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“Jews on TV: Exploring Representations of Jewish Identity on American and Israeli Screens.”

Tue, December 18, 12:45 to 2:15pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Amphitheater

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


America is currently witnessing a creative explosion of Jewish content on television. Such shows as CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, BROAD CITY and TRANSPARENT are challenging representations of Jews by examining identity, belonging, and cultural authenticity in new ways. This session aims to explore these acclaimed shows, using gender, class, and nationalism as categories of analysis. For comparison, we will discuss the Russian-Israeli show TROIKA, which also deals with minority identity. Questions for discussion include: What role is the fragmentation of TV/streaming services playing in the production of “niche” Jewish content? How do these programs engage with Jewish stereotypes? Specifically in what ways do they re-examine notions of Jewish femininity? How do these shows conceptualize diasporic identity in the 21st century? Participants in the session are scholars of Jewish theater, literature, popular culture and history. Stuart Hecht, Associate Professor of Theater at Boston College, will focus on THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL, highlighting issues of gender and humor, generational conflict and cultural authenticity. Sandra Fox, a recent PhD from New York University’s History and Hebrew Judaic Studies departments, will discuss CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, focusing on how the show portrays Jewish femininity, Jewish New Yorkers, and mental illness. Alex Moshkin, a postdoctoral scholar at the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, will focus on TROIKA, exploring how its transnational geographies and allegiances complicate a Zionist narrative of homecoming. Margarita Levantovskaya, a scholar of Jewish literature and culture and lecturer in the department of English at Santa Clara University, will compare BROAD CITY and TRANSPARENT, specifically how each show represents its Jewish-American characters’ arguably failed encounters with Israel. The roundtable will be moderated by Jessica Carr, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lafayette College. Carr will pose questions and keep the roundtable focused on the impact of recent structural changes in television on representations of Jewishness. The diverse academic backgrounds of all the participants should result in a dynamic conversation about current trends in portraying Jews in TV series.

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