Simon Schama Tells a New 'Story of the Jews'

Simon Schama
Simon Schama at Iraq-el Amir, Jordan. (Courtesy of PBS)

Simon Schama has told many stories.

The next one is his own.

Best known in the United States for the TV special Simon Schama’s Power of Art and his book on the French revolution, Citizens, Schama is now giving us The Story of the Jews. Beginning Tuesday on PBS, this five-part series will examine the history and cultural contributions of the Jewish people. As a historian and a Jew, Schama says this is his most personal film.

“Think of me,” the British-born Schama jokes, “as your ‘Downton’ rabbi.”

When many people think of Jewish history, they think of the Diaspora or the Holocaust or the tensions in the Middle East—all of which are treated in the series. But there is more to the story of the Jews, said Schama, than crisis and disaster.

“It’s more complicated than that. It’s richly exuberant with vitality. Jewish comedy doesn’t come out of nothing. Jewish music doesn’t come out of nothing. … I don’t want to be part of a story where Jews are just victims or bullies—and I’m not saying that’s what the Israelis are.”

Indeed, Schama said, the Jewish embrace of music and vitality in religious services is one of the things that offended medieval Christians, who were used to praying in silence. “Silence, this will surprise you not, isn’t really a Jewish concept.”

Neither is isolation. “Jews have never, ever, ever wished to be separate, unless they were forced to be.” Which is why, Schama said, the story of the Jews is a lesson in how differing cultures can learn to coexist.

So why tell the story now? “Anti-Semitism is not going away in Europe, something we don’t always realize in the United States. It’s becoming truly toxic, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make this series.

“There’s a genuine life to the Jewish tradition, to which I hope we’ve made a contribution.”


Copyright 2014 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.


To contact us or to submit an article, click here.


Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Never miss a big news story again. Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.

Five ways to deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith and save money!

  • Deepen Your Relationship with God with a FREE eCourse: Click Here to view all of our free e-Courses. Favorite topics include Fear, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Supernatural, and How to Hear God.
  • Super Discounts and Close-Out Specials: Click Here to view all our bundles and close-out specials and save up to 86%! Prayer, Holy Spirit, Anointing, the Supernatural and more.
  • God Wants to Anoint Women Now: Rise up and enter the anointing of Deborah, Anna, Esther, Ruth and Hannah. You were called to go higher. Click Here to learn more.
  • Change Your Atmosphere and Circumstances Through Prayer! John Eckhardt's prayer bundle gives you six powerful books to help you pray and change any situation. Click Here.
  • HUGE Bible Sale!: Click Here to save up to 50% off a great selection of Bibles. Plus, get a free gift with each order!

Subscription Special: Subscribe to Charisma for Only $24.97 and get a free gift. With your subscription, you'll receive Born For Significance by best-selling author Bill Johnson. View Offer

Attention Pastors and Leaders: Leadership training and development are crucial for success. Enroll in a FREE 1-hour leadership mini-course by Dr. Mark Rutland. View Details

Charisma News - Informing believers with news from a Spirit-filled perspective