Surfing The Jewish Channel


Ever wake up at 2 a.m. longing for a good Jewish documentary?

Can’t find a good Israeli film on Netflix?

If “Seinfeld” reruns, public access and Mel Brooks movies aren’t filling your need for Jewish programming, the newly launched Jewish Channel could scratch your itch.
Cablevision, the nation’s fifth largest cable provider began offering the on-demand service last month on Channel 291. For $4.95 a month, Cablevision customers can choose from dozens of Jewish-culture themed programs, to be viewed at their convenience, commercial free and with the ability to rewind, pause or fast forward.
The channel is in the process of producing original programming but currently features noted documentaries and feature films, including many Israeli titles. Current offerings include Bob Goges’ “My Yiddishe Momma McCoy,” an account of his Jewish grandmother’s 50-year marriage to an Irish man, and “Caravan 841,” Zion Rubin’s tale of an Ethiopian orphan’s life in a northern Galilee refugee camp.

The programming is Holocaust-heavy, with two of five feature films added this month and all six documentaries in the history and remembrance category Shoah-themed. There is also a two-part documentary about the life of slain Israeli leader Yitzchak Rabin.
There is also lighter fare, such as “Awake Zion,” Monica Haim’s look at similarities between Judaism and Rastafarianism. But don’t expect roasts by Borscht Belt comics, old episodes of “The Goldbergs” or even “Seinfeld.”

“The content has to be fresh and modern,” said Jewish Channel spokesman Michael Tobman. “As much as we love old films, the theme running through all our content is Jewish culture. It is literally a Jewish film festival.

“While some people have called it a Jewish HBO, we prefer to call it a Jewish Sundance Channel or Independent Film Channel.”

The Jewish Channel was founded by people with backgrounds at major cable networks and media companies. “This is an idea whose time has come,” said Erica Gruen, former CEO of The Food Network, in a statement. “The wealth of programming content that TJC is bringing to the community should wow subscribers.”

In a statement, Cablevision senior vice president John Treierweiler said the channel was consistent with the company’s commitment to provide “culturally-rich programming to our diverse customer base.”

Neither Cablevision nor Tobman would say how many customers have subscribed since its debut last month. But Tobman said “we are doing much better than our wildest expectations.”

Cablevision covers heavily Jewish areas such as Brooklyn and Queens, the Bronx, Long Island, and Teaneck and Englewood in New Jersey.

A Web site featuring mostly humorous content geared toward observant Jews,, this week featured an online petition to get Time Warner Cable, which covers Manhattan and other local areas, to pick up the Jewish Channel.

Tobman added that the channel is a private enterprise with no link to Jewish organizations or foundations, and it has no agenda other than to entertain. “We want to talk to you, not at you,” said spokesman Michael Tobman. “The thread that runs through our content is Jewish identity and culture. But it is not education, but entertainment.”