They came, they saw, they amused: The Jews came to Brandeis
On Monday, Sept. 14, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies had its fall kickoff event: “The Jews are Coming to Brandeis: A Conversation with the Creators of Israel’s Hit Satire Series.” The event featured Natalie Marcus and Asaf Beiser, creators of the Israeli Academy Award-winning TV show “The Jews are Coming” (Ha-Yehudim Baim) in conversation with Shayna Weiss, Associate Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. Currently in its fourth season, the show features sketches about Jewish history from biblical times to the present. Think “Horrible Histories,” but with an older target audience and darker, Jewish humor.
The webinar largely featured Marcus and Beiser’s comments on sketches from the most recent season. They primarily look to the Bible and ancient times for inspiration, as that is what they and their target audience know. However, they also feature more modern Jewish history, such as 1950s Poland. For example, one sketch featured the Jewish tradition of kissing the Mezuzah, discussing how nothing but tradition dictates the custom or the correct manner in which it is carried out. The character’s befuddlement at this new tradition – and everyone’s horror at their confusion – was humorous, and it excellently conveys the point that the writers were trying to make about Jewish traditions.
However, many of the points they seek to make are more biting and cynical, covering topics like rape culture and society’s narrow ideas of beauty. They are points worth making, but it was uncertain whether these sketches would fly in the United States as they push the line further than most comedy here. To this end, “The Jews are Coming” has faced backlash from some conservative sectors of Israeli society for their use of dark humor and coverage of religious topics (which not everyone is okay with being turned into comedy). In the webinar, Beiser and Marcus briefly discussed some of the criticism the show has received, acknowledging that they can’t please everyone, and that, regarding some people, it is probably better not to please them.
In conclusion, “The Jews are Coming to Brandeis” was an entertaining webinar about a TV show that teaches Jewish history in a comedic manner. You can never go wrong checking some sketches out on YouTube (many have English subtitles), learning about the history and having some fun.
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Schusterman Center for Israel Studies.