Mandel Maven's Nest Lilith Watch:
Jewish Women on TV
Critical Guide to Jewish Women on TV, in the Flicks and Popular Music
Jewish Women in (and Missing from) the Flicks
Jewish Women in Popular Music
-From the exhibit Jewface: "Yiddish" Dialect Songs Of Tin Pan Alley, at YIVO, Words and music by Edgar Leslie and Irving Berlin (1909). Collection of Jody Rosen. “This song tells the story (from the perspective of her boyfriend Mose) of a Jewish girl named Sadie Cohen who becomes an actress and performs the risque role of Salome in [Richard Strauss’s] opera.”
To find specific reviews by Nora Lee Mandel search by TV show title as listed by season since 1999 via your search engine
Unlike everybody else, I am very careful in my analyses of films and TV shows to identify Jewish characters through actual evidence in dialogue, actions or supporting visuals (like the ubiquitous menorah-on-the-shelf prop). I look at how the character is explicitly identified, but have had to expand to implications, particularly by a Jewish-type-sounding name, though I find that no one else makes these distinctions. (Like Elissa Strauss, in The Forward, 5/14/2015, calls “Brassy Jewish Woman 2.0: Pamela From Louie C.K.”, though there has been no references that the character played by co-writer/producer/star (and Jew) Pamela Adlon is Jewish.) Even though I’ve stretched into what I call “putative Jews”, there needs to be more indication than who plays the part.
I’ve started taking into account how the audience reacts to them based on external assumptions, particularly if Jewish actresses portray them, either as identified by general knowledge or perception of physical characteristics, particularly curly hair as Samantha Shokin described (Tablet Magazine 1/30/2014). In The Writers’ Room (on Sundance Channel, Spring 2014), Julianna Margulies, sporting her hair pulled back straight in a pony tail, explained why she wears a full wig as “Alicia Florick” on The Good Wife: “I wanted her to look WASPy, but I'm a Jew with curly hair and I was a new mom. . . The network now wants me to call other actresses and tell them this is a good thing not a bad thing.”
The British find us exotic, so the interviews are more explicit as in The Guardian, 8/26/2014, “Jenny Slate’s career almost ended when she swore on Saturday Night Live. Now she’s in the year’s most talked-about film. Hadley Freeman meets the star of Obvious Child. . .I do feel that I look traditionally Jewish, and it’s something I’m proud of and it’s something I’m a little bit insecure about, because I think maybe people don’t see me as myself. You know, that’s not the main girl, that’s the friend. But you know, I’ve realised that’s my issue. I’m glad that I look like myself and I didn’t get a nose job to fit in, and now I’m starring in this movie and people seem to like it. So fuck it.” So I’m following her career and the characters she portrays.
I also note personality or other stereotypes of the actor/actress’s Jewishness, however defined by ethnicity or observance or some kind of Jewish identity so that their characters implicitly become Jewish because they have been cast. (Such as “tough Jews”, as David Mamet calls them, at least for male portrayals, particularly when non-Jewish actors play Jews, though I intend to read and comment on his essays "The Jew for Export" and related ones on the impact of Hollywood’s anti-Semitism.) I am repulsed by using octoroon/Hitlerian family tree definitions of "being Jewish" for any actor/actress, but certainly there are people who Americans think “look Jewish”, though that usually means some general European ethnic-ness, that could just as easily be Mediterranean or Eastern European, which gets even more complicated by the portrayal of Israelis. The true diversity of how Jews really look is rarely reflected, like my redhead, freckled siblings, where my brother can “pass” in Celtic bands. I am therefore just as intrigued if actors/actresses who are perceived/identified as Jewish get to play non-Jewish roles.
Mayim Bialik posted on her social media, on 8/26/2015: “To the man who admonished me for discussing religion bc its ‘supposed to be a private matter’: it is private until Fox news asks you about it because you're on a TV show. And also, I'm Jewish. It's not just my religion. It's my ethnicity and peoplehood. It's public whether I like it or not!” Building on her popularity as the non-Jewish “Amy Farrah Fowler” in the still top-rated sit com, and long-term renewed, The Big Bang Theory, Bialik is now so active and visible as a Jewish feminist Zionist (and parent and scientist), that rather than cite her individual comments and posts, follow her Grok Nation website/platform.
Mila Kunis, whose Jewish family left Ukraine with her because anti-Semitism limited their opportunities, posted a defiant statement in A+, 11/2/2016, against the sexism in how Hollywood treats her: “’You’ll Never Work In This Town Again’…If this is happening to me, it is happening more aggressively to women everywhere."
Debra Messing, who is only sometimes cast as Jewish on TV and isn’t usually visibly Jewish identified what with her trademark auburn locks, “accepted an award on 5/7/2017 from GLAAD for her LGBTQ activism with: “Ivanka, girlfriend, what are you doing? Come on, it’s me Deb, lets talk for a second, one Jewish mother to another…Imagine how you’ll feel sitting at Passover seder if you can tell your children that you fought for justice and freedom. It will make you feel richer than owning all the skyscrapers and golf courses in the world…You can’t just write #womenwhowork and think you’re advancing feminism,” Messing said. “You need to be a women who does good work: #saywhatyoumeanandmeanwhatyousay.”
The frequent TV stereotype of the sexy kick-ass Israeli army veteran/Mossad agent took on an ironic reality with the movie casting of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Talia Lakritz noted in Jewish Week, 7/14/2015: “her service in the Israeli Defense Forces helped her land the role of sharp-shooting Gisele Yashar in the Fast and Furious franchise.” – which I admit I’ve never seen. But when the trailer got released a year later featuring the former Miss Israel, Twitter was busy with anti-Zionist attacks on her. (updated 4/5/2017)
Why look at how Jewish women are portrayed on TV and in the movies? Others are documenting general or different specific images of women and the impact that has and the messages conveyed about women. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, does terrific research on the quantity, quality, and types of women in film and television.
Apply her analysis to how Jewish women are portrayed: Geena Davis summarized her findings about female roles in G-rated movies and children's TV programming in The Wall Street Journal, 4/11/2011, "Life Imitates Art" interview with Rebecca Blumenstein: "They found that the more hours of television a girl watches, the fewer options she believes she has in life. And the more hours a boy watches, the more sexist his views become. . .Of the female characters that existed, the majority are highly stereotyped and/or hypersexualized. . . .Negative images can powerfully affect boys and girls, but positive images have the same kind of impact. We know that if girls can see characters doing unstereotyped kinds of occupations and activities, they're much more likely as an adult to pursue unusual and outside-the-box occupations."
The significance of this approach for other minorities: GLAAD through the 2016/2017 season does a detailed Network Responsibility Index/Where We Are on TV Report for “the quantity, quality, and diversity of images of LGBT people on television” and created Vito Russo Test for LGBTQ characters comparable to the feminist Bechdel-Wallace Test, that apply strictly to movies. NOW did a feminist analysis of prime time TV, that took into account racial but not ethnic minority women on TV. The first Gender Bias Without Borders was “an investigation of female characters in popular films across 11 countries”. (updated 5/25/2017)
Amidst all the brouhaha over a 3/24/2015 headline in Deadline that was originally called “Pilots 2015: The Year of Ethnic Castings – About Time or Too Much of Good Thing?”, by Nellie Andreeva all jumped on the People of Color issue and not the lack of real ethnic diversity on TV.
