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Dr. Goldman's comments so far...


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This is not meant to be a series of negative criticisms about TCM's guest this month, Dr. Eric Goldman. As he discusses Jewish representations on film, I want to point out some of my feelings about his comments and see if others are in agreement (or not). 

 

Let's get started.

 

At this point, I have seen his opening and closing remarks for the 1927 version of THE JAZZ SINGER, as well as his introduction for the remake starring Danny Thomas. 

 

It occurs to me that he is dwelling on the position of the temple, or Jewish synagogue, in neighborhoods and in how rabbis have moved up in terms of community respect, as evidenced by the title of doctor and how they dressed, etc. So already, the emphasis seems to be on the religious aspects, on Judaism. 

 

I was hoping that instead of getting into religion, he would look at the culture of Jewishness. Does that make sense? Not whether there was a synagogue on the same street as a Christian church and not whether Jews were faithfully going to temple each week-- but on how Jews are a race of people with certain customs and traditions (traditions in addition to keeping the sabbath holy). Am I making sense here?

 

I guess we will see how his comments continue to play out these five weeks, and again this is not negative criticism-- I just want to see if I am reading his comments correctly and if others are interpreting his remarks the way I seem to be.

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I've just watched Dr. Goldman's introduction to Hester Street. I will watch a few more intros, but so far I'm not impressed.  His point about the generation of the children of Jewish immigrants emphasizing assimilation and not caring about their roots is simply not true. I know how much that generation cared, while at the same time being totally American. If some of them began to drift away from the strict observance of the religion of their immigrant grandparents or parents, they still cared deeply about their culture and traditions.

 

So far, Goldman's remarks seem simplistic to me. He has a point of view and perhaps wants to make the facts conform to it. I think it would have been much more interesting to have Joan Micklin Silver introduce her film.

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i didn't know there was a danny thomas remake.

 

i only knew about (and eventually viewed) larry park's 'jolson story' (1946).

 

At this point, I have seen his opening and closing remarks for the 1927 version of THE JAZZ SINGER, as well as his introduction for the remake starring Danny Thomas.
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I've just watched Dr. Goldman's introduction to Hester Street. I will watch a few more intros, but so far I'm not impressed.  His point about the generation of the children of Jewish immigrants emphasizing assimilation and not caring about their roots is simply not true. I know how much that generation cared, while at the same time being totally American. If some of them began to drift away from the strict observance of the religion of their immigrant grandparents or parents, they still cared deeply about their culture and traditions.

 

So far, Goldman's remarks seem simplistic to me. He has a point of view and perhaps wants to make the facts conform to it. I think it would have been much more interesting to have Joan Micklin Silver introduce her film.

Exactly-- a Jewish director is going to have a more unique point of view about Jewish images on film, because he or she poured a lot of time, passion and money into getting their films made, so it will be a more personal interview. I am not saying Goldman still couldn't be used, and in fact on some of these wraparounds it could be a small panel of Osborne, Goldman and the director or star of the film if still living. But just having Goldman on as THE expert is a little bit too authoritarian. 

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Exactly-- a Jewish director is going to have a more unique point of view about Jewish images on film, because he or she poured a lot of time, passion and money into getting their films made, so it will be a more personal interview. I am not saying Goldman still couldn't be used, and in fact on some of these wraparounds it could be a small panel of Osborne, Goldman and the director or star of the film if still living. But just having Goldman on as THE expert is a little bit too authoritarian. 

My problem (so far) with Goldman is not that he is an academic -- I wish TCM would employ more academics, film theorists, etc. My problem (and I just watched his intro to Avalon) is that I don't think his conclusions are accurate. He refers to Avalon as a mythical place, and says that people didn't really have mothers living downstairs or across the street, to help out. "Not a real place then," RO responds; and Goldman responds "Not a real place." In fact, it was a real place.  That's how the immigrant community lived, insular, supportive, together. Levinson came from Baltimore. He not only chose to set his film in his home town; he even gave the family his mother's maiden name.  Believe me, I know from experience that the easiest speaker to get is one who is promoting a book. But so far, I don't think Goldman's statements are accurate.

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Too Top BIlled:  I would strongly recommend that you consider your statement related to Jews as a race of people...Jews and Jewish related topics refer to a religion not a race.  The reference to Danny Thomas as the lead  in the 1950's Jazz Singer is to his being a semite.  Semites originate from the Hebrew word Shem which I believe may be first mentioned in Genesis...but don't quote me on that.  In acutality to be anit-Semetic is a gross over statement in relationship to Jews as all middle Easterns are semetic as are Turks, most North Africans and the race reaches into Southwest Spain. 

