Spoiler Alert: No Jews At Downton
12/06/2012 - 16:48
Helen Chernikoff
Baron Fellowes, middle, needs to brush up his history. Not that he cares what I think. Getty Images
Baron Fellowes, middle, needs to brush up his history. Not that he cares what I think. Getty Images

When the second season of this BBC period drama about the life and loves of the aristocratic Grantham family ended, we were hoping that the third – to premiere stateside on PBS in less than a month – would boast a dash of yiddishkeit.

The show’s press packet had stated that the daughters of the noble house were actually born to an American mother, nee Levinson, herself daughter of “Isidore, a Cincinnati dry goods millionaire.”

If Mama Cora was Jewish, then all the girls were Jewish, and when the American grandmamma played by Shirley Maclaine showed up in the beginning of season three to attend the eldest’s wedding, surely this culture clash would emerge as a plot point. Such yichus!

All historical evidence indicated it was highly unlikely that Lady Grantham would have been both U.S.-born, and Jewish. But I wanted it to be true.

So, like the pushy Jewess, and journalist, that I am, I hied me straight to the source and rang up Julian Fellowes, the show’s creator and a baron.

I got his press people. They never called me back, which given the scholarly consensus was I guess a kind of frosty acknowledgement that Fellowes goofed on Cora’s backstory.

Still, I continued to hold out some hope – my powers of denial are formidable – but because the series runs in the UK before it airs here, I must finally admit after some online sleuthing that the only thing Jewy about the girls’ maternal grandmother is her surname.

I still think it’s strange.

It must be because I’m an American petit bourgeois and not a European aristo, and it’s just not in me to appreciate such subtleties.

helenatjewishweek@gmail.com; @thesimplechild


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