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on 1 February 2014
If you haven't already, by the end of this series how could you not give the Jews one of the greatest stations in human history. While the tribes & people's of the earth have moved, settled & renamed or been renamed many times over throughout history, no matter where a Jew stands in time his home was & will be always be Israel. Schama has done exceedingly well to communicate this & tried to give due time to cover each stage of history he presents, and while I would have loved to have dug deeper into Israel's ancient history more so, the Jews of Elephantine give us wonderful key hole look into such divergent lives. Some of this will not be new to you perhaps, but most I predict will, for I do not think anyone has as thoughtfully rolled such history into such a TV series before, it left me wanting more.......but of course the story of the Jews continues today doesn't it?
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on 10 May 2014
In inviting us into his own home for the Passover, Simon Schama opens up a world I suspect most non-Jews have never seen. He takes the viewer on a personal journey to explore the rich, tragic, triumphant history of the Jewish people, a journey in which you are invited to share the tears, the laughter and the joy. Why did the Shephardic version of Judaism give way to Askenazi practice? What is the Askenazi version? Where did the Ghetto arise - and why did the Ottoman Sultan invite and encourage Jewish settlers in his empire after they were expelled from Spain and other parts of Europe. Scharma answers these question and a few more with typical Jewish humour mixed with sadness and awareness that today's tolerance can quickly become tomorrows pogrom. As he says, the natural mindset of a Jew is 'paranoia confirmed by history'.

This series is wonderfully written, sensitively presented and beautifully filmed. I commend it highly to everyone, but especially to teachers of history. To understand our own history, you have to understand this ...
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on 9 December 2013
If you think this is merely an add-on to the BBC4 series on "The Story of the Jews", think again. It is a serious historical work, and deserves thoughtful study. It shines a fascinating light on the global dispersion, survival and prosperity of Jewish people, which challenges our Western Christian presumption that we possess the moral high ground and the most unfettered access to our God. No-one had pointed out to me the obvious parallels between the basic tenets of early Islam and those of Judaism until Schama did so - and in only one cogent paragraph! I am still digesting this tour de force at leisure; as an Anglican priest it has already affected my view of the Scriptures, and the origins of my faith.
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on 24 November 2017
I enjoyed watching this DVD. It seemed to take a lateral view of the subject that covered things not normally dealt with and therefore made interesting viewing in a way. It was good in the respect of Simon being a Jew himself, with all his enthusiasm and sadness in his realisation to things that have happened to His People.
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on 12 June 2014
Perhaps, I was expecting more of a History than a Story of the Jews. And while Schama does relay the history of the Jews, you tend to find that the history is more commentated on the modern history as opposed to the genesis and the early years of the Jews. There are segments where the story focuses more from a larger scale to an individual scale as snippets of tales are told of famous Jews like Freud, Spinoza, Mayer - of the MGM movie studio fame - and also Moses Mendelssohn.

Of course, no story of the Jews would be complete without the telling of the tale of the Holocaust and the fight of the Jews to claim a piece of "their promised land" which is modern day Israel.

Overall, this wasn't a bad series, but somehow I felt that Schama never really let the audience get deep into the psyche of the religion.
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on 27 September 2013
I have been engrossed by Schama's narrative of Jewish history from the very first episode; I'm now looking forward to the final instalment. By far, it's the best documentary that Schama has presented, having viewed his History of Britain series and programmes on Art History. Perhaps, it's because you can tell that he's passionate about his subject through his own Jewish story.

From my own recollection of History at university and watching TV documentary, the study of Jewish history seems to be limited to the context of the Holocaust, neglecting the events leading up to this era and the post-war period. Schama's illuminating series, however, which began with the Ancient past, has so far unearthed the C19th pogroms in Eastern Europe, the segregation of the Jews in Medieval society and the Spanish Inquisition, whilst having explored the cultural contribution of the Jews to both music and film. For anyone interested in social history, however subjective, or, like me, wants to discover more about their Jewish roots, this is an absolute 'must have'.
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on 6 November 2013
I bought this as a gift, not yet given, but did so having seen it on T.V. and been absolutely transported by it. Transported back through the ages; transported with emotion, and a deeper understanding of what I'd thought I already knew pretty thoroughly.

Schama's particular brilliance lies in his ability to take you back and place you in situations that turn you into an observer, rather than just a listener to, or viewer or reader of history. He has brought new insight to a many-millennia-old story, that left me deeply moved for a long time. He has always been a good and interesting historian, but in this series I believe he excelled himself.
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on 29 November 2014
These programmes are masterly. From the opening question, "What is a Jew?" you are not only drawn into the story of the 'chosen people' of the Old Testament but, more engagingly, what it meant and still means to be Jewish. Here is the 3,500 year journey from Abraham to modern times, uncovering and exploring the endless layers of artistry, belief, persecution and genius that are tied up in it. Schama is a perceptive historian and narrator, and it is clear from the outset that this story is also his story. He is a man profoundly aware of his roots, able to bring emotional involvement and historical objectivity at the same time. The final programme is almost unbearable as he returns to visit the stetl of his own family in Eastern Europe and the anti-Jewish pogroms that drove them out. Without any hand-wringing Schama communicates the vulnerability and persecution of his people. Whatever your views on modern Israeli issues, here is a set of DVDs that will both inform and deeply move. I watched the original TV series and I have watched this DVD set. I shall undoubtedly watch them again. Highly recommended.
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on 2 November 2013
Enjoyed the series on TV immensely. Being of Jewish background, I found this immensely enlightening. Presented with extreme sincerity, this was interesting and enjoyable to watch. I have watched some episodes several times and the other members of the family are now enjoying the series. I have watched the history of England by Simon Schama and thought that was fantastic as well but The Story of the Jews was even better. I look forward to seeing more of his stuff in the future.
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on 26 December 2017
A good book to start an understanding but don't stop here!
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