Academic journal article Film & History

The Jewish People: A Story of Survival (2008)

Academic journal article Film & History

The Jewish People: A Story of Survival (2008)

Article excerpt

The Jewish People: A Story of Survival (2008)

Directed by Andrew Goldberg

Distributed by PBS

60 minutes

Educators interested in introducing students to Judaism will surely appreciate this documentary for both its breadth and engaging presentation. Featuring interviews from noted scholars and Jewish commentators such as Elie Wiesel, Fran Leibowitz, and Alan Dershowitz, The Jewish People is a basic narrative of Jewish history and religion from Abraham to the establishment of Israel in 1948. Viewers who have come to expect quality productions from PBS will not be disappointed in Andrew Goldberg's sixty-minute adept rendition of four thousand years of history. The narrative is framed by Jews' attempts to survive disasters while remaining a viable and united community of faith. After recounting the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Elie Wiesel notes, "All people usually celebrate victories. The Jewish people also remember defeat." This theme of resilience in the face of countless tragedies is the unifying theme in The Jewish People.

The Jewish People is an effective balance of religion and history. The documentary begins by detailing the significance of essential Jewish texts - the Ten Commandments, the Torah, and the Talmud. The commentators highlight the significance of these texts as substitutes for simple tribal loyalty. Throughout their history, in the absence of a homeland or the temple in Jerusalem, it was the Hebrew Bible that connected the dispersed Jewish people. The period of the Babylonian Captivity is discussed, but so, too is the fate of the Jewish people under the considerably more tolerant Cyrus the Great of Persia. The documentary is proficient at describing how Jews survived under every possible sort of regime. The Persians and Romans were relatively disinterested in the religious lives of Jews. Similarly, eighty to ninety percent of the Jewish population lived under Islamic rule for centuries and fared well. The Islamic Caliphate taxed Jews and sometimes discriminated against them, but Jews and Christians enjoyed autonomy as fellow "people of the Book." One of the most prosperous and culturally significant Jewish communities was the Spanish (Sephardic) Jews living in the Cordoba Caliphate during the Middle Ages. …

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