Dee Lockett in Vulture, 3/25/2015, pointing out The 13 Most Ignorant Quotes From That Awful Deadline Article” cites the dictionary definition then adds “Andreeva takes us back to the 19th century, when racists still referred to nonwhites as "ethnics" — and got away with it. . .And using the term to suggest anything otherwise — in this case, that it denotes only people of color — is a dangerous, slippery slope.” Soraya Nadia McDonald, the next day in The Washington Post, put in more TV industry context: “Andreeva’s repeated use of the word ethnic, which appeared in her story 21 times. . .was aping standard casting director language and writing for a trade publication , which maybe suggested why she finitially found it innocuous and unobjecitonable. It’s one of those things that gets taken for granted but ended up exposing a larger hegemonic rigidity with regard to how race is interprerted in Hollywood: a standard where whiteness is this assumed default unless a character is specified as ethnic a blanket term that served to cover an entire range of disparate identities, races, and ethnicities. Right there embedded in the industry’s customary vernacular, is this confirmation that actors of color and roles for them have basically been an afterthought.” What was lost in the racial storm that led to a formal apology was “ethnic diversity” that didn’t necessarily refer to People of Color.
Another term for these ongoing stereotypes as racist is Jewface, which cites “The Jewish Mother”, “Jewish Princess”, and “Nice Jewish Girl”. (updated 6/2/2016)
Why LilithWatch? Much of my thinking about the contemporary, post-"Molly Goldberg" image of Jewish women in popular culture was inspired by the archetypal "Lilith" on the long-running sitcoms Cheers/Frasier (played by Jewish actress Bebe Neuwirth). I used to do popular culture reviews examining how Jewish women are faring in television, rock 'n' roll etc. for LILITH Magazine, the national independent Jewish feminist quarterly.
Since the Lilith Fair women's concert tours 1997-1999 (and returning in 2010), the name “Lilith” has gotten associated even more with feminism, viz. the "Wichita Linebacker" episode of Veronica Mars, written by John Enbom and Phil Klemmer, which identified "Lilith House" as the locus for the stereotyped, protesting "militant feminists" at the fictional Hearst College.
Starting in the 3rd season of Supernatural, their Lilith was seen like a Super Demon whose death then was the Final Seal that brought on Armageddon at the end of the fourth season.)
In True Blood, in the 5th season, Lilith is worshipped (in Aramaic) as the First Human Vampyr, with her own Bible. Series creator Alan Ball, in an “Inside the Episode” interview after “In the Beginning”, describes that he conceived of her as “a Mesopotamian goddess” when she appears in a naked, then bloody vision to vampires (including Salome, yeah, that Salome) who drank what they believed was her blood. In the season finale by Ball, “Save Yourself”, a rebel vampire declares: She’s a mad god. She’s about nothing but destruction.-- just as her self-declared “Chosen One” drinks all her blood and reincarnates into a similar scary naked vision. The 6th season, in 2013, clarified this Lilith demonology. In “The Sun”, written by Angela Robinson, she appears in beautiful human form to him on “some spiritual plane” (as the writer explained in her “Inside the Episode” interview), albeit with three naked “blood sirens”, to correct misimpressions: God made me. Some worship me as a god, but there is no God but God., as she urges her Prophet to help vampires avoid a genocidal round-up he foresees in a sun-drowning crematorium. In “Fuck the Pain Away”, also by Robinson, sets Lilith’s first contact with human/fairies to 3500 B.C. At the naked Lilith’s first sight of “Warlow”: What are you. . God spoke to me of a creature like you. . You are destined to save vampire-kind. And she rapes and vamps him in the desert. Blended with her prophet today “she” declares: I made you into our savior!, though he is able to rid himself of her after a final image of her and her two minions blood-drenched bodies. At least her appearances here are getting more women to revive herstory.
Once Upon A Time (on ABC) in the 4th season, in 2015, gave a Disney-fied, fairy-tale spin to the Lilith legend – though all the many recappers I read were oblivious to the background or resonances. The episode “Best Laid Plans”, written by Jane Espenson and Kalinda Vazquez, revealed a flashback to the adoption in Minnesota of evil Queen Maleficient’s dragon baby in human form – she was named “Lilith – Lily”. Her eponymous episode, written by Andrew Chambliss and Dana Horgan, traced how her life just kept going bad with bad choices since she was taken away from her mother (and due to the manipulation of her life by “The Evil One” – Rumpelstiltskin, played by Robert Carlyle), as revealed to her by The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (played by Timothy Webber): The deck has been stacked against you. I owe you the truth. She’s the teenage nemesis (as “Lily Page” played by Nicole Munoz) of “the Savior” (“Emma Swan” played by Abby Ross as a teen, Jennifer Morrison as an adult, daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, who had stolen her as the dragon egg): Emma, there are powers beyond our understanding, and your parents messed with them. So the only friend I ever had wasn't even my friend by choice. . . But every time I try [making better choices], it just blows up in my face. It's like I'm cursed or something. It's true. It's like my whole life is darkness. “Malificient” (played by Kristin Bauer van Straten, such a charismatic vampire on True Blood in tangling with the other Lilith) is furious at the parents: You've been so worried that the Dark One might turn Emma into a monster, you forgot that's exactly what you did to my Lilith. So, if I won't forgive you, why would she? So guilt-ridden “Emma” tracks clues to find “Lily”, despite others’ warnings: She was a weird one. Kept to herself. 'Course, she had one of those personalities that you wanted to stay far away from. A real loser. In “Mother”, written by Jane Espenson, “Lily” (played by Agnes Bruckner) bitterly (and ironically) compares her banishment and maternal separation: Sent me through the portal in my eggshell, like baby Moses in his basket., and angrily transforms into a dragon to exact her revenge: You screwed me over before we were even born. I had no more say in what happened than you did. But your parents did. . . Your parents are monsters, Emma. They banished me and threw you in a wardrobe. And now here you are, ready to die for them, because you're so perfect. The savior. Well, they deserve to be punished. And there's only one way to stop me, and you know it. . . Thanks to you, I'm hardwired for bad decisions. So come on just put me out of my misery. You know the truth. We both know my life isn't worth saving. And if you let me go, I will destroy everything. It's what I do. So come on be the hero and end this right here before it even starts. “Emma” explains You are not as responsible for your own misery as you would believe. The deck has been stacked against you, Lilith, and it's not your fault. Everything you do will be harder. And I owe it to you to let you know why. I owe you the truth. . .Let's start with the necklace. It isn't exactly a stone, but it did belong to your mother. Would you like to hear about her? “Lily”: Why didn't you just kill me when you had the chance? I would have. . . Isn't that the whole point of savior and anti-savior? “Emma”s better nature prevails and Mother Maleficient gets her daughter back in human form: It's too late, isn't it? You're too grown up for everything. You don't need me. And I know that I'm not what you were hoping for. “Lily”, in the episode’s theme, is forgiving: I thought that you'd be this scary dragon bitch, and we'd go get our revenge. You know, blasting all those who did us wrong. But you're just this real person. And you're so frickin' open, it kills me. Mom: Why does that kill you? I don't understand. Please, tell me. “Lily”: Because you want a relationship, a future. And anyone who's ever wanted that with me, it's just, it's never worked out. I've always let them down. I destroy everything that I touch. That darkness they put in me, it's serious business. Mom: I don't mind a little darkness. Look -- why don't you stay for a week, and I can teach you about being a scary dragon bitch? “Lily”: Okay. One week. -- i.e. to the season finale – which just set up next season for her search for her unknown dragon father, with a piece of the egg she was hatched from as her only clue. How Lilith is presented here is given additional irony in the penultimate episode “Operation Mongoose, Part 1” when “The Author” (played by Patrick Fischler) reveals that in his pre-magic life as “Isaac Heller” he was Jewish, by cracking a joke about getting a pen for his bar mizvah. (updated 5/11/2015)
I’m particularly interested in the presentation of romantic relationships, as popular culture so rarely portrays Jews with Jews, let alone in a positive light.
