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History of Yiddish Radio
1 The Yiddish Radio Dial
2 Rediscovering the Remnants of Yiddish Radio
3 Restoring the Discs
4 Jews in Mainstream Media
NPR Documentary
History of Yiddish Radio, the documentary about the rediscovered radio universe. (16:45 min.)


Jewish "types" in mainstream radio and recording:

"Cohen on the Telephone," 78 rpm, recorded July 5, 1913

"Cohen Becomes a Citizen," 78 rpm, circa 1919-1923

Mr. Schlepperman, from The Jack Benny Show, Oct. 10, 1937

Mr. Kitzel, from The Jack Benny Show, Dec. 21, 1947

Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum, from The Fred Allen Show, Jan. 11, 1945

Luigi Basco, from Life with Luigi, Apr. 3, 1949

Jews in Mainstream Media

Overtly Jewish characters were not confined to Yiddish radio. They were also a staple of mainstream shows.

Mrs. Pansy Nussbaum was a regular on The Fred Allen Show, as were Mr. Schlepperman and Mr. Kitzel on The Jack Benny Show. Unlike the varied, dynamic Jewish personages heard on Yiddish radio, though, these characters tended to be remarkable above all for their overblown accents and love of "exotic" foods like herring.

The model for these Jewish stereotypes was a series of 78 rpm records cut between the late teens and early '20s that featured the character of Mr. Cohen, an exaggeratedly malapropistic Jew who could barely make himself understood.

Another stereotypical Jewish character was that of the wise elder, like Papa David Solomon in Life Can Be Beautiful, who usually came off sounding like everyone's idea of an Old Testament sage. Such characterizations were not racist per se, just stereotypical, much like the radio representations of other ethnic groups, like the Italian Luigi in Life with Luigi.

The exception was The Goldbergs, a radio program that evolved into a T.V. show, and which portrayed Jews as regular people with regular problems. Irregular problems, however -- miscegenation, intergenerational strife, the grungy day-to-day struggles of immigrant life -- were the exclusive domain of Yiddish radio.


Copyright 2002 Sound Portraits Productions. All rights reserved.