On this day: A Jewish family on TV

January 17 1949: The Goldbergs hits TV screens

By Jennifer Lipman, January 17, 2011
Since the dawn of television, family life has proved to be a rich source of inspiration. The same can be said for Jewish family life, demonstrated not least by the popularity of the long running US comedy show The Goldbergs.

Created by a writer named Gertrude Berg in 1928, it began life as a radio programme but 20 years later made the transition to the small screen. Following the drama of life in the Bronx and particularly the meddling Jewish mother Molly, played by Gertrude, it later became a play and a Broadway musical.

Although popular with audiences, its transmission was not without complications as cast and crew became victims of the Red Scare, One of its stars, Philip Loeb was named but Berg refused to drop him from the cast, triggering CBS to stop showing it. Loeb later committed suicide in a New York hotel room.

The Goldbergs went off the air in 1962 and, no doubt, if it were to air a modern audience would be somewhat less comfortable with the blunt humour and obvious stereotypes.

But as one commentator pointed out: "This series has done more to set us Jews right with the 'goyim' than all the sermons ever preached by the Rabbis.” Molly Goldberg and her family should be credited with paving the way for Jewish-centric programmes like Seinfeld and overtly Jewish characters on series such as Friends and the West Wing.

What the JC said: Gertrude Berg, as Molly Goldberg, is the eternal Jewish wife and mother, over solicitous for the welfare of her husband, hyper-sensitive about what is happening to her children and always with an eye open for the chance of arranging a good shidduch. There are so many shy and diverting digs at Jewish foibles, and the laughter and tears mix readily. I heartily recommend this refreshing account of Jewish domesticity

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Last updated: 12:11pm, January 17 2011