Jewish Women on TV
I got tired of people always citing "Mrs. Seinfeld" to me as proof there are still Jewish women on TV, whether one considers a nagging elderly mother as a positive image or not. So I started covering leading characters who are Jewish women in Friends, Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Killer, Once and Again, Will & Grace (which I found too silly a show to keep monitoring even as she did end up back with her supposedly Jewish doctor husband), etc. My comments on The Nanny have been quoted in the catalog for the Jewish Museum exhibit Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting, edited by J. Hoberman and Jeffrey Shandler, published by Princeton University Press, in Shandler's essay "At Home on the Small Screen: Television's New York Jews", and then in Joyce Antler's excellent academic study You Never Call! You Never Write!: A History of the Jewish Mother (Oxford University Press, 2007). No, I didn't write up Dharma and Greg where "Dharma Finkelstein" is Jewish only for the novelty of the name, like Whoopi Goldberg; Entertainment Weekly claimed that Jenna Elfman was specifically hired for the role because she didn't look Jewish.
Then with so few lead Jewish women characters, even the usual Dead Jewish Mothers, I turned to monitoring supporting roles, though I hadn't earlier covered the likes of the best friend on Mad About You, or the bat mitzvah of “Muffy” (played by Jami Gertz), where Devo performed, on Square Pegs (David Browne in The New York Times review of the DVD of the series on 7/13/2008 calls her “the proto-yuppie”). But then with so few of even those, I looked for recurring Jewish women characters. With so few of even those, I'm now looking at guest turns. While I don't watch many sitcoms, I do watch Law and Orders to catch the Jewish Mother Murdering Matriarchs, fitting in with how executive producer Dick “Wolf maintains this consistency is by making most of the victims wealthy white people, which he believes viewers are more interested in watching. He limits the number of shows containing minority victims, including blacks and Muslims, to four or five episodes a season out of 22 to 24.” (per “Law and Disorder” by Rebecca Dana, The Wall Street Journal, 7/12/2008.) (I'm watching Law and Order: U.K., on BBC America, to see if the ethnic pattern from the adaptation of the U.S. scripts has been translated across The Pond.) (updated 10/5/2014)
With so few of those, I’m watching shows with Jewish male characters to see if they comment about their Jewish mothers or even date Jewish women, though my nephew Eliav told me I’m behind on the Jewish women references on The League. Plus I watch shows set in NYC to see if they ever have Jewish women characters, or shows in work settings like hospitals or law offices where in the real world it is common for Jews to be working. Like in NBC's Kings that though it was based on the Biblical book the closest it came to a Jewish woman was an odd "Sabbath Queen" as Death in a nightmare episode. So now, I'm also now looking at made-for-TV-movies, time permitting. With so few definitely Jewish women on TV, I’m even commenting on putative Jewish women, who I define as those with clearly Jewish-sounding names with implied Jewish-ness unless specifically denied, particularly if the audience is viewing them as Jewish, and also even characters pretending to be Jewish. (updated 10/5/2014)
I do detailed transcriptions, when I have time, of full dialogue and scene descriptions because I’m annoyed by the snarky or too casual inaccuracy in fan/entertainment publication recaps, particularly in reference to Yiddish expressions or religious rituals, that get widely disseminated as definitive, let alone are blithely prone to assumptions and acceptance of stereotyping. So I figure there should be one place on the Web that presents the facts and context about Jewish women characters, by TV season to monitor changes over time, which I mostly define by the Emmy Awards criteria, so now starts around June 1. (updated 3/28/2014)
I have not kept up 100% with sitcoms, most kids' shows, such as on Nick or Disney, “unscripted” reality shows (like ones that switched a Jewish mother to a gentile family) or the Jewish mothers on The Real Housewives of New York City/The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Extreme Guide to Parenting, NYC Prep, Skin Wars,Russian Dolls, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelorette, My Antonio’s Jewish mother, "procedurals" (those fiction investigation series without continuing story or character arcs), or Family Guy, satirical guests on The Simpsons, or Kyle Broslofski's Jewish mother satired on South Park, let alone Judge Judy. But even worse, I can no longer keep up with all the shows, even just the noteworthy ones, available on all platforms! So mea culpa on what’s missing. (But I do hope to eventually catch up with Netflix, Yahoo, etc.)
Here’s actor (and now writer) Jesse Eisenberg’s new spin, posted by his Israeli friend Tal Kra-Oz on 1/28/2016, about the image of Jewish mothers who are unlike his own: “What makes the overbearing mother funny is that it’s not the mother thinking that her son is the best in the world, but the juxtaposition between the mother expecting the son to be the best in the world and permanently disappointed that he’s not: arrogance on behalf of your son and total disappointment in him.” Et tu daughters? (updated 1/28/2016)
I use the Television Critics Association (TCA) definition of a TV season: shows airing the majority of their season between June 1 and May 31.
Jewish women characters were on: Good Trouble; NCIS – Ziva David in the 17th Season; Preacher – Dany in the 4th Season; Suits
Fear the Walking Dead – Sarah in the 5th season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 7th season
The Good Fight – Marissa Gold in the first season
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 6th season
Hallmark Hanukkah Movies
Israeli Television Series Streaming in U.S.
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Miriam “Midge” Maisel etc. in the 3rd season
Pose - Frederica Norman in the 2nd season
Will & Grace – Grace Adler in the revived, final 11th season
Jewish women characters were on: Claws; Deutschland 86; Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Good Trouble; High Maintenance; Poetry in America; Portraits in Architecture – Nada Breitman-Jakov; Suits; We Will Meet Again;
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 7th Season
Better Things in the 3rd season
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Rebecca Bunch and others in their 4th season
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 5th season
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce – Abigail McCarthy plus in the 5th Season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 6th season
Israeli Television Series Streaming in U.S.;
Stockholm – Nilli and Zohara Zak in the 1st season
The/Le Tunnel – Elise Wassermann in the 3rd season
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Miriam “Midge” Maisel etc. in the 2nd season
Will & Grace – Grace Adler in the revived 10th season
X Company – 2nd and 3rd Seasons
Younger – Lauren Heller and others in the 5th season
Jewish women characters were on: A Christmas Story Live!; The Alienist; Artful Detective/Murdoch’s Mysteries; Claws; Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. with BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are, Nazi Fugitives; Knightfall; Law & Order True Crime:The Menendez Murders; Preacher – Dany in the 2nd Season; Salvation; The Tale; and Under Her Skin. Putative Jewish woman on: Playing House.
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 6th Season
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Rebecca Bunch and others in their 3rd season
Genius: Picasso – Gertrude Stein
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 5th season
The Fosters – Emma Kurtzman in her 5th season
A French Village (Un Village Français) – 6th and 7th seasons
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce – Abigail McCarthy in the 4th Season
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 4th season
Madam Secretary – Nadine Tolliver in the 4th season
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Miriam “Midge” Maisel etc. in the 1st season
Saving Hope – Dr. Sydney Katz in the 5th season
I Love Dick - Chris Kraus
Odd Mom Out – Jill Weber in the 3rd season
The/Le Tunnel – Elise Wassermann in the 2nd season
Will & Grace – Grace Adler in the revived 9th season
Younger – Lauren Heller and others in the 4th season
Jewish women characters were on: Documentary Now; Fargo; Genealogy Roadshow; Hate Thy Neighbor; Hawaii Five-0; Homeland; Ray Donovan; Switched At Birth, This Is US – 1st season; and Who Do You Think You Are. Putative Jewish women characters were on: Code Black; I Love Dick; Doubt; New Girl; The Night Of; Once Upon A Sesame Street Christmas; and Saving Hope.
