Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Finding Your Roots: Our People, Our Tradition (S2E7)

Oh education. How you get in the way of my blogging.

The last episode of this season has already aired. I'm 4 episodes behind in my reviews. Not good, not good.

I'm not home Tuesday nights when this program aired on PBS so I typically watched them Wednesday nights online after I get home from school. That is when I start writing my reviews but eh, I haven't had time to proofread and flesh these most recent posts until now. 

Episode 7: Our People, Our Traditions, originally aired on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. It features musician Carole King, attorney Alan Dershowitz, and writer Tony Kushner and explores their Jewish ancestry. All three had ancestors who fled Eastern Europe to find sanctuary in America. Their ancestors showed incredible perseverance in the face of religious persecution.

Carole King was born Carol Joan Kline in Brooklyn, New York. She changed her name as a teenager. Not only was typical of Jewish performers to change their names at that time but Carole expressed that then there was something she just didn't like about herself. It was revealed that Carole's grandmother, whom she only knew as Sarah Besmogin, also changed her name. In December of 1911 Sarah fled the anti-Semitic Pogroms of Russia for New York. She arrived at Ellis Island as Sheina Besmosgin and from then on rarely spoke of her life back in Russia.

Tony Kushner, best known for his Pulitzer prize winning play, Angels in America, grew up in Louisiana. Many people are shocked to realize that there is a historic Jewish presence anywhere in the South but Tony said the Jewish community eh grew up in in Lake Charles, LA was very proud to express their culture but not devoid of anti-semantic experiences. He also expressed that antisemitism prepared him to face the homophobia he would endure coming out as a gay man while as a student at Columbia University in New York City. In fact, he goes on to say that it was his parents that taught him to not be ashamed of who he was and he used that lesson to inform them of his homosexuality.

Alan Dershowitz, a high-profile attorney also does pro-bono work for those in need of legal assistance. This is a value he learned from his Orthodox Jewish father; that it is a "Jew's job to defend the underdog." He credits the historic persecution of the Jews and the atrocities of the Holocaust as the force behind his commitment to protect and defend the individual's right to practice their faith.

Typically each episode concludes with looking at the guests DNA results. Interestingly, this episode did not.

The ancestors of these guests presented experiences that were typical of many Jewish immigrant experiences. Their ancestors experienced prejudice and discrimination due to their Jewish faith and those struggles against intolerance led them to America. To give the impression that religious freedom in America is without discrimination though, is false. 

As we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this week let us remember that we live in a country where religious freedom is one of our founding principles. Cultivate tolerance of differences. Allow others to worship, or not, as they see fit. Happy Thanksgiving!

Watch this episode at :

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