September 20, 2020 •
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“The Goldberg Variations: Class, Ethnicity, and Identity in “The Goldbergs”

With Cantor Jessica Epstein

 “The Goldberg Variations: Class, Ethnicity, and Identity in mrs goldberg logo“The Goldbergs”
With Cantor Jessica Epstein 

“Yoo-hoo, is anybody?” “That’s Molly Goldberg, folks. A woman with a place in every heart, and a finger in every pie.”

From 1929 until 1946, you could hear Gertrude Berg as Molly ask that question six nights a week. From there to a run on Broadway and eventually several years on television, The Goldberg presented a Jewish family as a matter of fact—a heartwarming serial and sitcom that never shied away from the reality of the Jewish experience. Berg created and wrote the series as well, a pioneer at the time in a male-dominated field.

The 1950s changed all of that. After a stable seventeen years on radio and a successful Broadway run, the television show bounced between networks, was rocked by the HUAC and blacklisting of one of the leads, and ended after trying to adjust to a different format and setting. As the television landscape grew more homogenous in tone and setting, Berg shifted from an urban to a suburban setting—from striving to assimilation—but something was lost along the way.

This class will explore ways in which the Jewish family—and the Jewish mother in particular—were portrayed. We will also examine how the gradual removal of their ethnicity echoed the general trend toward homogenization in 1950s television. And we will look at how Berg broke ground for creators and influenced countless films and television series that came after.

In each session, we will watch an episode of The Goldbergs through a screen-share on Zoom, and discuss together. There are five sessions in total.

Zoom class dates are at 7:00 PM, September 10, 2020.  (TBA members only)


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