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 5th Season
Berlin Station - Golda Friedman and others in the 1st Season
Better Things - Sam
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Rebecca Bunch and others in their 2nd season
Feed the Beast – Ruth Klein
A French Village (Un Village Français) – 4th and 5th seasons
The Fosters – Emma Kurtzman in her 4th season
Genius – Elsa and Pauline Einstein and others in the 1st season
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce – Abigail McCarthy in the 3rd Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 6th Season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 4th season
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 3rd season
The Interestings – Julie Jacobson and others in the pilot
Madam Secretary – Nadine Tolliver in the 3rd season
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Miriam “Midge” Maisel in the pilot
Odd Mom Out – Jill Weber in the 2nd season
Madiba– Ruth First and Helen Suzman in the mini-series
Ripper Street – Deborah Gorn and Rachel Castello in the 4th & 5th seasons
The/Le Tunnel – Elise Wassermann in the 1st season
The Wizard of Lies – The Madoff Women and others in mini-series
UnReal – Rachel Goldberg and others in the 2nd season
Younger – Lauren Heller and others in the 3rd season
Jewish women characters were on: Aquarius; Banshee; Belief; Chicago P. D.; The Enfield Haunting; Grantchester; Homeland; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Legends; Masters of Sex; NCIS; New Girl; Shades of Blue; The Strain, Suits – 5th season, and Who Do You Think You Are. Putative Jewish women characters were on: Devious Maids and The Walking Dead.
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 4th Season and 2nd Season of The Flash
Broad City – 3rd season
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Rebecca Bunch, her mother, and others in their 1st season
The Fosters – Emma Kurtzman in her 3rd season
A French Village (Un Village Français) – 2nd and 3rd seasons
Gigi’s Bucket List
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce – Abigail McCarthy in the 2nd Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 5th Season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 3rd season
The Good Wife – Marissa Gold in the final season;
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 2nd season
Inside Amy Schumer in the 4th Season
The Knick – “Genevieve Everidge” in the 2nd Season
The Last Ship – Lt. Ravit Bivas in the 2nd Season
Madam Secretary – Nadine Tolliver in the 2nd season
Madoff – Ruth Madoff and others
Manhattan – Abigail Isaacs in the 1st season
Man Seeking Woman – Liz and Patti Greenberg plus in the 2nd season
Married – Jess in the 2nd season
Marvel’s Agent Carter – Ana Jarvis in the 2nd season
Mistresses– Ariella Greenburg in the 3rd season
Murder in the First - Raffaella “Raffi” Veracruz
Odd Mom Out – Jill Weber in the 1st season
Saving Hope – Dr. Sydney Katz in the 3rd season
Transparent– Sarah, Ali, family and friends
UnReal – Rachel Goldberg and others in the 1st season
Younger – Lauren Heller in the 2nd season
Jewish women characters were on:
The Book of Negroes, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Borders, The Dovekeepers, Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Grimm, Houdini, Kosher Soul, The League, Mad Men, Makers: Women Who Make America, The Mysteries of Laura, New Girl, The Red Tent, Parks and Recreation, Ray Donovan, Scorpion, and The Strain. Putative Jewish women characters were on: The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, Chasing Life, Elementary, Episodes, The Mindy Project, and Red Band Society.
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 3rd Season and 1st Season of The Flash
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in her 8th and Final Season
Broad City – 2nd season
Community – Annie Edison in the 6th season
The Fosters – Emma Kurtzman in her 2nd season
A French Village (Un Village Français) – 1st season
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce – Abigail McCarthy in the 1st Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 4th Season
Glee - Rachel Berry etc. in the 6th/final season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 2nd season
The Good Wife – Marissa Gold in the 6th season
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 1st season
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 4th season
Hindsight – Lolly Levine
The Honourable Woman – Nessa Stein and more
House of Lies - Sarah Guggenheim in the 4th season
Inside Amy Schumer 3rd Season
In the Face of Crime (Im Angesicht des Verbrechens)
Madam Secretary – Nadine Tolliver in the 1st season
Manhattan – Abigail Isaacs in the 1st season
Man Seeking Woman – Liz and Patti Greenberg plus in the 1st season
Married – Jess in the 1st season
Transparent – Sarah, Ali, family and friends in the 1st season
Younger – Lauren Heller and mother in the 1st season
Jewish women characters were on: Black Box, Call the Midwife, Drop Dead Diva, Fargo, Foyle’s War, Genealogy Roadshow, Generation Cryo, The League, The Mindy Project, New Girl, Parks and Recreation, Scorpion and Who Do You Think You Are?. Putative Jewish woman characters were on Elementary and Episodes.
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 2nd Season
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 7th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 5th season
The Fosters – Emma Kurtzman in her 1st season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 3rd Season
Glee - Rachel Berry etc. in the 5th season
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 3rd season
House of Lies - Sarah in her 2nd season
Inside Amy Schumer – 2nd Season
Joan Rivers – everywhere
Magic City – Evans family, etc. in the final, 2nd season
NCIS - Ziva David in her final season
Princesses: Long Island – 1st and hopefully only Season
Prisoners of War (Hatufim) – 2nd Season
Strike Back – Rebecca Levy in her 2nd season
Transparent– Sarah, Ali, family and friends in the pilot
Jewish women characters were on: Alphas, The Bible, The Big C, Blue Bloods, Bunheads, Children’s Hospital, Covert Affairs, Happily Divorced, a Lifetime movie, Mad Men, Major Crimes, The Mentalist, Raising Hope, Southland, Spies of Warsaw, Suits – 2nd season, Upstair Downstairs, and Weeds. A putative Jewish woman character was on Parks and Recreation, Scorpion.
American Horror Story: Asylum – “Anne Frank”
Arrow – Felicity Smoak in the 1st Season
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 6th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 4th Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 2nd Season
Glee - Rachel Berry and Sugar Motta in the 4th season
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 2nd season
House of Lies - Sarah in her 1st season
Inside Amy Schumer - 1st Season
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 3rd season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 8th season
Prisoners of War (Hatufim) – 1st Season
Ripper Street – Deborah Goren in the 1st Season
Shameless (U.K.) – Esther Blanco (plus)
Strike Back – Rebecca Levy in her 1st season
Underemployed – Raviva
Jewish women characters were on Blue Bloods, Bored to Death, Castle, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Gossip Girl, Happily Divorced, Hawthorne, Mad Men, MI-5 (Spooks), Modern Family, NYC 22, Pan Am, Prime Suspect, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Southland, TNT’s Mystery Movies, and Who Do You Think You Are. Putative Jewish women characters were on The Good Wife, How To Make It In America, In Plain Sight and Lost Girl.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 5th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 3rd Season
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold in the 8th Season
Friday Night Dinner – Jackie Goodman in the 1st Season
Girls – Shoshanna Shapiro in the 1st Season
Glee - Rachel Berry and Sugar Motta in the 3rd season
Harry’s Law - Harriet Korn in the 2nd season
Hart of Dixie – Dr. Zoe Hart in the 1st season
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 2nd season
Magic City – Evans family, etc. in the 1st season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 7th season
Jewish women characters were on 100 Questions, Being Human (U.S.), Boardwalk Empire, Brothers & Sisters, Castle, Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife, Grey's Anatomy, Hung, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Nurse Jackie, Outcasts, Private Practice, and Upstairs Downstairs. I happened to catch a Jewish actress on the "make-over" show What Not To Wear. Putative Jewish women characters were on Californication, Hawthorne, Huge, and Mad Men.
