I SEE JEWISH PEOPLE... OH, WAIT, NO, I DON'T: DIVERSITY ON DAYTIME PART #7
By Alina Adams
Irna Phillips, who more or less invented soaps as a genre, was born Jewish, though, by the time she was eighteen, Irna recalled, "I knew something very important was missing from my life. Like many young people I wanted to believe in something. I don't know why, but for some reason I did not turn to Judaism. At this stage in my life I was still uncommunicative and did not express my feelings to anyone. I did learn, however, of Dr. Preston Bradley and the People's Church. Each Sunday morning Dr. Bradley held services in the theatre on Wilson Avenue which was only a few blocks from my home. Doctor Bradley's church was nondenominational; people of all creeds and races were welcome."
However, Irna used another personal experience, becoming pregnant as an unwed eighteen year old and having the father deny paternity, to create one of daytime's first Jewish characters, Guiding Light's Rose Kransky, and her family.
Since Rose, however, Jewish characters on daytime have been few and far between.
One Life to Live premiered in 1968 boasting a truly diverse canvas, not only the wealthy, WASP-y Lords, but the Irish-American Rileys, the Polish-American Woleks, the African-American Halls and the Jewish Siegels. (Not to nitpick, but, by the time we met them, Dave Siegel was already married to Eileen Riley, making their children, Tim and Julie, not Jewish by the law of maternal descent, so really, how Jewish was this supposedly Jewish family? Tim, first played by future movie star Tom Berenger, went on to marry Jenny, thus stopping her from taking her final vows as a nun. He died moments afterward. Clearly, some God was mightily displeased.)
Ryan's Hope, a show set on New York City's Upper West Side and across the street from a major hospital, no less, somehow managed to have only two contract Jewish characters during its entire fourteen year (1975-1989) run. (Why, that would be like a show taking place in the fashion industry in Los Angeles with barely any Jews, Hispanics, or homosexuals!)
There was Nancy Feldman (played longest by Nana Tucker Vistor), who loved Patrick Ryan, but his Catholic mother and her Jewish parents objected, so out of town she goes after a little more than a year on the canvas, and there was Dr. Adam Cohen, who everyone thought would be much, much better for Nancy. He lasted little more than a year, too.
Adam was played by an actor who then went by the name Stan Birenbaum. Check him out in the clip below.
If Stan looks familiar, it's because, as Sam Beherns, he was also Jake Meyer on General Hospital. Jake loved Rose Kelly (wow, was Abie's Irish Rose prophetic, or what?), but she was Catholic and he was Jewish and they just couldn't seem to find a way to make things work. So, out of town Rose goes.
A few years after Rose, Jake married Bobbie Spencer.
Jewish? What Jewish? Who's Jewish? Why should that be a problem? (Personally, I think Jake's family should have been more upset about a Gentile ex-hooker than they were about a Catholic widow, but, by the time Jake and Bobbie got married, he had no family to speak of.)
In 1985, Days of Our Lives dipped their toes into the interfaith dating pool with Jewish Dr. Robin Jacobs and non-Jewish Dr. Mike Horton. Robin's father and uncle were both concentration camp survivors and felt strongly about Robin only marrying a Jewish man. (Although, ultimately, the entire Holocaust story primarily served the function of kicking off the redemption of Patch, who, up to that point, had been a low-level thug happy to torture Hope and Kimberly. Once Patch expressed the highly controversial opinion that Nazis Are Bad and agreed to help Robin expose a former SS commander living in Salem, he was well on his way to becoming a romantic hero.)
Robin and Mike also tried to make things work.
(Warning: There are so many mistakes in the below scene, they're not even worth counting. It was a huge favorite among my friends attending The Jewish Theological Seminary.)
Robin and Mike failed. She married a nice Jewish doctor, divorced him, and went off to Israel, secretly giving birth to Mike's son, Jeremy. (Who, we later learned, was a real punk.)
To Be Continued....
Alina Adams has written for Interfaith Family Magazine, including Interfaith, Interracial, Intercultural... and Loving It, Back Talk, and The Wrong Lessons.