On Friday, I had the opportunity to view an advanced copy of this week’s episode of The Nine, ABC’s hit show about nine strangers who end up in a bank robbery that has gone terribly wrong. SWAT storms the bank, rescuing the hostages and capturing the robbers – but two people are dead. These nine survivors are now banded together as an unlikely family, as they re-enter their lives and grapple with how this seminal event has changed them forever. The series asks: “How do we heal from the harrowing experiences that impact our lives?” It is about hope and rebirth, as the characters try to reinvent themselves in positive ways or are haunted by fateful decisions from which they are still struggling to recover. Each week I find myself haunted by the tsuris in of their lives. Perhaps this is because if you trade out the central horror of the bank robbery for the numerous other tragedies they face – the death of a loved one, broken relationships, challenging children, exhausting parents, job loss and more – you notice quickly that their struggles are our struggles. We each walk a similar path. So how do we get through?
In this week’s episode we bear witness to the transformative possibilities within Judaism. Meet Dr. Jeremy Kates, an accomplished Jewish doctor who is bright, handsome, and outgoing, and has a thriving career and a warm and wonderful personal life. However, like so many of us, he is profoundly human and struggles with the darkness that consumed
his life (during the robbery). How does Dr. Kates begin his personal transformation? Sitting around the Shabbat dinner table, surrounded by family, talking to his parents.
Cut to an exquisitely adorned Shabbat table, hear blessings recited flawlessly in familiar Americanized Hebrew over the candles, Kiddush and challah. (This might be the first time we have heard such blessings spoken correctly on TV). Dr. Kates’ parents are touching in their concern, appropriately respectful in their probing (definitely NOT the stereotype of Jewish mother made infamous by Woody Allen and his ilk). This could be my family and yours, where family members are talking (not screeching) and caring (not critiquing) each other. Healing happens on Shabbat at the festive table, surrounded family. A reaffirmation of the power of two components of Jewish living: meaningful Shabbat ritual and compassionate Mishpacha (family).
Incidentally, I am told that this groundbreaking positive television portrayal of a Jewishly-identifying lead character and his nurturing Jewish family are an outgrowth of the MorningStar Commission, founded by Hadassah, which advocates for a healthier diversity of portrayals of Jewish women in the media and entertainment industry. Mazel tov to Or Ami congregant Olivia Cohen-Cutler, senior VP at ABC, who is chair of the MorningStar Commission.
This The Nine episode – a bissel of Torah on TV – airs on ABC Wednesday, November 22nd at 10 pm.