18 To Life – Bellow Mother and Daughters
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 4th Season
Community – Annie Edison in the 2nd Season
Being Erica – Erica Strange – 3rd season
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold in the 7th Season
Glee - Rachel Berry in the 2nd season
House, M.D. – Lisa Cuddy in the 7th season
Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? - Joan and Melissa Rivers – 1st season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 6th season
Skins (U.S.) – Tea Marvelli
Jewish women characters were on Bored To Death, The Deep End, Fringe, The Good Wife, Leverage, Inspector Lewis, Mercy, Nip/Tuck, Private Practice, Psych, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Three Rivers, United States of Tara, Ugly Betty, and Who Do You Think You Are. Putative Jewish women characters were on Californication, Gray's Anatomy, Heroes, House, Party Down, and White Collar.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 3rd Season
Being Erica – Erica Strange – 2nd season
Community – Annie Edison in the 1st Season
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold in the 6th Season
Glee - Rachel Berry
House, M.D. – Lisa Cuddy in the 6th season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 5th season
Z Rock – Dina Malinsky, Joan Rivers and others in the 2nd season
Jewish women characters were on C.S.I., C.S.I.: NY, Diamonds mini-series, Eli Stone, Gossip Girl, Hallmark Hall of Fame, In Plain Sight, Nurse Jackie, Saving Grace, The Unit, and a Lifetime Movie of the Week. I happened to also catch a Jewish actress on the "make-over" show What Not To Wear. Putative Jewish women characters appeared in 90210, Californication, The Cleaner, Desperate Housewives, E.R., Gossip Girl, Hawthorne, Monk, and Sons of Anarchy.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 2nd Season
Being Erica – Erica Strange
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and others in the 5th season
House, M.D. – Lisa Cuddy in the 5th season
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 6th, final season
NCIS - Ziva David in her 4th season
Rescue Me – Valerie in her 2nd season
The Sarah Silverman Program in her 3rd season
The Starter Wife - Molly Kagan post-mini-series
Z Rock – Dina Malinsky, Joan Rivers and others
Jewish women were on The Cleaner, Eli Stone, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Lipstick Jungle, and House, M.D.. Putative Jewish women characters appeared in Big Shots, Californication, Cashmere Mafia, Canterbury’s Law, Desperate Housewives, Terminal City, and Ugly Betty.
Big Bang Theory - Mrs. Wolowitz in the 1st Season
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 5th season
Mad Men - Rachel Menken and Bobbie Barrett
Mandrake – Berta Bronstein
NCIS - Ziva David in her 3rd season
Nip/Tuck– Rachel Ben Natan
Pushing Daisies– Charlotte “Chuck” Charles
The Riches – the faux Cherien Rich in her 2nd season
The Sarah Silverman Program in her 2nd season
Weeds – Bubbe Botwin
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman in the 5th season
Jewish women characters also appeared on C.S.I., Desperate Housewives, E.R., Grey's Anatomy, House, M.D., John from Cincinnati, Justice, Numb3rs, The Nine, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Rome, Standoff, State of Mind, The State Within, Ugly Betty, The Unit and Waking the Dead.
Brothers & Sisters – Nora Holden
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and daughter Sarah in Season 3B and Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and daughter Sarah in Season 4
Heroes – Hana Gitelman
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 4th season
Mad Men - Rachel Menken
NCIS - Ziva David in her 2nd season
Rescue Me – Valerie in her 1st season and Beth Feinberg
The Riches – the faux Cherien Rich
The Sarah Silverman Program
Weeds - Yael Hoffman
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman in the 4th season
Jewish women characters also appeared on E.R., Girlfriends, Grey's Anatomy, Nip/Tuck, Sea of Souls and Veronica Mars
Beautiful People - Annabelle Banks
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Susie Greene etc.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold and daughter Sarah in the 3rd Season
Everwood - Delia Brown in the 4th season
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 3rd Season
NCIS - Ziva David
Sopranos - Julianna Skiff
Jewish women characters also appeared on Grey's Anatomy, Judging Amy, Law and Order, Nip/Tuck, Veronica Mars and Waking the Dead.
Entourage - Mrs. Ari Gold
Joan of Arcadia
The L Word - Jenny Schecter in the 2nd Season
Numb3rs - The Late Mrs. Eppes
The O.C. - Rebecca Bloom and the Nana in the 2nd Season
Queer as Folk - Melanie Marcus in the 5th Season
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman in the 3rd season
Jewish women characters also appeared on CSI, Judging Amy and Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
Curb Your Enthusiasm - Anna
Gilmore Girls - Paris Geller
Joan of Arcadia
The L Word - Jenny Schecter
Line of Fire
Nip/Tuck - Mrs. Grubman
The O.C. - Anna Stern and the Nana
Rocked With Gina Gershon
Sex and the City - Charlotte Goldenblatt
Sopranos- Fran Felstein
Street Time - Rachel Goldstein
Jewish women characters were on:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Gilmore Girls - Paris Geller
Law and Order
Sex and the City - Charlotte York
Street Time - Rachel Goldstein
That Was Then
The Wire - Rhonda Pearlman
Israeli TV series that I presume include Jewish women characters - Around January 2019, Netflix starting showing several popular Israeli TV series in the U.S., that I haven’t yet caught up with: Fauda, When Heroes Fly, Shtisel, Hashoter Hatov (The Good Cop), Hostages (B’nei Arubah), and Mossad 101. I don’t subscribe to Hulu, which is carrying several Israeli TV series, but I’ve read that Amazon Prime is also streaming Israeli TV series in the U.S., though I haven’t tried to watch them yet: , Mekimi, Srugim, and A Touch Away.
Sara Stein – From Berlin to Tel Aviv - 4 German TV-movies in the series about a Jewish criminal investigator who emigrates to Israel, starring Katharina Lorenz, were released in the U.S. 6/4/2019 via Film Movement’s Omnibus Entertainment to iTunes, Amazon and Vudu, originally shown 2016 – 2017: Tod in Berlin (Shalom Berlin, Shalom Tel Aviv); Shiv’a (Jewels in the Grave); Masada; Alte Freunde (Old Friends), all directed by Matthias Tiefenbacher. I haven’t had a chance to watch them yet.
