There is popular culture that is explicitly Jewish, and there is popular culture that is implicitly so.
“Family Ties,” the iconic 1980s show about onetime hippies grappling with their Republican preppie kid, was of the latter variety. I don’t remember explicit references to the dad’s Jewishness, but the name of the actor (Michael Gross), his wandering hippie gestalt, the fact that his non-Jewish wife was played by an actress, Meredith Baxter Birney, whose career was launched playing the non-Jewish wife of a Jewish guy, and who then married the
Jewish actor playing the Jewish guy — it all added up.
The show’s creator, Gary David Goldberg, confirmed as much to the L.A. Jewish Journal a few years back; he had based the parents on himself and his wife. And there was another nugget about Israel as romantic destiny:
Dating non-Jews was forbidden, but he broke that taboo (and many others) upon going off to Brandeis University on a sports scholarship. After he was expelled for ditching classes around 1970, he hooked up with Irish-Catholic Diana around 1970 and set off on a world tour with a Labrador named Ubu. Two years later, they conceived their first child in Israel, but ran out of money and had to beg the airfare home.
Goldberg’s family promptly embraced non-Jewish Diana “because by that point, they were relieved I didn’t turn up with a black man,” he says.
He and Diana Meehan stayed together and unmarried until 1990, and then married and stayed together forever.
Goldberg, who died Sunday, posited a world in which conservatives and liberals were members of the same family, and differentiated in love. May his memory be for a blessing.