What promises to be a remarkable five-part documentary, historian Simon Schama's "The Story of the Jews" begins airing tomorrow evening on PBS. Check your local listings. In Kansas City, check here. (Schama is pictured here.)
The Jewish online magazine, The Tablet, has done this lengthy and fascinating piece about the documentary and its creator.
The film is based on Schama's book of the same title.
I will be particularly interested to see how the documentary matches up with the long and endlessly interesting book I've just started reading on my Kindle: Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, by David Nirenberg.
Nirenberg, like Schama, quickly takes us back to ancient Egypt and that country's experience with early followers of Judaism.
I want to leave you time to read The Tablet piece today, so I won't say much more -- except that these kinds of histories are expecially helpful in giving a context to the Jewish community of today that is broader and deeper than the Holocaust.
That's one of the things that struck me about Poland when I was there a few years ago doing interviews for They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust. Which is to say that for most visitors to Poland the focus is on the murdering of Jews done there in World War II by the Germans under Hitler's Nazis. But the truth is that Jewish culture in Poland goes back hundreds and hundreds of years, and there is much more to the story than the Shoah, as central as that story is.
So I hope you'll have a chance to see this new PBS series.
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AND NO POETRY EITHER, PLEASE
Fred Phelps is dead, but as the author of this piece notes, Christian fundamentalism of various sorts lives on. And no doubt will continue to as long as people want black-and-white answers instead of gray and want anything but metaphor.