 

Semetic encompasses a region of modern and ancient Semetic speakers including  Aramaic/Sypriac, Canaannite and Maltese.The first proven reference to any Semetic people was found in Mesopotamia.  As well do not forget the Sephardim in Spain who were a prominent part of Spanish society concomittantly with the Muslim presence in Spain prior to the overthrow of the Muslims and the beginning of the Inquistion.

 

Most Jewish customs stem from the interpetation of the Torah over time by Rabbis and and other learned Jewish religionists.  Most customs you might see in the movies also relate to what region in Europe the Jews immigrated from...there is a vast difference, in some cases, between Jews from Russia and the Settlement of the Pale and the assimilated Jews in pre WWII in Germany and Austria. 

 

I don't think Dr. Goldman's intent is to provide the viewers with an introductory course in Judaism, but to provide us with a perspective on Jews in Cinema as it contrasts with society over time.  Dr. Goldman's observation regarding the symbolism of the Synagogue in relationship to the Church was to demonstrate inclusion of Judaism into mainstream American society, unlike the exclusion Jews in communities in Europe referred to as Ghettos.   In the USA Judaism and Jews were able to escape the exclusion of their religion and assimilate.  As far as the reference of the Rabbi in the movie as "Dr." that also demonstrates the professionalism that Rabbis had obtained in comparison to earlier Rabbis who mostly learned at the "feet" of others without much in the way of what you might call formal education. 

 

This series is about cinema, cinema growth in society and how it began to reflecst on all cultures (albiet somewhat slowly) but in reality only what society as a whole was willing to absorb.

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My problem (so far) with Goldman is not that he is an academic -- I wish TCM would employ more academics, film theorists, etc. My problem (and I just watched his intro to Avalon) is that I don't think his conclusions are accurate. He refers to Avalon as a mythical place, and says that people didn't really have mothers living downstairs or across the street, to help out. "Not a real place then," RO responds; and Goldman responds "Not a real place." In fact, it was a real place.  That's how the immigrant community lived, insular, supportive, together. Levinson came from Baltimore. He not only chose to set his film in his home town; he even gave the family his mother's maiden name.  Believe me, I know from experience that the easiest speaker to get is one who is promoting a book. But so far, I don't think Goldman's statements are accurate.

See, and this is where having Levinson on to describe how authentic the Avalon setting is (to him and others from similar backgrounds) would be beneficial. 

 

One thing I want to say is that there are obviously different kinds of Jewish people. How Goldman was raised in America is not exactly how other Jews, including Barry Levinson, were raised in America. 

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Too Top BIlled:  I would strongly recommend that you consider your statement related to Jews as a race of people...Jews and Jewish related topics refer to a religion not a race.  The reference to Danny Thomas as the lead  in the 1950's Jazz Singer is to his being a semite.  Semites originate from the Hebrew word Shem which I believe may be first mentioned in Genesis...but don't quote me on that.  In acutality to be anit-Semetic is a gross over statement in relationship to Jews as all middle Easterns are semetic as are Turks, most North Africans and the race reaches into Southwest Spain. 

 

Semetic encompasses a region of modern and ancient Semetic speakers including  Aramaic/Sypriac, Canaannite and Maltese.The first proven reference to any Semetic people was found in Mesopotamia.  As well do not forget the Sephardim in Spain who were a prominent part of Spanish society concomittantly with the Muslim presence in Spain prior to the overthrow of the Muslims and the beginning of the Inquistion.

 

Most Jewish customs stem from the interpetation of the Torah over time by Rabbis and and other learned Jewish religionists.  Most customs you might see in the movies also relate to what region in Europe the Jews immigrated from...there is a vast difference, in some cases, between Jews from Russia and the Settlement of the Pale and the assimilated Jews in pre WWII in Germany and Austria. 

