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The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama Previous Broadcasts

Over The Rainbow (Episode #104H)

KQED World: Sun, Jan 22, 2017 -- 8:00 PM

Simon Schama plunges viewers into the lost world of the shtetl, the Jewish towns and villages sewn across the hinterlands of Eastern Europe, which became the seedbed of a uniquely Jewish culture. Shtetl culture would make its mark on the modern world, from the revolutionary politics of the Soviet Union to the mass culture of Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood. It was also the birthplaces of Hasidism, the most visible, iconic and, arguably, most misunderstood expression of Jewish faith and fervor. This episode travels from the forests of Lithuania, where Schama's own family logged wood and fought wolves, to the boulevards of Odessa, where shtetl kids argued the merits of revolutionary socialism over Zionism. From the Ukrainian city of Uman, where today thousands of the Hasidim chant and sing over the tomb of the wonder-working Rabbi Nachman, to the streets of Manhattan's lower east side, where the sons of shtetl immigrants wrote the American songbook. The program returns, with grim inevitability, to Eastern Europe in 1940, where the genocidal mechanisms of the "final solution" were beginning to grind the shtetl world into dust and ash.

A Leap of Faith (Episode #103H)

KQED World: Sun, Jan 15, 2017 -- 8:00 PM

Simon Schama explores the bright, hopeful moment when Enlightenment thinkers and revolutionary armies brought ghetto walls crashing down - allowing Jews to weave their wisdom, creativity and energies into the very fabric of modern life in Europe. One of the most of fruitful branches of this Jewish renaissance was in music, and the stellar careers of Giacomo Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn established the enduring tradition for Jewish musical prodigies. However, the remarkably successful integration of Jewish talent into the mainstream of European culture and commerce stirred up the ghosts of ancient prejudice, decked out in the new clothes of romantic nationalism and the pseudo-science of anti-semitism. The road to the hell of the Holocaust was paved by the diatribes of Richard Wagner, while the trial of Alfred Dreyfus led Theodor Herzl to conclude that without a homeland of their own, Jews would never be free of the millennia-old persecution.

Among Believers (Episode #102H)

KQED World: Sun, Jan 8, 2017 -- 8:00 PM

Simon Schama's epic series continues with the story of medieval Jews struggling to preserve their identity - and sometimes their lives - under the rule of Christianity and Islam. Whether labeled "Christ-killers" by the Christians or "dhimmi" (non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic community) by the Muslims, diaspora Jews built new lives and invented new ways of being Jewish in exile in the face of discrimination, blood-libels and persecution interspersed with periods of tolerance, protection and peaceful co-existence. Drawing on some of the extraordinary documents they left behind, this episode offers a vivid portrait of Jewish bankers, merchants, doctors, poets and artists flourishing in Lincoln, Cordoba, Venice and Cairo and tells the heart-rending story of their mass expulsion from Spain in 1492.

The Beginning (Episode #101H)

KQED World: Sun, Jan 1, 2017 -- 8:00 PM

The story of the Jewish experience begins 3000 years ago with the emergence of a tribal people in a contested land and their extraordinary book, the Hebrew Bible, a chronicle of their stormy relationship with a faceless, formless, jealous God. It was loyalty to this "God of Words" that defined the distinct identity of the ancient Jews and preserved it despite all that history could throw their way - war, invasion, deportation, enslavement, exile and assimilation. The story unfolds with a dazzling cast of historical characters: Sigmund Freud dying in exile in London; Victorian evangelicals and explorers following "in the footsteps" of Moses; Jewish mercenaries living, prospering and intermarrying in the pagan land of Egypt; Messianic Jews dreaming of the Apocalypse; and a Jewish historian, Josephus, who witnessed first-hand the moment when the apocalypse finally came and the Romans destroyed the Jewish High Temple in Jerusalem.

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