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The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama
Air date: 03/25/2014

Simon Schama presents The Story of the Jews – a five-part look at 3,000 years of Jewish history and the impact the Jews have made on the world to air March 25 and April 1 at 8 pm on PBS

 

Prize-winning author of 15 books and Emmy Award-winner Simon Schama brings to life Jewish history and experience in a new five-part documentary series, The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama, premiering Tuesdays, March 25, 8-10 p.m. ET (episodes 1 and 2) and April 1, 8-11 p.m. ET (episodes 3, 4 and 5) on PBS (check local listings). The five-hour series follows Schama – who has written and presented 50 documentaries on art, literature and history and is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University and a contributing editor of the Financial Times, as he travels from Russia and the Ukraine to Egypt, Israel and Spain, exploring the imprint that Jewish culture has made on the world and the drama of suffering, resilience and rebirth that has gone with it.

The series is, at the same time, a personal journey for Schama, who has been immersed in Jewish history since his postwar childhood; a meditation on its dramatic trajectory; and a macro-history of a people whose mark on the world has been out of all proportion to its modest numbers.

“If you were to remove from our collective history,” said Schama, “the contribution Jews have made to human culture, our world would be almost unrecognizable. There would be no monotheism, no written Bible, and our sense of modernity would be completely different. So the history of the Jews is everyone’s history too and what I hope people will take away from the series is that sense of connection: a weave of cultural strands over the millennia, some brilliant, some dark, but resolving into a fabric of thrilling, sometimes tragic, often exalted creativity.”

The Story of the Jews draws on primary sources that include the Elephantine papyri, a collection of 5th-century BC manuscripts illuminating the life of a town of Jewish soldiers and their families in ancient Egypt; the astonishing trove of documents — the Cairo Geniza — recording the world of the medieval Jews of the Mediterranean and Near East; the records of disputations between Christians and Jews in Spain; correspondence between the leader of the Arab revolt during World War I, Emir Feisal, and the leader of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann.

Schama talks about the turning points of the drama with living witnesses like Aviva Rahamim, who, as a 14-year-old, walked across the Sudanese desert to try and reach Israel; Yakub Odeh, the Palestinian whose village was destroyed in the war of 1948; and Levana Shamir, whose family members were imprisoned in Egypt at the same time. He debates the meaning of new archaeological discoveries of the Biblical period with Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University; the Dead Sea Scrolls with their chief curator Pnina Shor; the character of the Talmud with Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic; the photographic record of Israel’s history with Micha Bar Am; German cultural treasures from Enlightenment Germany and the music of Felix Mendelssohn with the critic Norman Lebrecht.

The series, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC in fall 2013, was acclaimed in the British press as “an astonishing achievement, a TV landmark, idiosyncratic, accessible but always authoritative.”  It includes new archaeological research that is transforming our understanding of the earliest world of the Jews, and highlights evidence from the visual arts — synagogue mosaics, spectacularly illustrated Bibles, the brilliantly colorful decoration of synagogues (contrary to impressions of a monochrome religion), as well as the glorious music that carried Jewish traditions through the centuries.

Whether he’s amid the stones of 11th-century Judea, the exuberantly decorated cemeteries of Ukrainian hasidic rabbis, the parlors of Moses Mendelssohn’s Berlin or the streets of immigrant New York, Schama brings together memory and actuality, past and present, sorrows and celebrations, vindications and challenges and makes felt the beating pulse of an epic of endurance that has been like no other — a story that belongs to everyone.

A company website for The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama (http://www.pbs.org/StoryoftheJews) features full episodes, excerpts and special extended interviews from the series, a Q & A with writer/presenter Simon Schama, an extensive, behind-the-scenes photo gallery and several interactive features, including a detailed map and visual timeline, that explore the 3000 years of Jewish history, culture and identity covered in the series. The website also offers visitors the chance to share a personal story that places their family’s historical journey within the ever-unfolding Story of the Jews.

