American Jewish Films

The Search for Identity

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About the Book

This is a thematic survey of American films with significant Jewish content that made an important statement about America. Both familiar and lesser known films are included. An introduction discusses why American Jews were attracted to films as audiences, performers and business people, and evaluates how films help audiences think about their lives. The book then focuses on themes and representative and important films, placing them in their cultural contexts. One of the aspects of American Jewish life brought out by the films in general is the tensions between an American and a Jewish identity and between a Jewish identity and a broader human identity. Other themes are assimilation and acculturation, interfaith relations, Israel, marriage and family relations, the role of women, Jews and American politics, and anti–Semitism including the Holocaust.

About the Author(s)

Lawrence J. Epstein has written extensively on the history of comedy teams and the influence of Jewish humor in America. From 1974 to 2008 he was a professor of English at Suffolk County Community College in New York.

Bibliographic Details

Lawrence J. Epstein
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6962-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0184-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix

Preface 1

One. What Is a Jewish Film? 7

Two. The Jewish Plymouth Rock: Films About the Lower East Side 16

Three. The Past Is Prologue: Films of Jewish History 35

Four. The Oldest Hatred: Anti-Semitism in Films 48

Five. The Invisible Jews: Films About Assimilation 80

Six. Assimilation with a Heart: Romance in American Jewish Films 116

Seven. The Borscht Belt Shtetl: Films About Jewish Resorts in the Catskills 133

Eight. Zion on the Screen: Films About Israel 147

Nine. The Dark Side: Jewish Criminals on Film 164

Ten. Faith on Film 174

Eleven. An American Jewish Identity 196

Chronology of Films 201

Chapter Notes 203

Bibliography 206

Index 209


Book Reviews & Awards

“an outstanding achievement about a very significant area of cinema and of American culture”—Examiner.com.