Saturday, January 19, 2008


The Jewish Americans

You know, some people really will find reasons to get hot under the tallis about nearly anything. PBS is airing a documentary series called “The Jewish Americans”, and the “City Room” blog at the New York Times has started a Q&A series with the director, David Grubin. Sounds nice, right?

Of course right. So what are some of the first questions? Well, Karen asks this:

Why is the series called The Jewish Americans, of all things? What a turn-off. I, for one, am an American Jew not a Jewish American. What were you thinking?
...and Jack asks this:
Tony Kushner is a far inferior author to David Mamet and is far more of a “fringy” representative of Jewish Americans. Why was he chosen and given such a prominent role?

Jesus Chri... er... Holy Moses, give me a break, folks.

Mr Grubin’s answer to the second is the rather obvious one: he asked them both, and guess who said yes. And he supports the choice of Mr Kushner (who wrote the play “Angels in America”, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize). Personally, I, too, prefer David Mamet’s plays. But hey: I would never presume to second-guess Mr Grubin on this point: it’s his film; he gets to make these choices.

But on the name, well, really. “What a turn-off”? Karen really seems to want to find something to complain about. Some people probably think that “Jewish American” makes it sound like you’re Jewish first, and an American second. And some people probably hear it exactly the opposite way. So give the kvetching a rest: the documentary is about Jews, and the documentary is about Americans. In whatever order you want to put them in.

David Grubin actually took Karen’s complaint seriously, and gave it a serious answer. But in the end, he says, “The series, like Judaism itself, raises questions. It’s not about answers.”

In any case, it’s interesting. It’s well made. Watch it. Nu?

1 comment:

The Ridger, FCD said...

I remember reading a possibly apocryphal comment by King of Denmark talking about about WWII. "There are no Danish Jews," he said, "only Jewish Danes." And he meant that they were Danes who were Jewish, but Danish first.

I have to admit that's the way I read it. But honestly. What a thing to bitch about.