Soon By You? Not Soon Enough — On the Need for More Jewish Media with Pop Sensibilities

In my last article, I addressed the notion that a diversity of Jewish stories in pop-culture is (for lack of a better term) “good for the Jews”.

A quick recap of the idea:

Most anti-Semites (in fact, most people) have never met a Jew. They see the mainstream pop-cultural version of what a Jew is, recognize (correctly) that this depiction is incomplete, and fill in the gaps with an alternative narrative – often, an unflattering one.

Re-telling the typical pop-cultural Jewsih story doesn’t help to address this problem. Another secular Ashkenazi intellectual on the screen (or another impenetrable Hassid) simply leaves the same gaps open for anti-Semitic narratives to fill-in. We need a diversity of Jewish narratives, Jewish characters that fall outside of the pop-cultural expectations, to counter the anti-Semitic narrative. In other words, we need to fill in the gaps in pop-culture’s idea of “Jewishness” so there’s no room for the anti-Semitic counternarrative to penetrate.

To me, this is a clear call to action. I’m a filmmaker, after all, so I have the power to craft narratives and develop characters that serve this important function.

But most people (most of my readers, I’m sure) are not in the position to create media. What can you do to help expand the cultural reach of a diversity of Jewish narrative?

I’d like to suggest two options:

  1.   Support Jewish productions that push beyond the usual pop narrative. Projects like “Soon by You” (a webseries), “The Color Red”, (a short film) and “Meet the Shustermans” (an indie feature) are currently in various stages of fundraising. Each project introduces Jewish characters that broaden the mainstream narrative. And these stories aren’t being made for an exclusively “Jewish” audience. That’s important: expanding Jewish narrative in pop-culture only works if the content is designed for pop-cultural consumption. Fortunately, there are dozens (if not hundreds) of Jewish-themed projects, ranging from micro-budget shorts to ambitious indie features, that seek to raise funds every year. Find them, and if they’re meant for a general audience, support them as much as you can.
  2. Engage with Jewish media content: I’ve written about this elsewhere, and will likely devote a new article to this idea here as well. Pop-culture is an industry, and it’s driven by market forces. If someone successfully puts together a feature film, or a webseries, or even just a short film, the more people see that work, the more likely similar works will get funding and support from the industry. You can find Jewish content on YouTube and Amazon.com. The big recent news is that Netflix just added a bunch of Israeli TV shows to its streaming service. Don’t be content simply knowing it’s there. Netflix paid for it, and wants to see that people are watching. If nobody watches, it’ll be harder for the next show from Israel to get that kind of exposure.
    Once you’ve seen something that you like, engage with it. It’s not enough to watch a show these days (much as it helps to drive up those important viewership statistics). Post about it to social media. Like its Facebook page. Tweet about it to your followers. If you want to see more diverse Jewish content, you’ve got to create and sustain the buzz.

To start you off, here are a few links to consider:

Soon By You (webseries, raising money for additional episodes)

Tzeva Adom (short film, raising money for additional production)

A viewer guide to Israel shows on Netflix.

If you supported these projects or watched any shows, I’d love to hear about it! Find me on twitter @shorr, or Facebook

And if you know of more worthy projects that can expand the Jewish narrative in pop-culture, please share them in the comments here.

(For those of you who would like to follow the progress of my own groundbreaking Jewish-themed project, I post updates about it here)

About the Author
Arnon Z. Shorr is an Israeli/American modern-Orthodox Jewish filmmaker who lives and works in Los Angeles.
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