SOAPS' JEWISH PROBLEM: DIVERSITY ON DAYTIME PART #8
By Alina Adams
As previously discussed here, when the rare Jewish character appeared on daytime in the 70s and 80s, their stories most often dealt with the theme of interfaith romance, such as on Ryan's Hope, General Hospital and Days of Our Lives (daytime's verdict: It ain't going to work. Or, as Anita sang in West Side Story: Stay with your own kind. Yes, not only am I soap, skating, and sci-fi geek, but a musical theater one, as well.)
By the 1990s, however, while their numbers hardly increased, that particular narrative was no longer front and center. (If that's a good or a bad thing depends on your personal - equally valid - opinion about whether daytime should address or ignore people's differences. For some of our current readers' thoughts on the matter, check out the Soap Opera 451 Message Board vis-a-vis Another World Today's interracial adoption story.)
When One Life to Live viewers initially met Nora Hanen Gannon, she was already divorced from her non-Jewish first husband, Hank. Nora married Bo the first time in a ceremony presided over by a minister, a rabbi... and Little Richard (no, that is not the beginning of a joke; they don't hit a bar later).
The second time, David, the ordained Scientologist, stepped up to the plate.
Technically, Nora's son, Matthew, is Jewish, too, but it doesn't seem to play any sort of role in his life. Oh, wait! He and Nora did celebrate Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year. Once. Incorrectly.
The Young & Restless' George Kaplan - living as Brad Carlton - because evil art thieves were after his way-too young, World War II surviving mother, also celebrated Rosh HaShana after confessing his Jewish roots.
And then he died. (But, hey, a rabbi was at his funeral! He'd only been open about his heritage for a few years, but I guess he'd already found himself a congregation and put down deep roots in the community.)
And then Brad's daughter, Colleen, who was kind of Jewish (though not by Jewish law) died.
So that's that.
Y&R's sister soap, The Bold & The Beautiful had Saul, the tailor with the perennial tape-measure around his neck (a Jewish tailor in the shmatta industry - how cutting edge!). We never knew much about Saul's personal life, except that he was secretly in love with his boss, Sally Spectra. But, who wouldn't be?
Guiding Light briefly touched upon the interfaith aspect of Drew Jacobs and Jesse Blue. Though, Jesse agreed to convert, so all was well.
More interesting - and never addressed - was that although Drew considered herself Jewish, once she found out she was adopted and her biological mother was Selena, Drew needed to look into whether she herself was formally converted at birth, or else Jesse would end up being the only officially Jewish member of the family.
What's most ironic about the above (admittedly non-comprehensive and somewhat snarky) list is that the most prominent Jewish family appearing on a soap opera in recent years was on Rebelde, a Mexican program.
In an overwhelmingly Catholic country where soap operas are "a thermometer of the country's political, racial and economic temperature," in the words of one observer, and whose tiny Jewish community historically has avoided attention, this is unprecedented. So is the family's popularity. After Joel's heart attack, so many viewers wrote to sympathize with his predicament--his son's beloved, Lupita, is Catholic--and to plead for his health that the show's producer, Pedro Damian, decided not only to revive him but also to center the remaining episodes of the limited-run show on the Hubers.
More at: http://www.interfaithfamily.com/arts_and_entertainment/popular_culture/Mexican_Soap_Brings_Out_Tribe_Long_Hidden.shtml
Alina Adams most recently wrote about her family's mixed heritage in Branch Versus Branch.