Simon Schama On ‘The Story Of The Jews’

In the week of Passover and anti-Semitic gunfire, we look at the history of the Jews with acclaimed historian Simon Schama. Plus, Pope Francis and the Catholic Church today.

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men burn leavened items in final preparation for the Passover holiday in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, April 14, 2014. Jews are forbidden to eat leavened foodstuffs during the Passover holiday that celebrates the biblical story of the Israelites' escape from slavery and exodus from Egypt. (AP)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men burn leavened items in final preparation for the Passover holiday in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish town of Bnei Brak, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, April 14, 2014. Jews are forbidden to eat leavened foodstuffs during the Passover holiday that celebrates the biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery and exodus from Egypt. (AP)

It is a holy week, on many fronts.  Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter coming.  And of course, Passover.  In Jewish homes, the Passover dinner – seder – is a time to remember the Bible stories of slavery, exodus and freedom.  But this has also been a week of anti-Semitism.  Of sickening gunfire and death at Jewish community centers in Kansas City.  We’re talking this hour with celebrated historian Simon Schama about the story, the history, of the Jews.  And we’ll turn to the latest from Pope Francis.  This hour On Point:  a holy week, and the history of the Jews.

— Tom Ashbrook


Simon Schama, professor of art history and history at Columbia University. Writer and presenter of “The Story of the Jews.” Author of “The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words — 1000 BC – 1942 AD.” Also author of “The American Future: A History,” “Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution,” “The Power of Art” and “A History of Britain.” (@simon_schama)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Observer: Simon Schama: a man always making history — “There is a tendency when considering any historical documentary series to hark back to the glory days of Kenneth Clark’s Civilization, as if it were itself the embodiment of civilisation after which the barbarians were let loose. But Schama’s five-part series stands by itself without any need to invoke earlier cultural high points. It is not just a bravura piece of television, but an astonishing recapitulation of a 4,000-year story.”

New York Times: The Historical Becomes Personal — “With Jewish history, the producers knew that ‘any kind of attempt to move toward some unproblematic consensual place was going to just suck the juice out of the whole enterprise,’ he said. ‘So they gave me rein — more than probably I’ve ever had — to make it a kind of impassioned personal essay.'”

Los Angeles Times: ‘Story of the Jews’ is also story of writer Simon Schama — “Schama is quiet as to the precise details of his own religious beliefs, which among people who identify as Jewish can vary all the way from orthodoxy to atheism. We do see him hosting a Seder, which settles nothing. He is a practical Zionist — given a long history of marginalization, (literal) demonization and (again, literal) annihilation, he subscribes to the necessity for a Jewish homeland — but is wary of those who would see their claim to the land as divinely approved.”

Read An Excerpt of “The Story of the Jews” By Simon Schama

 Pope Francis And The Catholic Church Today

Father James Martin, Jesuit priest and author. Editor at large at the national Catholic magazine, America. Author of “Jesus: A Pilgramage,” “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” and “Between Heaven and Mirth.” (@JamesMartinSJ)

Boston Globe: Pope takes responsibility for child abuse scandal — “Pope Francis asked forgiveness for the child sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church on Friday, the first time he’s done so as pope, and also said the church must be ‘very strong’ in responding to the ongoing legacy of that crisis, including imposing forceful sanctions.”

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