HERITAGE: Civilization and the Jews was televised in the summer on Channel 4. Why is it that a particular programme is made? Why does it get shown? The answers to these questions are at present embedded in acrimonious debate in the United States. The programme’s producers approached the New York Public Television Station, WNET, with a proposal which could not be refused—an international panorama of Jewish history across the centuries, to be fronted by Abba Eban, which had received the blessing of our elders in the United States and Israel. Moreover, the series, said the producers, would not cost WNET a penny. However, when the series went considerably over-budget, WNET and other stations in the Public Broadcasting Service network were already committed to running it. New resources to the tune of six million dollars had to be found. At the eleventh hour, the Revlon Foundation stepped forward as the fairy godmother.
Abba Eban’s public utterances seem to suggest that Heritage has public relations value for the non-Jewish world and it is argued that Revlon would not have lent their support for any other film ventures. However, many in the perennial struggle to obtain funding for Jewish projects on film and television feel that the opportunity to enhance considerably the status and quality of Jewish filmmaking has been squandered on a project of debatable value. Amidst a loss of goodwill in the television and film industry, the legacy of Heritage may prove to be an even greater restriction on the making and showing of Jewish films.
Jewish Quarterly Autumn 1985