 

I don't think Dr. Goldman's intent is to provide the viewers with an introductory course in Judaism, but to provide us with a perspective on Jews in Cinema as it contrasts with society over time.  Dr. Goldman's observation regarding the symbolism of the Synagogue in relationship to the Church was to demonstrate inclusion of Judaism into mainstream American society, unlike the exclusion Jews in communities in Europe referred to as Ghettos.   In the USA Judaism and Jews were able to escape the exclusion of their religion and assimilate.  As far as the reference of the Rabbi in the movie as "Dr." that also demonstrates the professionalism that Rabbis had obtained in comparison to earlier Rabbis who mostly learned at the "feet" of others without much in the way of what you might call formal education. 

 

This series is about cinema, cinema growth in society and how it began to reflecst on all cultures (albiet somewhat slowly) but in reality only what society as a whole was willing to absorb.

I understand what you are saying. But I do not think Goldman is an expert on cinema. He is an expert on Jewish culture and he is studying how that is reflected through cinema. But he is not a filmmaker and really does not have an overall understanding of cinematic techniques. Therefore, instead of looking at the ways Jewish characters are featured by means of filmmaking techniques (like lighting, dialogue, casting-- which Osborne pointed out with Danny Thomas) we instead see Goldman talking about how the faith shows up in movies, and he is definitely making it more about religion.

 

I would bet that if I picked up a copy of his book(s), I would not find anything about atheists or converts to Christianity who come from Jewish backgrounds-- you know, where the culture is originally and on some fundamental level still basically Jewish but they no longer go to temple. 

 

If the first night of his commentary is any indication of the next four weeks for this series, I fear that I will be mighty disappointed. I was hoping for more analysis of Jewish filmmaking styles (by Jews and non-Jews) and how cultural traits are depicted, not how orthodox or reformed the characters in these stories may be.

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Too Top BIlled:  I would strongly recommend that you consider your statement related to Jews as a race of people...Jews and Jewish related topics refer to a religion not a race.  

 

I know it can get murky when one talks about ethnicity, but let me assure you that Jews are also an "ethnic" group. A Jew who calls him/herself secular, or atheist, even a convert to Christianity, remains Jewish, ethnicity-wise, just as an Englishman who moves to Spain remains English. I'm Jewish -- I'm not really observant, religion-wise, though I value the traditions. My roots are Eastern European, but I did a DNA test recently which showed the connection to the Northern Fertile Crescent. It filled me with pride, to know that the o r a l tradition of my family and science come together to tell me that I am related to those people you read about in the Bible. I have non-Jewish friends of other ethnicities who did the same DNA test. Their results showed different roots.  But if you do the test on Jews in America, Europe, the Bene Israel in India, or the Jews in China, although there may be variations due to mixing with others, there will be a connection with Jews all over the world rather than with the non-Jewish communities where they live.  And of course Jews do not try to convert people as a rule, but in those circumstances where others convert to Judaism -- Elizabeth Taylor or Eleanor Parker, for example -- their DNA remains the same. They can accept the religion, but not become Jews ethnicity-wise.

 

Yes -- there is variation in Jewish cultural practice, though within a firm Jewish nucleus. I went to a Passover seder at the home of a Jewish family from India. The main course was a sort of Jewish biryani. You wouldn't find that at a European-Jewish seder. But apart from that, the connection was strong. There are Jews who practice -- or don't practice -- all sorts of variations in religion. There is even a group called the Karaites, who reject all rabbinic teaching. But we are all Jews, whatever we practice, and wherever we go.

 

RO's statement of the "mission" of TCM's current (and admirable) series is "the depiction of Jews in movies."  My problem with Goldman is that (so far -- I've only seen him twice --) I think some of his conclusions are erroneous.

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Swithin:  I agree with the geneology, however my family was English and Jewish..so when they immigrated to the US, they were listed on their entry documents as English, not Jewish, anyway the middle fertile crescent includes Lebanese and Jordanians does it not?   

 

I do want to get back to Dr. Goldman and how we all relate to the movies presented.  I know I have it in mind to purchase the book he wrote because what you are able to read and comprehend from a book as opposed to "sound bites" directed to the larger population is a better source of information.

 

I won't argue with his comments as I most likely will try to remember the experiences I had the first or second time I watched a movie without Dr. Goldman's or others' observations. Let us just be happy this experience is being placed in front of TCM fans and watchers, regardless.   

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Swithin:  I agree with the geneology, however my family was English and Jewish..so when they immigrated to the US, they were listed on their entry documents as English, not Jewish, anyway the middle fertile crescent includes Lebanese and Jordanians does it not?   