The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama is an Oxford Film and Television Production for BBC and THIRTEEN in association with WNET. Writer and presenter:  Simon Schama. Executive producer for BBC: Martin Davidson. Executive producer: Nicolas Kent. Series producer and director: Tim Kirby. Executive producer for THIRTEEN: Julie Anderson. Executive producer in charge for THIRTEEN: Stephen Segaller.

The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama is made possible by lead funding from The Paul & Irma Milstein Family. Major funding is generously provided by The Polonsky Foundation. Additional major support is provided by The Pershing Square Foundation, the Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Charitable Trust, James and Merryl Tisch, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the David Berg Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Rose, and the Lemberg Foundation. Support is also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

 

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About WNET                       
As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchase and provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mike Schneider and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore iPad App where users can stream PBS content for free.

 

Photos
For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of THE STORY OF THE JEWS WITH SIMON SCHAMA. No other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.
Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Damascus Gate, Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Iraq-el Amir, Jordan. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Simon Schama at Iraq-el Amir, Jordan. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Simon Schama at Iraq-el Amir, Jordan. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Simon Schama in Rome. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Sigmund Freud's spectacles on his desk at the Freud Museum, London. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Simon Schama hosts a seder or Passover meal. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: In the Beginning

Simon Schama at Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Simon Schama at Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo, Egypt. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Simon Schama at Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo, Egypt. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Simon Schama at Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo, Egypt. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Ben Ezra Synagogue, Cairo, Egypt Menorah (seven-branched candle holder) in foreground. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Cordoba, Spain. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Gerona, Spain. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Simon Schama at Sepphoris Synagogue, Tzippori, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

Simon Schama at Sepphoris Synagogue, Tzippori, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Among Believers

The Coruna Bible, the Shema Prayer. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Simon Schama at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, Germany. Photo Credit: Ariel Grandoli © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Simon Schama at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, Germany. Photo Credit: Ariel Grandoli © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Simon Schama at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, Germany. Photo Credit: Ariel Grandoli © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Simon Schama at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, Germany. Photo Credit: Ariel Grandoli © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Gold inscribed cobblestones, Berlin, Germany. Photo Credit: Ariel Grandoli © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Courtyard of Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris, France. Photo Credit: Julia Mair © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Exterior of Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris, France. Photo Credit: Julia Mair © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Exterior of Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris. Photo Credit: Julia Mair © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Interior of Musee Nissim de Camondo, Paris, France. Photo Credit: Julia Mair © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Simon Schama at the Opera House, Paris, France. Photo Credit: Jeremy Pollard © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

The Opera House, Paris, France. Photo Credit: Jeremy Pollard © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: A Leap of Faith

Synagogue Rue Copernic, Paris, France. Photo Credit: Julia Mair © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Odessa steps, Odessa, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama at Bardejov, Slovakia. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama at Bardejov, Slovakia: Houses at Bershad, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Houses at Bershad, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Portrait pictures of the deceased at Bershad, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Hasidic Jews, Uman, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama, cemetery, Satanov, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama, cemetery, Satanov, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Tombstones in the cemetery, Satanov, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Tombstones in the cemetery, Satanov, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Tombstones in the cemetery, Satanov, Ukraine. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2013

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Old torah, sacred document of Judaism. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama at an old Synagogue, Kosice, Slovakia. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Old Synagogue, Kosice, Slovakia. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama at an old Synagogue, Kosice, Slovakia. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Over the Rainbow

Simon Schama with letter boxes - Eastern Europe. Photo Credit: Hugo Macgregor © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Grafitti at Atlit detention camp, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Simon Schama at Atlit detention camp, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Barracks at Atlit detention camp, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Grafitti at Atlit detention camp, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Atlit detention camp, Israel – seen through barbed wire. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Aviva Rahamin, a Beta Israel interviewee from Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Aviva Rahamin, a Beta Israel interviewee from Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

House at Bet Ha'Emek, Israel. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012

Story of the Jews with Simon Schama: Return

Broken memorials at Chatby Cemetery, Alexandria, Egypt. Photo Credit: Tim Kirby © Oxford Film & Television 2012