Jewish groups are assailing the intermarriage-can-be-beautiful theme of “Bridget Loves Bernie,” a new Saturday night situation comedy series on Columbia Broadcasting System-TV. The first visible protest was registered last Thursday when ten members of the Jewish Defense League picketed the network.
Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, called the show “an insult to some of the most sacred values of both the Jewish and Catholic religions,” and said the Synagogue Council of America and the Catholic and Protestant churches had been asked to voice protest. Rabbi Kelman added that Rabbi Hillel Cohen of Temple Beth Torah, Westbury, Long Island, was rallying community support against the show. The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has “received complaints” and is “looking into” them.
(In Washington, the (Orthodox) Rabbinical Council of Washington denounced the show and urged all “sincere-minded members of every religious denomination” to refuse to watch it and to send letters of protest to CBS. The Council called the story “offensive and obnoxious.” The rabbis said that “while depicting an ethnic religious problem in a humorous vein may attract a large television audience, it insidiously undermines and destroys the commitment and respect that the respective faiths seek to instill in their adherents.” The “entire concept of a mixed marriage is against Judaism as well as Catholicism,” the rabbis said.)
OFFENSIVE TO JEWISH VALUES, TRADITION
“Bridget Loves Bernie,” reminiscent of “Abie’s Irish Rose,” of 1920s fame and notoriety, is the story of Bridget Fitzgerald (Meredith Baxter) and Bernard Steinberg (David Birney), a Jewish cab driver and playwright. The couple are shown as happily married, with no religious hang ups. They spend most of their time trying to avoid the status-seeking machinations of their parents–a rich, snobbish Catholic couple, and the proprietors of the delicatessen above which Bridget and Bernie live.
The newlyweds’ marriage ceremony was conducted by her brother, a liberal priest, and by a rabbi whose Jewish denomination was not specified. The wedding took place after a brief conference with the priest during which possible religious conflict and the matter of the religious upbringing of children were shrugged off. No conference with the rabbi was shown. Bridget and Bernie never discuss religion substantively, and their scenes alone are mostly devoted to kissing.
David Fisch, 19, national executive director of the JDL, said at his demonstration that the show is “offensive to Jewish values and tradition” and may give young Jews–“and my children, when I have them”–the impression “that Bernie is a typical American Jew, an intermarrying Jew.” The JDLer said Leonard Spinrad, director of CBS corporate information, said the network would consider written complaints.
Rabbi Kelman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Catholic parents are shown as “bigoted and silly” and the Jewish elders as “crude and mainly occupied with food.” The subject of intermarriage is treated not “sensitively” but as a “burlesque.” depicting the young couple as “the very epitome of virtue.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.