NEW YORK (Nov. 14)
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban has revealed that the Public Broadcasting System television series “Heritage: Civilization and the Jews” will be edited for viewing in Australia, Germany, Israel and United Kingdom to meet criticism from Orthodox groups.
The series now being shown in the United States on PBS stations was criticized for portraying Judaism as an evolving faith incorporating myth and legend.
Speaking to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last week, Eban, who was the consultant and narrator for the series, asserted the series was “deeply reverent” toward Jewish tradition. But he conceded that “a little solicitude” for Orthodox Jewish views would have mitigated the controversy and that “changing a few hundred words” could have prevented it entirely.
Eban, who is now chairman of the Knesset Committee on Security and Foreign Affairs, acknowledged with thanks the remarks of Kenneth Bialkin, chairman of the Presidents Conference, who in introducing him had called the TV series “a remarkable breakthrough in its appeal to mass opinion in the United States.” Other members of the Conference also praised the nine-hour program.
RESPECT FOR JEWISH HERITAGE
Eban said he “certainly intended nothing but an expression of respect for the Jewish heritage.” He said the Jewish people were portrayed “in a generous and Zionist spirit” and that Judaism was conveyed ” in the conventional view of Jewish historians — including my teacher Yeheziel Kaufmann — and not the Orthodox approach.” He added:
“In any interpretation of Jewish history there is no possibility of unanimity. One should look to the spirit and intention and total effect of the work in question. I believe ‘Heritage: Civilization and the Jews’ has contributed to enhancing and expanding the resonance of our voice as a people. It is profoundly respectful, and I believe it will succeed in achieving its purpose: to teach millions of people about Judaism and the Jewish contribution to civilization, and to do so in an atmosphere of reverence and honor for the subject matter.”
Eban added: “The Torah has nothing to fear from scrutiny. If an idea is true and lofty, how it emerges doesn’t matter.”