 

I do want to get back to Dr. Goldman and how we all relate to the movies presented.  I know I have it in mind to purchase the book he wrote because what you are able to read and comprehend from a book as opposed to "sound bites" directed to the larger population is a better source of information.

 

I won't argue with his comments as I most likely will try to remember the experiences I had the first or second time I watched a movie without Dr. Goldman's or others' observations. Let us just be happy this experience is being placed in front of TCM fans and watchers, regardless.   

Yes, we should be happy that the experience is being place in front of TCM viewers! Of course, we all have our favorite films which we wish were included, but this is a great beginning!

 

(By the way, I have cousins in England who are Jewish. Their DNA/haplogroup would be like mine.  There are also percentages involved; so that my DNA result, which is one part of the picture, may be found within other ethnic groups, including those of Middle Eastern origin, but not as high, percentage-wise, as in those who identify as Jews.)

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I know it can get murky when one talks about ethnicity, but let me assure you that Jews are also an "ethnic" group. A Jew who calls him/herself secular, or atheist, even a convert to Christianity, remains Jewish, ethnicity-wise, just as an Englishman who moves to Spain remains English. I'm Jewish -- I'm not really observant, religion-wise, though I value the traditions. My roots are Eastern European, but I did a DNA test recently which showed the connection to the Northern Fertile Crescent. It filled me with pride, to know that the o r a l tradition of my family and science come together to tell me that I am related to those people you read about in the Bible. 

Yes-- good post. And obviously Hitler was not trying to tear down temples as much as he was trying to eradicate Jewish blood (DNA).

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Swithin:  I agree with the geneology, however my family was English and Jewish..

I think you should admit you were wrong and that Swithin corrected you.  This is what you told me earlier in the thread:

 

I would strongly recommend that you consider your statement related to Jews as a race of people...Jews and Jewish related topics refer to a religion not a race.  

 
So if you agreed with the genealogy, why did you tell me that? I think you were erroneous when you said Jews are not a race of people. If you are part Jewish, shouldn't you know this? I'm a bit confused by some of your statements. LOL
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Another thing that Goldman is probably going to ignore is something that I know will bother me, since one of grandmothers was from a Jewish background-- is that some of us are a fraction Jewish. I am getting the impression that Goldman thinks that something is either Jewish or not Jewish-- but there is a gray area where cultures merge.

 

In fact, this is one of the main problems I have with TCM's Projected Image series. I call it the ProTected Image series...where we are protecting absolute values related to race and culture. When they did the series on blacks, Asians and Arabs they did not really address interracial depictions. And similarly when they did the series on gay and lesbians, they did not address bisexual identifications.  I think TCM is complicit in pushing a set of absolute values on unknowing viewers with these programs, even if they have the best intentions at heart.

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Swithin and Top Billed...Enough already on genetics and back to the movies.  I really detest rabbit holes so I guess we will all have to wait until next week to make more observations regarding Dr. Goldman's comments in relationship to heritage (race or religion) cultural perspective and other items brought forth in the movies.  I do have to remember he is not giving a symposium here...just observations.

 

I would suggest we all peruse his book to see if it his written word is different than his spoken word.   Darn..should have thought about that...it is available as an E-book. 

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Swithin and Top Billed...Enough already on genetics and back to the movies.  I really detest rabbit holes so I guess we will all have to wait until next week to make more observations regarding Dr. Goldman's comments in relationship to heritage (race or religion) cultural perspective and other items brought forth in the movies.  I do have to remember he is not giving a symposium here...just observations.

 

I would suggest we all peruse his book to see if it his written word is different than his spoken word.   Darn..should have thought about that...it is available as an E-book. 

 

Emily, with all respect, I fear you have a tendency to try to end discussions under the guise of them being off-topic. But the fact is, this thread, which was started by someone else, is about Dr. Goldman's comments, not necessarily about the Jewish film series, or the films themselves -- there is another excellent thread -- which I am glad you started -- about that topic. And with further respect, you say "we will all have to wait until next week to make more observations regarding Dr. Goldman's comments," but, rest assured, Emily, if I choose to make more comments before next week, I will do so. And the pathways my comments take, from the jumping-off point of Dr. Goldman's comments, will be of my choosing as well!

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Another thing that Goldman is probably going to ignore is something that I know will bother me, since one of grandmothers was from a Jewish background-- is that some of us are a fraction Jewish. I am getting the impression that Goldman thinks that something is either Jewish or not Jewish-- but there is a gray area where cultures merge.