Muna- first two episodes, set in 2014, seen at 2019 Other Israel Film Festival - , produced through Yes Studios, though it wasn’t clear if the full season will be available in the U.S. on Netflix. Created by Mira Awad, the series features primarily Israeli Arab characters, centered around Muna Abud. Like Maysaloun Hamoud’s In Between (Bar Bahar) crossed with Tanya Saracho’s Latinas Vida The Jewish women characters seen so far are obnoxious: the titular character’s Jewish boyfriend’s ex-wife, a TV host who really rakes the titular photographer over the coals on her first guest appearance alongside a nasty religious Zionist woman, who are hypocritically nice off-camera. Kudos to the music! (11/17/2019)
Asylum City- tough, strong non-stereotyped Jewish Israeli women, surrounded by a range of men, figured prominently in the first two episodes, of the 12, seen at 2019 Other Israel Film Festival, produced through Yes Studios. Created by Eitan Tzur, Uzi Weil and Yad Shoham based on the novel by Liad Shoham, that I haven’t yet read, the tangled noir swirls around 32-year-old blonde “Michal Poleg” (Mali Levi), a determined refugee activist whose challenges against the government’s and organized crime’s authority doesn’t separate her personal and work livess, and “Chief Inspector Anat Seton” (Hani Furstenberg, of The Golem) on her first big case. I look forward to seeing the rest of the series! (12/8/2019)
- Still from Double Holiday on Hallmark Channel - Image by Allister Foster/2019 Crown Media United States, LLC.- and promotional poster
Hallmark Hanukkah Movies - In time for Hanukkah 2017 (or 5779), Crown Media, the owner of the Hallmark Channel, told Jonathan Berr of Forbes Magazine it was planning its first Hanukkah-themed movies in its popular holiday marathons since “2012’s Hitched for the Holidays starring Joey Lawrence of TV’s Blossom and Emily Hampshire as characters pretending to be a couple to get their meddling families off their backs, only to fall in love for real.” Sorry that I seem to have missed that one. “[T]wo movies with Hanukkah themes under development that it plans to air next year…are in their early stages. The script of one called Holiday Date is being written. According to a company spokeswoman, it will have ‘Hanukkah elements…which is a lot of fun as Hanukkah and Christmas overlap in 2019.’ Additional details on the other holiday movie weren't available.” The first two Hallmark movies built around Hanukkah-themed plots are Holiday Date story by Kraig Wenman, written by Karen Berger, and Double Holiday by Nina Weinman, both written by Hallmark holiday movie veterans. Britni de la Cretaz in The Washington Post 12/2/2019 makes good points: “Neither movie is a Hanukkah movie. They are Christmas movies with Jewish characters. And they rely on some of the oldest anti-Semitic tropes in the book… in the form of a Jewish character attempting to blend in among the wary members of a Christian family… [In Double Holiday] Hanukkah stands only in relation to Christmas, not on its own terms. Indeed, it functions as an obstacle to the rest of the characters getting to celebrate as usual. Rebecca [“Hoffman”, played by Carly Pope] even has to set aside her Hanukkah plans to organize the party with her male, Christian counterpart — which she does to further her professional ambition.” (updated 12/8/2019)
Suits (on USA) “Lewis Litt”s sister “Esther Litt Adelstein ” (Amy Acker) made returned for the final 9th season, for a “Me Too”-themed episode concerning an incident with her business mentor 15 years ago come back to interfere with a company merger, in “Prisoner’s Dilemma”, written by Ethan Drogin, who was promoted to Executive Producer. [Details forthcoming – there was no explicit mention of her Jewish identity, but lots of frank talk with her brother.] (11/2/2019)
NCIS – Ziva David in the 17th season - After dramatically appearing at the very end of last season’s finale, she returns in the very complicated first two episodes, that had to do with her daughter, her brother, and various terrorist plots, as well as her father/daughter relationship with her American boss. She is scheduled to guest on two more ratings-period-significant episodes this season. [Details forthcoming] (updated 11/17/2019)
The Good Fight – Marissa Gold in the first season (on CBS broadcast; originally shown on CBS All Access premium service in 2017) As played by Sarah Steele, she came over in this spin-off from The Good Wife from the episode “First Week”, written by Ryan Pederson & Joey Scavuzzo, on. Clever and enterprising, she got herself hired to be the assistant to the un-retired law partner “Diane Lockhart” (played by Christine Baranski). “Marissa” develops into quite a good investigator to want to get a professional license. “Self-Condemned”, written by Jim McKay, added in a sexy Israeli woman “Naftali Amato” (played by Katrina Lenk) as a comic relief dominatrix being a witness in court for a despicable returning character “Colin Sweeney” (played by Dylan Baker), in an otherwise serious episode. (updated 7/29/2019)
Fear the Walking Dead – Sarah in the 5th season (on AMC) The episode “Ner Tamid”, written by Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg, introduced its first Jewish character in the The Walking Dead universe in the “Rabbi Jacob Kessner” (played by Peter Jacobson, who is a frequent portrayer of Jewish men on TV). Then at the end, bad-ass truck driver “Sarah” (played by comic turned actress Mo Collins) too suddenly revealed to him: Good to have you with us, Rabbi. Say, you wouldn't happen to know how far out we are from Yom Kippur, would ya? I got a few things to atone for. Rabbi: You've got some time yet. “Dwight” (a redeemed, cross-over character from the original series, played by Austin Amelio): You're Jewish? “Sarah”: Rabinowitz. Card-carrying Member of the Tribe. Rabbi: I was about to do the Ma'ariv. Care to join me? “Sarah”: You ever say kiddush with a Saison? Rabbi: No need. I make my own wine. “Sarah”: My kinda rabbi. Much as I appreciate the very non-stereotyped image of a Jewish woman on TV, let alone one who considers the black, wheelchair bound “Wendell” (played by Daryl Mitchell) her brother, this revelation is typical of older TV where Jewish heritage is just a punch line gimmick of one episode, or then maybe referred to within a holiday episode. (9/4/2019)
Preacher – Dany in the 4th Season (on AMC) Jewish crime boss “Dany” (played by Julie Dretzin) returned as the series apocalyptically barrels towards conclusion. “Tulip” (played by Ruth Negga) is tracking down “Jesse Custer” (Dominic Cooper), even returning to her previous occupation as an assassin. In the back of an active Orthodox shule, “Dany”: Is that why you've come, for my knowledge of traditional Jewish hats and headwear? “Tulip”: You know what we want, Dany. Who we want. “Dany”: But first you know what I want. She gets a call. You killed my husband! “Tulip”: Like you asked me to, Dany. Like you've been asking me for 10 years, Dany. Look. You got what you want, now we get what we want. “Dany” reluctantly keeps assenting: I know! I didn't think you'd do it! You always said no. 100 times I asked you and you always said no. Here's the thing. Jesse gave it to me for safekeeping. “Tulip”: There's no "thing," Dany. We had a deal. Where is he? “Dany”: You don't understand. What you are asking I can't do it. I can't take you to him. “Tulip” beats her up bloody. “Dany” finally leads her to the idiot clone of Jesus Christ: I hope he melts your faces off…When Jesse first sent him to me for safekeeping, I thought, ‘This is God's chosen one? He's raping blocks of cheese.’ But then Something happened. His power, his love changed me. It changed all of us. Do you understand now how special he really is? Why I could never let you take him.
Ever. As “Tulip” grabs him, “Dany” screams: Stop them! They're taking our Messiah! As the male congregation screams Moshiach!, one guy comments: I didn't even know we had a Messiah. “Dany” snarls: Because we didn't tell you, Eli! Schmuck. (9/8/2019)
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 6th Season (on Netflix) Whoops – Season 6 begins streaming January 2020 before I even got a chance to watch S1 yet to comment on Lily Tomlin’s portrayal of the Jewish woman character. The series also got renewed for its 7th/final season, with 16 episodes. (9/4/2019)
Will & Grace – Grace Adler in the 11th, final season (on NBC) (I’m still catching up) (11/24/2019)
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 7th season (on ABC) (I detest this sit com so much that I couldn’t bring myself to finish watching even the 2nd season, so I’m not goint to waste my time watching the didn’t-deserve-to-be-renewed 5th season. While I could even now catch it more frequently in syndication, I’ll probably have to end up buying the complete series on DVD to do a complete review with episode-by-episode documentation of its clichés.) (11/24/2019)
Our Boys (on HBO) Controversial 10-part series created by Joseph Cedar (one of my favorite Israeli directors), Tawfik Abu Wael(writing and directed the Palestinian story line), and Hagai Levi, based on true story of a Palestinian teenager abducted and brutally murdered by Orthodox Jews in 2014, ostensibly in revenge for Palestinian militants killing of Israeli teens two days earlier. While I haven’t strated watching the series, the Israeli mothers’ public profile is featured. (9/9/2019)
Pose – Frederica Norman in the 2nd season (on FX) This Peabody Award-winning series so beautifully portrays the travails of trans and gay minority folks in NYC reeling from the AIDS crisis, with wonderful acting by people from those communities, that I kept looking for clues that in this 2nd season set in 1990 this stereotyped wealthy divorcée landlord is not Jewish, when she appeared from the 2nd episode “Worth It”, written by Janet Mock, in limo declaring: I don't normally rent to anyone darker than my Aunt Lily after a week's vacation in Palm Beach, but I've had good luck with Dominicans. Hard workers, for the most part. When she wants to kick out the manicure salon owner “Blanca Rodriguez” (played by MJ Rodriguez) because she is trans, “Blanca” stays by filing with the Human Rights Commission. As portrayed by Patti LuPone, by Episode 6 “Love’s In The Need of Love Today”, written by series co-creator Brad Falchuk and Our Lady J, will certainly be perceived as a putative Jewish woman. While she talks of the (stereotypical) gays in her life, like her hair stylist, she performs at the AIDS Cabaret fundraiser, even if it’s to distract the manicurist who is running the event from the eviction that’s going on simultaneously. She refers to growing up in Scarsdale, with music and dance lessons, and wanting to emulate in every way Elizabeth Taylor, whose conversion in 1959 was well-publicized. LuPone has said in interviews that her character is loosely based on Leona Helmsley, who was Jewish, neé Lena Mindy Rosenthal, though her final husband Harry was not.
