Two shows to Stream

I found this map in Wikipedia while reading the book on the black Death by Norman Cantor. Cantor mentions how the ignorant Europeans decided that Jews were responsible for the horrendous casualties of the Plague. It helped that they gained a confession through torture of a poor Jew who admitted he had gotten poison from a Rabbi and poured it into wells all over Europe. Yay Waterboarding!

What I was specifically interested in was the expulsion of the Jews from England. I remembered a scene from the old black and white movie Ivanhoe which showed the hero and a lovely Jewish maiden, we’re talking chaste if forbidden love here, and how the Jews generously loaned money to the English King…..or something like that. I wondered when this Hollywoodized scene would have taken place vis-a-vis the expulsion.

Cantor, who has also written a well reviewed history of the Jews, wrote about how Jews all over France and Germany were burned en masse to avenge their aledged poisoning of the wells. Fortunately for the Jews, a Slavic king welcomed them into Eastern Europe where they lived happily for a couple hundred years until the Orthodox church turned on them unleashing torrents of pograms against them. And then, of course, the millions of Polish jews were wiped out after the Nazi invasion.

This brings me to two shows that my wife and I have been watching. Both are excellent, really excellent. The first is HBO’s serialization of Philip Roth’s dystopic history of what could have happened had FDR not been reelected in 1940 but instead had been replaced by America’s 1920’s sweetheart, Charles Lindbergh. I read the review of the book The Plot Against America twenty years ago but dismissed it as a novelty. I knew our history and even though Lindbergh’s reputation after the war began never fully recovered he was an unlikely presidential candidate. And besides that, the Republicans nominated my Dad’s hero, Wendell Wilkie, who unlike Lindbergh, supported FDR’s war efforts.

But what if? What if Lindbergh had become the President? I have to say that the five sepia laden installments ring true. I was sucked into its dark imaginings. America is not immune to demagoguery and maybe worse.

The other series called “Unorthodox” is a four-parter we finished a couple nights ago. The Polish Jews sent to the holocaust didn’t go completely extinct. Some had already made a home for themselves in America. In the US they continued to live their orthodox eastern European lives. They live scattered in select cities on our Eastern seaboard. Claudia and I boarded a plane a few years back crammed with orthodox Jewish families flying to Israel which was our destination too.

The orthodox communities are pretty insular and don’t mix with outsiders much except in business. They remain very true to the Old Testaments laws Jews are expected to live by. The series we watched was based on the experiences of a young woman who fled New York to escape the smothering confinement of her orthodox life in America. She fled to, of all places, Germany.

The series is an honest portrayal and even a sympathetic portrayal of a life most Americans would avoid like the plague.

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