 

In fact, this is one of the main problems I have with TCM's Projected Image series. I call it the ProTected Image series...where we are protecting absolute values related to race and culture. When they did the series on blacks, Asians and Arabs they did not really address interracial depictions. And similarly when they did the series on gay and lesbians, they did not address bisexual identifications.  I think TCM is complicit in pushing a set of absolute values on unknowing viewers with these programs, even if they have the best intentions at heart.

 

I think these are good points to bring up here, TB.

 

During Dr. Goldman's intro and "extro" comments of HESTER STREET last night, I too got the sense he was "overgeneralizing" his comments in the manner in which you've just described. However, we must remember that he is only given but a few minutes in which to make whatever point or points he wishes to make during his appearances.

 

I found HESTER STREET to be almost a universal tale of American assimilation and regardless the point that it's specifically about the Jewish experience during the turn of the 20th Century. And, I also think another aspect to this film in particular which might have been or easily could be overlooked was the "Rural vs Urban" issue. In this I mean I got the sense that Carol Kane's character was newly arrived from some smaller and homogeneous burg in eastern Europe, and thus locations in which the social structures are usually much more rigidly traditional, and whereas Steven Keats' character having lived in the large and diverse city of New York for a number of years had found he must break with his tradition in order to succeed in this sort of diverse environment.

 

I think we still see this same social phenomenon at work today in a general sense, as could it not be said the smaller and more rural a location be, the more likelihood it is the people living there would be more inclined toward more rigidly traditional viewpoints, and regardless the location's predominant religion? 

 

(...I mean, hey, they don't call a particular region located in America's Midwest and that consists of smaller towns and cities "The Bible Belt" for NOTHIN', ya know!!!) LOL

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Turks are most definitely NOT Semitic!  Semitic refers to the more northern group of languages of the Afro-Asiatic language group:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semitic_languages

 

The people we know as "Turks" are just one of many Turkic peoples who originated in Central Asia.  Turkic languages have no apparent relation to Semitic languages:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkic_languages

 

The "Turks" of Turkey migrated westward to Asia Minor ~1000 years ago and displaced/assimilated Celtic ("Galatian"), Armenian, and other peoples who mostly spoke Indo-European languages.

 

Now I'll turn off the academic part of my brain and get back to being a movie fan :)

 

 

Too Top BIlled:  I would strongly recommend that you consider your statement related to Jews as a race of people...Jews and Jewish related topics refer to a religion not a race.  The reference to Danny Thomas as the lead  in the 1950's Jazz Singer is to his being a semite.  Semites originate from the Hebrew word Shem which I believe may be first mentioned in Genesis...but don't quote me on that.  In acutality to be anit-Semetic is a gross over statement in relationship to Jews as all middle Easterns are semetic as are Turks, most North Africans and the race reaches into Southwest Spain. 

 

Semetic encompasses a region of modern and ancient Semetic speakers including  Aramaic/Sypriac, Canaannite and Maltese.The first proven reference to any Semetic people was found in Mesopotamia.  As well do not forget the Sephardim in Spain who were a prominent part of Spanish society concomittantly with the Muslim presence in Spain prior to the overthrow of the Muslims and the beginning of the Inquistion.

 

Most Jewish customs stem from the interpetation of the Torah over time by Rabbis and and other learned Jewish religionists.  Most customs you might see in the movies also relate to what region in Europe the Jews immigrated from...there is a vast difference, in some cases, between Jews from Russia and the Settlement of the Pale and the assimilated Jews in pre WWII in Germany and Austria. 

 

I don't think Dr. Goldman's intent is to provide the viewers with an introductory course in Judaism, but to provide us with a perspective on Jews in Cinema as it contrasts with society over time.  Dr. Goldman's observation regarding the symbolism of the Synagogue in relationship to the Church was to demonstrate inclusion of Judaism into mainstream American society, unlike the exclusion Jews in communities in Europe referred to as Ghettos.   In the USA Judaism and Jews were able to escape the exclusion of their religion and assimilate.  As far as the reference of the Rabbi in the movie as "Dr." that also demonstrates the professionalism that Rabbis had obtained in comparison to earlier Rabbis who mostly learned at the "feet" of others without much in the way of what you might call formal education. 

 

This series is about cinema, cinema growth in society and how it began to reflecst on all cultures (albiet somewhat slowly) but in reality only what society as a whole was willing to absorb.

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