'The Jewish Americans,' a six-hour documentary, tracks the evolution of the Jewish community in the US over the past 350 years. It's a familiar story, but well told.
The Jewish Americans
(PBS, three-part series starts Jan. 9, 9–11 p.m.): This six-hour documentary tracks the evolution of the Jewish community in the US over the past 350 years, from the earliest tiny knot of refugees seeking asylum in the New Amsterdam of 1654 up to today. Much of the story is deeply familiar – Jews fleeing persecution in Poland and Russia and assimilating into American life, shedding both the internal and outer rhythms of the old traditions on the way. Given that familiarity, the virtues of the program are the small details that bring the story to life: a journalist's report of the fire in the Shirtwaist factory, and the matriarch who tried to keep the family Jewish but in doing so, lost her children forever. It also tracks the struggle against anti-Semitism here and abroad. Again, a sadly familiar story, but one that appears to need retelling to every generation. Grade: