Mort Laitner

The End of the Jewish American Renaissance

I sit on the couch, petting my Westie’s white coat. Daisy, like all dogs, enjoys when I rub her belly. She feels safe and secure. And as she shuts her eyes, mine feast on another episode of Northern Exposure (Amazon Prime).

You see, almost every night, I’m binging on two or three episodes of the show.

And I wonder, “How many of my young readers have ever seen an episode of Northern Exposure?”

“Who knows?”

“But I bet the number is real low. But I wager the old timers will remember the program.”

I think, “I watched that show from 1990 to 1995. And during its six year run (110 episodes), I never missed one.”

So you may ask, “Mort, why were you so addicted to that TV show?”

“Well, I loved the Alaskan panoramas filled with Denali, forests, salmon and moose, the weird story lines and the cast of outcasts surviving in the American wilderness. Our last frontier.”

You see, I grew up in a small country town in the Catskills. A town with about a thousand folks that was quite similar to the town of Cicely, Alaska. We too had our flora and fauna, our eccentric cast of town folks and some pretty astounding storylines. Northern Exposure was a warm plate of nostalgia served to a country boy feasting on grits. A town with a tavern, where the locals raised a glass or two to the greatest nation on earth.

But most of all, I loved the fact that the protagonist, Dr. Joel Fleischman, (Rob Morrow) is a handsome NYC member of the tribe and Dr. Joel’s love interest, Maggie O’Connell, (Janine Turner) is an absolutely beautiful shiksa. What a shayna punim! With a stylish, boyish haircut and that brown mole located one inch south of her left eyebrow. She was the embodiment of an American beauty. A living fantasy. And I, like every Yiddisha boychick, craved kissing that mole. I desired to touch perfection and feast on America’s sweetest piece of eye-candy. And this Jewish M.D. and his shiksa had chemistry. You could see it in their eyes. They were a thing. And, yes, those were the days.

The show was also chock-full of Judiasm: talk of bar mitzvahs and schmucks, magen Davids and circumcisions, Kaddish and kippahs and not a whiff of anti-Semitism.

Yes, you remember those days.

How we kvelled, knowing that we were living in the “Promised Land.”

So now you’re wondering, “Why did Mort entitle his story, The End of the Jewish American Renaissance?”

Well, what I didn’t know at the time, was that Northern Exposure represented a high point in the Jewish American renaissance. But with the benefit of hindsight, 29 years worth of hindsight, I realized that during that period, (1990 to 1995), we Jews were living the American dream. We were in a cultural renaissance. We felt safe and secure. It seemed that nobody hated us. Well, almost nobody.

And now, I want to sing about the good old days

Okay, now is your time to sing this Russian folk tune with me. All together now:

Once upon a time there was a tavernWhere we used to raise a glass or twoRemember how we laughed away the hoursThink of all the great things we would do?

… Those were the days, my friendWe thought they’d never endWe’d sing and dance forever and a dayWe’d live the life we chooseWe’d fight and never loseFor we were young and sure to have our wayLa-la-la-da-da-daLa-la-la-da-da-daDa-da-da-da, la-da-da-da-da
Let’s thank Gene Raskin (writer) and Mary Hopkin (singer) for the memories.

Yes, we thought, “Those were the days, my friend, our renaissance would never end. For we were young and sure to have our way. Well, we lost and America started its regression back into the Dark Ages. Our run had ended.”

By 2015, the writing started to appear on our walls. And by 2024 our walls were covered with blood-red graffiti.

Rampant anti-Semitism floods the internet;

Neo-Nazis in full uniform marching and sieg heiling down our streets;

Torch-bearing Nazis chanting down the streets of Charlottesville, “The Jews Will Not Replace Us.”

Protestors burning Israeli flags and ripping down posters of hostages;

Bigots terrorizing Jewish students on American campuses;

Presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT failing to understand the meaning of “genocide”;

A former US president breaking bread with America’s leading Neo-Nazis;

A former president saying, “There are good people on both sides” with one of the sides being American Nazis;

Jews being murdered in front of their synagogues;

Cemeteries being desecrated: tombstones up ended and covered with black swastikas;

A land where Jews feared wearing stars of David around their necks or kippahs on their heads or placing mezuzahs on their doorposts.

Well, I’m still sitting on that couch, now scratching Daisy behind her ears and watching another episode of Northern Exposure, when I nod my head and think, “We had a good run, too bad it’s over.”

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience.
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