In the next episode, “Blow” written by Jane Mock, the feud continues. “Blanca” reports about The New York Post: You know what she did?…She told Page Six that all of us protesting - left hypodermic needles and condoms laying around in a gutter in front of my nail salon. It was on the news this morning. And they didn't necessarily use the words HIV, but we already know what they were implying. The world is scared of us, and she's using that to beat me. “Pray Tell” (played by Billy Porter): Evil, but smart. “Blanca” announces to her house: ACT UP is looking to make a statement about safe sex, and they want to do something that's gonna get on the news. “Pray Tell”: So Blanca and I have come up with a little caper with flair. “Blanca”: The three of you are gonna head upstate and wrap one of those high society dames's country house in a giant condom…Whose house? Frederica Norman's. I thought I might kill two birds with one stone. It's an opportunity to highlight her bigotry and get the message out about condom use. While they’re inflating a huge balloon condom all around her house, with TV crew in tow, a middle-aged neighbor with hair in curlers and housecoat walking by contradicts an attempt to flatter her: She's the worst neighbor I've ever had. That bitch can die in a fire. But I'm still calling the cops. Somehow I didn’t catch how, “Blanca” has re-opened her nail salon, when “Fredericka” storms in and is told: You know what? I reserve the right to refuse services to anyone, especially a homophobic, racist witch who breaks contracts. “Fredericka”: I've been stiffed on payments, I've been double-crossed on deals. That all comes with the territory. But your assault on me, my home, my reputation! “Blanca”: Please, Frederica. You act like the world didn't already know you was a stone-cold bitch. You basically bragged about how hard you was the first day we met. “Fredericka” is surprisingly revealing: This is different. You humiliated me. Do you know how difficult it is for a woman in real estate? Now they're laughing at me. And those Upper West Side commies think I'm prejudiced. And all because of you. “Blanca”: Good. Now, can you please leave my establishment? “Fredericka”: Fine. I just came down here to say congratulations, Blanca, or whatever your real name is. You won. I'm not easy to get the best of. I almost admire you. Underestimate me at your peril. Do be careful at night when you leave here, though. This neighborhood isn't improving as fast as I thought it would. “Blanca”: Excuse me, is that a threat? You gonna send somebody to bust my kneecaps? I'm just saying that you should underestimate me at your peril, too, sweetheart. She reports back to her housemates: So, next thing I know, she up and left. I mean, she just hopped in her car and sped away.
In “Life’s A Beach”, written by Gwyneth Horder-Payton, “Frederica” saunters into the burned-out storefront in a lovely yellow outfit.: What happened to my building? This is devastating. How will I recover?…My name is on the deed, sweetheart. I was in the car heading to my summer cottage when I got the call that my property had burned down. Isn't that terrible? “Blanca”: I put all of my savings into this salon, and somehow, I didn't know that insurance was needed to cover the supplies and furniture and all of my stuff! It went up into smoke just like that. “Fredericka”: You live and you learn. “Blanca”: Going toe-to-toe with you, I learned what protecting yourself really looks like. You taught me that. And for that, I will be grateful. “Fredericka”: After our squabble, I raised the insurance coverage on this building. I just had a feeling something like this could happen. Come next spring, I'll triple the rent, attracting tenants that will breathe a breath of fresh air - into this ghetto enclave. Yeah, this place is right on track for a much-needed makeover. How I will miss our conversations. I will relish all summer the thought of you back home, in your grim little Bronx walk-up, filing acrylics in the sweltering 100-degree August heat.
“Fredericka” manages to persevere in the season finale “In My Heels”, written and directed by Janet Mock. “Blanca” reads aloud a newspaper article: A female real estate mogul was arrested Thursday morning in connection to a Harlem building fire - that erupted last August. Frederica Norman, 62, was charged with felony first-degree arson for the fire at 794 East 116th Street, where two firefighters were injured and a nail salon owner lost her business. Ms. Norman is believed to have set the blaze herself in order to profit by filing fraudulent insurance claims following the fire. At the conclusion, her lawyer meets with her in jail: When am I getting out, Asher? Lawyer: The judge revoked bail…He feels with your wealth, you're a flight risk. She laughs, then does a peroration worthy of the equally morally compromised Scarlett O’Hara: They are so goddamn predictable. It's because I'm a woman. Lawyer: You're in here because an eyewitness saw you leaving a building. She: Asher, because they want to make an example. To put me in my place. To put all women in their place. We are not allowed to have empires or emotions. We are expected to sit at home patiently waiting for our husbands, cook their meals, supply unpaid emotional and physical labor to aid in the fulfillment of their dreams. We are not supposed to have dreams of our own.
The only thing I feel bad about, if I have anything to feel bad about at all, is that I ended another woman's dreams. For that, I will proudly serve time. But I will not be penalized for having a dream of my own and doing what I had to do to make it a reality.
I refuse to be shamed for my ambition! She slams down the phone. The ill “Blanca” continues reading the article aloud, with a chuckle: Ms. Norman could face five years in prison, - according to state officials…1996 seems like a lifetime away. Frederica being locked up is further proof - that my work here is done. (updated 9/4/2019)
In The Terror (on AMC), brilliantly set during the horrific detention of Japanese-American citizens, in “All The Demons Are Still in Hell”, written by Tony Tost, the young man “Chester Nakayama” (Derek Mio) seeks out his photography “Professor Henkoff” (played by Geoff Gustafson) about the spooky image that keeps appearing in his photos: There's been a few funerals on Terminal Island lately, and some more of the pictures that I took turned out like this. What am I doing wrong? Teacher: Well, if you ask my old professor, he'd say it's a combination of a slow shutter and a shaky hand. If you ask my Jewish mother, she'd say you've been taking photos of things you shouldn't be. “Chester”: But I asked you. Teacher: Well, I say a picture captures a photographer's relationship to the world around him, and with everything that's been going on right now, it's no surprise that yours are coming out a little disturbed. It's a tough time, Chester. I can only imagine what this is like for you right now. (8/19/2019)
Miriam “Midge” Maisel etc. –in 3rd season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (on Amazon, coming December 2019) I’m looking forward to streaming – and commenting on -- the first season first. (8/19/2019)
At the start of this season, Lisa Edelstein made her most Jewish appearance, and her most comic, in the PSA for Hillel’s ”Mitz Vote” campaign to get college students and other young Jews to register for vote in time for the midterm elections, an updated version of Sarah Silverman’s “The Great Schlep” to get out the vote for Obama in Florida.
Stockholm – 1st season - I am woefully behind on streaming the many Israeli TV series streaming on U.S.-available platforms, because reading subtitles and taking notes is work, or catching introductory episodes at film festivals (as I did with On The Spectrum). But the 2019 New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival promoted that at least three episodes of this dark comic mini-series would be shown; though only two were due to endless speeches for the awarding of the 2019 Ronit Elkabetz A*H Pomegranate Award to co-star Sasson Gabay and designer Oded Halahmy, plus politicians.
Based on the bestselling novel (not available in English) by award-winner female Israeli writer Noa Yedlin, who co-wrote the four episodes, one each about the long-time, 70-year-old friends dealing with the sudden death of one who was an eminent economist expected to win the Nobel Prize, two women and two men, all with fond memories of their hippie-like youths together. Recently retired from some sort of medical practice and already bored with helping out her children with grandmother duties is Nilli (Tikva Dayan), who is more earthy and practical than the silly randy bubbes in most comedies. Writer Zohara Zak(Liora Rivlin) does commissioned biographies, and lands in a widely publicized scandal due to loudly accusing a 90 year old subject, a Holocaust survivor, of sexual harassment at his birthday party that is caught on viral video and on gossip TV; she also confesses to her friends that she had a long-time open relationship affair with the deceased, and does seem to be the only one genuinely moved by his death. These are mature, intelligent, very appealing characters who are unusual for TV, and I hope to get to see the rest of this 1st season of episodes through the distributor Menemsha Films, as this has been playing at many festivals in North America, and there’s talk of a 2nd season. (The first 2 episodes also shown at 2019 Israel Film Center Festival) (updated 6/7/2019)
Poetry in America (on some PBS stations) – In Harvard Prof. Elisa New’s Episode 4 on Allen Ginsberg, the discussion on the “Hymmnn” section of Kaddish with brief explanations to the references to “Naomi”, his mentally ill mother, and comparative recitations, as Tablet Magazine noted: “Rabbi Claudia Kreiman davens Ginsberg texts with a melody generally used for traditional Jewish liturgy.” The series also featured the poem The New Colossus by Sephardic poet Emma Lazarus, and one of the immigrant commenters was singer/songwriter Regina Spektor, who I include on Jewish Women in Popular Music. (10/28/2019)
Portraits in Architecture – Nada Breitman-Jakov (on some PBS stations) – While Geoffrey Baer, out of Chicago public broadcasting station WTTW, has developed various architectural and city planning programs that have been picked up by PBS, I can’t think of women designers he has featured. So in this six episode, half-hour series, in affiliation with Notre Dame’s traditional School of Architecture, that champions non-modernist architects, I was surprised to see the only woman, a Jewish woman, though she, and her husband Marc, are only identified as Jewish in the accompanying blog. While Baer mentions Brussels-born and trained Breitman-Jakov’s mother in passing, she pays tribute to her father, a modernist architect who preferred American suburbia to her preservationist bent; she proudly shows a book she produced of his work, and laughs about their arguments. She met her husband and architectural practice partner during their unsuccessful effort to preserve a working-class Parisian neighborhood, and they have since successfully applied classical architecture forms to what’s called in Europe “social housing”; examples are shown of their work in northern France and Amsterdam. I could find almost no additional information on her, other than that the couple received the school’s Driehaus Prize in 2018, when the program was produced. (7/30/2019)
Deutschland 86 (on Sundance Channel) Amidst international skulduggery while East Germany’s and South Africa’s governments are falling, in creator Anna Winger’s follow-up to her Deutschland 83 mini-series, the first Jewish women characterse appeared half-way. Radical ANC rebel/terrorist “Rose” (Florence Kasumba) meets with a German-Jewish family who had fled the Nazis for safe haven in South Africa, where they reconstructed the same villa, and now have returned to reclaim their house in the GDR, complete with menorah on the mantle. As much as she and her GDR spy lover “Leonora Rauch” (Maria Schrader) mock the Rosenbergs, frau and daughter (Eleonore Weisgerber and Deborah Kaufmann) for being bourgeois, including managing to have a black maid in the Communist country like “Rose”s family was for them in S. Africa, “Rose” asks them to sponsor her daughter “Tandi” to be safe with them when South Africa (due to her activities) gets violent, ironically. (11/18/2018)
We Will Meet Again – 2nd season (on PBS) Ann Curry’s tearjerker series of people searching for the one person who has haunted them as most significant in their lives featured an explicitly Jewish woman as the object of the search in the episode of Holocaust survivors. Ben Alalouf seeks the little girl who was his first friend in the U.S. when his family was with the only refugee group allowed into the U.S., from a ship in Naples in 1944 to an old Army base in Oswego, NY (as documented in Ruth Gruber’s Haven). He played with a girl he remembered only as “Seca”. The Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum curator figures out where his family stayed, who was adjacent with a young girl, and makes contact. Because “Seca” turns out to just mean “Sister”, her brother helps him find a very surprised Flora Friedman. Through the USC Shoah Foundation, the other survivor, Ben Lesser, connects with his friend’s daughter Osnet, at the kibbutz his like-a-brother founded, and he now considers her his niece. (11/29/2018)
In this season of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (on PBS) – Jewish guests included in the episode “Dreaming of A New Land” Facebook’s Sheryl “Lean In” Sandberg (whose DNA was the highest percentage of Ashkenazi Gates’ had seen on this series). She already knew a lot about her immediate female successful ancestors of whom she is very proud, but learned of the struggles of a widowed, poverty-stricken immigrant great-grandmother whose difficulties explained the behavior of a grandfather her family had shunned. [More commentary forthcoming] (2/3/2019)
Better Things – in the 3rd season (on FX) While Pamela Adlon’s character was haunted this season by her very Jewish father “Murray Fox” (Adam Kulbersh), she continually insists that her mother and daughters are not Jewish, including make everyone celebrate Easter. [Details forthcoming] (5/22/2019)
The Bold Type (on Freeform) in the 2nd season continues to be offensive in its lack of Jewish women in New York publishing, let alone that these Bright Young Things are rising surprisingly fast. The episode “OMG”, written by Neel Shah, exemplifies how this series bothers me. “Jane Sloan” (Katie Stevens) is leery of dating a cute dedicated doctor who turns out to be: religious. Like he prayed before we ate. You don’t see that around New York. Roommate “Sutton Brady” (Meghann Fahey): But you’ve dated religious guys before, remember the one from Park Slope, made his own pickles, Jewish? Josh? “Jane”: Yeah but in New York Judaism is like a lifestyle choice. “Kat Edison” (Aisha Dee), their black/mixed race lesbian roommate dating a devout Muslim: Veganism is a lifestyle choice. Judaism is definitely still a religion. (6/27/2018)
The Goldbergs – Beverly and Erica plus in the 6th season (on ABC) (I detest this sit com so much that I couldn’t bring myself to finish watching even the 2nd season, so I’m not goint to waste my time watching the didn’t-deserve-to-be-renewed 5th season. While I could even now catch it more frequently in syndication, I’ll probably have to end up buying the complete series on DVD to do a complete review with episode-by-episode documentation of its clichés.) (10/18/2018)
Miriam “Midge” Maisel etc. –in 2nd season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (on Amazon) I’m looking forward to streaming – and commenting on -- the first season first. (12/5/2018)
Grace and Frankie – Frankie Bergstein in the 5th Season (on Netflix) Whoops – Season 5 began streaming January 2018 before I even got a chance to watch S1 yet to comment on Lily Tomlin’s portrayal of the Jewish woman character. (12/5/2018)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Rebecca Bunch, her mother, and others in their 4th season (on CW) The 7th episode, “I Will Help You”, written by Aline Brosh McKenna was the big “Jewish” episode of this final season, revolving, as usual, around her mother (still played by Tovah Feldshuh), with a cameo surprise appearance by Elayne Boosler. (updated 2/2/2019)
Felicity Smoak in the 7th season of