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The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama

The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama

  • Premiered: 
    September 1, 2013
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: BBC2
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    Based on the 2013 book (The Story of the Jews) by Simon Schama 
  • Subject Matter: Historical
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Plot Synopsis

Historian and author Simon Schama explores the Jewish experience -- from ancient times to the present day -- in this five-part series, 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 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 Cairo Geniza, a trove of documents recording the world of the medieval Jews of the Mediterranean and Near East; the records of disputations between Christians and Jews in Spain; and correspondence between the leader of the Arab revolt during World War I, Emir Feisal, and the leader of the Zionist movement, Chaim Weizmann. Plus, this series is a personal journey for Schama, who has been immersed in Jewish history since his postwar childhood, and now, after writing his book, "The Story of the Jews," 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 also 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; and German cultural treasures from Enlightenment Germany and the music of Felix Mendelssohn with the critic Norman Lebrecht. PBS aired the U.S. premiere of this series on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 8pm ET/PT, showing back-to-back episodes, and then concluded the series the following Tuesday (April 1) by showing three episodes from 8-11pm ET/PT.


Production & Distribution

  • Produced by Oxford Film and Television
  • Produced by THIRTEEN
  • In association with WNET