The Jewish Americans


reviewed by Marc Schulman

PBS has produced a monumental 6 hour history of American Jews. The 3 DVD set covers the period from the arrival of the first Jews in New Amsterdam to contemporary events. The presentations use a combination of historic films and drawing combined with contemporary interviews to present the history of the Jews of America, The documentary covers all the major events and periods of history, It does an excellent job of telling the story of the trials tribulations that Jews went through in the United States until they were fully accepted in American society, The program does a superb job of telling the story both the rise of anti-semitism in the United States and its slow disappearance in the years that followed World War II,

The program does an excellent job telling the cultural story of American Jews, from the story of the Jewish entertainers in the Catskill Mountains to the story of the Radio and TV show called the Goldbergís,
The programs tell the political story of American Jews from the concerns over the trial and execution of the Rosenbergís for spying for the Soviet Union to the support shown by the Jewish community for Soviet Jewry and Israel, although in both cases it deals more with what these actions say about American Jewry then the actions themselves.

The program also tries to examine the different denominations of American Jewry, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. This is a difficult subject to fully cover and if there is one area where the shows come up a little short it is here.

In sum however, I have never seen a film depiction of American Jewry that rises to the level of this six hour presentation. Of course you need to have six hours free to do the series justice.

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