Wednesday Forum: The Idea of a Judeo–Christian Tradition and the Representation of Jews and Judaism in Hollywood Cinema


American Jews have long been prominently involved in the American media and film industries, so much so that some commentators have even said they are ‘the backbone of film production in America’. This position has indeed given opportunities for Jewish Americans in the industry to play a prominent role in shaping the business including issues of how Jews and Judaism are represented in film and other media. However, depictions of Jews and Judaism in American movies have changed according to political and cultural conditions. After World War II, a new formula emerged on the silver screen. The reframing of American religious identity as “Judeo-Christian” encouraged directors and producers who were Jewish to promote the concept of America as a Judeo-Christian nation as a response to ongoing anti-Semitism in America. Examining Biblically-themed movies such as The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur-A Tale of the Christ, this presentation intends to explore the connection between the idea of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition and the acceptance of Jewish Americans and recent immigrants by American society. The portrayal of Jews in these movies is interesting to discuss here, not only because Jews and Christians are depicted in the same framework of the Hollywood movie, but also because of the underlying politics of representations.

Witriani is a lecturer at the Faculty of Adab and Cultural Science, State Islamic University (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta and a Ph.D. candidate in the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies. She completed, her master degree in the American Studies Graduate Program, UGM. Currently, she is actively involved in religion and media studies. Some of her works are “Religious Conversion in the Movies : A Hegemonic Representation Among the Religious Diversity” (2013), “Reading Religion in the Movies , the contestation between Religious Identity and Business Industry” (2014), “Jews in Hollywood Cinema” (2015), and the latest, “Muslims in American Cinema: Media Contestation and Politics of Representation” (2015).


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