi rental comany offers not just a car but a complete solution tailor-made to all your executive/guest transportation needs. The rates are kept at an budget level.

Actually Rosh Hashonah WAS indeed mentioned on The Brady Bunch episode where Imogene coca appeared as Aunt Jenny when she explained the Shofar to the kids.

Very interesting post. You are right, Jews generally don't acknoledge themselves on Television or in the movies.

As far as "Bridget Lovee Bernie" I believe that the show failed because CBS was not prepared for the controversy it would generate.

Whether behind the scenes or in front of the camera, Jews have had an impact far in excess of their percentage of the population for at least the last 50 years on television and in society. (Our Supreme Court is equally overly weighted, 4 out of 9, to the percentage of Jews in the population, 2.6%) Norman Lear, Laverne and Shirley, the Fonz, Barney Miller...the list goes on.

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