The Holocaust Historiography Project

Jews in American Film and Television

America’s motion picture industry is so keenly attuned to Jewish concerns and sensibilities that even some Jewish observers seem amazed. Noting that a Jewish-theme film has received the Oscar award in the documentary film category for three years in a row, Ami Eden, a writer for the Jewish Exponent — a paper serving the Jewish community of Philadelphia — offered this tongue in cheek commentary in a recent column (March 30, 2000, p. 5):

Rumor has it that non-Jewish films are actually eligible to win the Oscar for best documentary, but someone seems to have forgotten the judges. This year, the choice was “One Day in September,” which examines the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Two Holocaust-related films, “The Long Way Home” and “The Last Days,” took home the honor in 1998 and 1999, respectively.

So as not to raise any more false hopes among producers of non-Jewish films, rumor has it that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to change the name of the category. Next year, expect the announcement to read something like this: The Oscar for Best Documentary on a Jewish Topic goes to …

'Incredibly Favorable' Media Treatment

No less than Hollywood, American television is keenly sensitive to Jewish interests and concerns. Joseph Aaron, a regular writer for the Chicago Jewish News and other Jewish community papers, candidly observed in a recent column: “The fact is that Jews get just about the most favorable media treatment of any group in this country … Not only are we not covered unfairly but we are, in fact, portrayed incredibly favorably …” (Jewish Journal, Los Angeles, April 7, 2000, p. 66)

Aaron went on to write glowingly of a recent episode of the popular television series “Touched by Angel,” in which Judaism is portrayed in affectionate detail. One of the episode’s script writers, Aaron noted, is an Orthodox rabbi. So sympathetic to Jews and Judaism is this episode that Aaron gushes: “Amazing, remarkable … How many other religions get their sacred moments shown lovingly and accurately on national TV on a prime time series?”

“Part of our problem, I think,” Aaron goes on to tell his Jewish readers,

is that we've elevated being suspicious to an art form. Even though no one is chasing us anymore, we can’t shake the feeling that there must be someone out there gunning for us. And so if there isn’t, we imagine it.

… We complain and moan about how the media treat us, portray us and yet we fail to see how often and how much they portray us as they did on Sunday night’s “Touched by an Angel.”